My dear wife Deepa has a great penchant for collecting and ‘actually follow’ cooking recipes that have been carefully handwritten by her in these antique looking hard bound notebooks that she has been maintaining for several years now. Coming from a vast family of multi lingual individuals who all just love to eat and drink, these interesting recipes are passed on by food loving members of her large family and friends spread across the globe.
As I browse through these books, two very interesting things instantly strike me; One is that almost all dishes and items have simple names (leaving the continental ones alone) starting with the main ingredient and ending with the person from who she picked up the recipe thereby giving the full due credit to the individual in question. You can see interesting recipe names like Shell Fish Curry – Sinnas Mom, Vietnemese Chicken Soup – Ginette Aunty and the ‘Not Good – Goan Fish Curry by Geetha. The last one here has her personalized rating or warning tag for herself and for any cooking enthusiast like me so as to not try it ever at all.
The second remarkable characteristic of the recipe notebook is that most of these recipes are not categorized in any particular order or style or type of cooking as one would expect. They all appear in an interesting random fashion that might give an unsuspecting Vegan a bout of gastric convulsions to discover that the Bisibelebath by Arundathi is right next to the Pork Chops by Jaya Aunty.
Then there are some very interesting ones with bizarre sounding and rather intimidating names like BOOM by Ginette Aunty and the recipe goes on something like this which I am reproducing here word to word… BOOM (Ginette Aunty) ‘ Cook Pork with sugar, salt, pepper and crushed garlic. Boil Vermicelli and keep aside, heat oil fry chopped spring onions and keep aside. In a big vessel put the cooked vermicelli, pork, spring onions, sprouts, lettuce, pudina, cucumber and coriander and mix well. Serve with fish sauce and ground nut powder.’ BOOM! our very own desi style quick, easy and no-nonsense American ‘Boom’ dish made of Chilli Pork or Beef. What’s intriguing about this particular recipe is that there is absolutely no mention of the quantities of the varied ingredients that are put in or the number of people this dish would serve let alone any pre or post cooking rituals which are so meticulously described in those colorful coffee table cook books. But then again this works pretty well and as long as I can remember, we've never had any culinary disasters in our kitchen.
As I browse through her recipe notebook, I’m pleasantly baffled by the heterogeneous range of these cute handwritten random notes. You can effortlessly move from a Hot Malayalee friend (read fried) prawns to Pondicherry Crab curry to ‘Leg’ Paya by Mummy (who I thought was a staunch vegetarian) to Methi Murg to the exotic French Coq Au Vin and Cassoulet De Toulousse with a mix of Curry Powder, Mint Dressing and Walnut Cake recipes thrown in good measure in between to satiate the appetite of the most discerning gourmet or chef.
It’s no wonder an absolute delight for me to watch her when she always seems to briskly rummage through her personlized notes when preparing the most satisfying Spaghetti Bolognaise, this side of the Atlantic.