The world is full of snobs. Some arch an eyebrow and sneer, while others can be overtly articulate and pompous. We are eternally judging people on the basis of their appearance, accents, diction, and family backgrounds, even on the basis of where they live. South Mumbai is upmarket, while north is wannabe. Within that, Bandra is a little more acceptable than Andheri and Oshiwara, while Altamount Road is far more old wealth than Napean Sea Road (nouveau riche). There are snobs in all spheres of life, but the most insufferable ones are book snobs.
Book snobs deride, belittle, and taunt those who don’t read. But there are first among those equals as well. Among the book snobs are some who will jeer at those who read digital books and not the real deal, with pages and spines. Then there is the apartheid between those who read fiction and non-fiction. Vernacular and English. Indian writers and foreign writers. Classics and contemporary. Paperback and hardcover. Find something in common, and you can find a difference even there.
So I decided long ago that if anyone asks me what I was currently reading, I’d be completely non-controversial and say, “I am reading a cookbook.” This, in turn, made me start collecting cookbooks. And now, I can boast of a wall full of food lit.
This has been a good year. Some great food authors have written some spectacular literature, and I’m going to talk about three that made me happy.
Anoothi Vishal is an attractive lady. I’ve met her only once but she swept me off my feet. Her speciality is Kayasth food. If you ask me who’s a Kayasth, then Amitabh Bachchan is a Kayasth. It’s a community, and they can be from any state in India. Anoothi has just launched a book called Mrs LC’s Table. It features stories about Kayasth culture, and food with 20 recipes from the community. The cuisine of the community is lovingly called “ganga-jamuni”, the ethnic term for fusion. The recipes are full of daal, bhuna and dum. She shares the recipes for daal-ke-kofte, a Kayasth version of yakhni pulao and margul or tave ki arvi, which is colocasia cooked on a hot tawa. My favourite chapter? The one on faux non-vegetarian food, called ‘Sab naqli hai’.
Fair, light-eyed and radiant, Smita Deo is a Karwari married into a Kolhapur family, and lives in Mumbai. Her father-in-law and mother-in-law are the famous octogenarian actors, Ramesh and Seema Deo. Smita’s book is aptly called Karwar to Kolhapur via Mumbai. Karnataka’s Karwar region and Maharashtra’s Kolhapur region are just a few miles from each other, and both have cuisines that are deep-rooted and individualistic. Karwar cuisine is predominantly coastal, while Kolhapuri food comes from game and the mountains. Smita reminisces about her childhood, and shares all she learnt from her elders. She also makes your mouth water with dishes like bharel paplet (stuffed pomfret in banana leaf), Kolhapuri pandhra rassa (mutton with white gravy), Balu Kaka’s chicken curry, and kheema masoor biryani.
From my Kitchen to Yours is by former MTV VJ and actor Maria Goretti. I’ve known her for what seems like forever, and from a distance watched her turn into a Le Cordon Bleu chef. Passionate and gregarious, Maria’s book is exactly like her. it is real, unpredictable and full of love. She cooks for herself and her family, and this is her way of sharing her happiness. The chapters are the months of the year, and the recipes range from a baked fig salad to her native East-Indian mandeli fry. From chicken liver pate on papad to a wholesome paya soup — it’s wonderfully photographed and chattily written book.
These are just three of the many cookbooks I bought or was gifted this year. This means I have at least 10 more of these columns on my wall. More to come… soon.
Author and TV show host Vijayakar is “always hungry”. He tweets as @kunalvijayakar