Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Recommended Posts

I think that there are two types of cookbook owners. The type that read a recipe and follow it to the T and the type that read a recipe and use the basic guidelines but add a little of their own cooking style to it. The second (I think but I could be wrong) are the ones that collect books that have a lot of contextual information.

i'm not sure that the categories map in that way; i rarely follow recipes to the t, and you know how i feel about contextual gloss.

though i should say again that it is "gloss" that i object to, not the kind of information you're describing here:

I refer to information like the origin and evolution of a recipe, (this could be anecdotal) and the the right combination of ingredients and dishes to make the best of the meal nutritionally.

As some of you know, I am documenting the food of the Gharwal himalayas. There is a thread on Pahari food on the India forum. It started out as a personal interest but along the way I realised that there is potential for a book here. Along the way there are several things i have discovered about this cuisine that might be interesting as "contextual Gloss".

your book project sounds fascinating but it sounds more like a book about food than a recipe-book per se. even among recipe books there are many that in my opinion get it right: see most of the books in the penguin regional series. they give a cultural background that enables an understanding of the role particular foods play in their regions (though none of this is necessary to cook any of the dishes well--you don't need to start by understanding the introductions); but none of them read like copy for the next festival of india--it is the latter kind of thing that bugs me. but at this point i'm repeating myself so i'll stop.

as far as your book goes, i think it might only have a niche audience internationally. garhwali food isn't really well known, and garhwal itself doesn't yet have any kind of cache. most american foodies are only just discovering that south indian food as a whole is different from north indian food as a whole, let alone the diversity of cuisines in south or north india. the only way out for you in attracting an audience in the u.s might be to play up the mystic journey through the majestic himalayas angle. or play up a jim corbett angle for the english and gymkhana club crowd.

nonetheless, i'd like to read it--you might want to contact the folks at penguin india and see if they might be interested in it for their series. i know some important people there so pm me if you'd like an introduction.

Link to post
Share on other sites
yes, i'm probably too prickly around these issues, but i think it is important to examine our justificatory narratives.  "what it is insiders already/automatically know" is not always as extensive as we think it is. if knowing this is really so crucial what does it mean that most insiders often don't know it either?

I agree completely with such examination, and that question is one that's important to me as well. I do think a lot of history gets passed down through food, and it disturbs me to see it lost, because in many cases we're talking about a kind of labor typically done by women and servants, as well as something that allows for survival of the spirit in oppressive times whether then or now. So in that sense, it's not that much different to me than trying to understand and record any other chunk of missing history, because they contain important keys to what's going on now, and could lead to people asking important questions around why things are so crazily processed today. I just think food is one of those things that tugs at the fabric of existance.

Could people exoticize that kind of info as well rather than putting it to wise use? Sure, and it sucks when that happens, but I'm hopeful that this won't be everyone. The incessant attraction to what's shiny and exotic irritates hell out of me too, but it goes beyond just the cultural vampirism; it's also a kind of disavowal of tending to things in one's own backyard and how it affects the backyards of others, so to speak. Ideally, there will be folks who get clue elsewhere and figure out a way to regard it as a tool that allows them to see what else is going on, and will allow them to do something about it without being a self-styled guru about it precisely because there's no room for ego or self-aggrandizement in it if there's any sincerity there.

that is one more place where the line needs to drawn or at least examined. i think it is in chasing after this that the whole question of "mastery" arises--always a dubious concept when it comes to culture.

Yes, no argument there. I assumed the OP thought it was a dubious concept as well since they'd put mastery in quotes too. Hopefully, people see it as a journey rather than some type of mountain to climb in order to have the privilege of sitting atop it. If I ever do something like that, it's a sure sign my cooking will not improve beyond that point, among other things, and I'd deserve to freeze my ass off all by myself up there.

Pat

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm, interesting diversion.

1) Sleepy_Dragon, I'm thrilled you got the Rushdie book and are pleased with it. As I mentioned earlier, it used to be favorite reading long before I started to attempt the recipes.

Since then, in working my way up and down the repertoire, I have never failed to get really good results. This isn't a cobbled-together "greatest hits of India" mish-mash cookbook, but a thoughtful collection of dishes that the author has clearly cooked umpteen times and knows instinctively. My first dish from the book was the kheema with tomatoes, please do post about your own experience (and inevitable successes) with cooking from this book.

2) Sameen Rushdie is quite famously (if, that is, you're a Rushdie obsessive) Salman's sister. For one thing, she and her brother successfully sued the Indian government a few years ago to get back a mountain "villa" in Solan, in Himachal Pradesh. For another, she mentions that she was raised mostly in Karachi, but born and spent some early years in Bombay. That's the Rushdie 'backstory', he went to Cathedral school in Bombay for some years and then went to Rugby in England - it's at this point that his parents and three sisters migrated to Pakistan (I think Sameen is the one of his three sisters closest in age to him).

3) I'm not a fan, instantly, of the term 'contextual gloss'. It does a disservice to the role of food in culture and society, and negates the historical context in which many foods have been developed. I'm with Sleepy Dragon in this (and whippy), though it should be noted that Dr. Jones has modulated his comments quite carefully.

So, it's obvious (and I do agree) that "what it is insiders already/automatically know is not always as extensive as we think it is". This particularly true and stark in the diaspora, and when we seek to re-create away from the home country, but it's also rapidly becoming the case in modern India's cities. So, there is a need for texts which teach us not only how to make the food in a tasty manner, but what the roots of the food are, what the implications of the choices of ingredients are, even what the logic is in pairing one ingredient with another or in eating a particular food in a particular season, and so on.

"Contextual gloss"? I say "bring it on".

Link to post
Share on other sites
Rushina,

What I dont want in Cookbooks is statements like:

"cut onions nicely"

"fry masalas till smell comes"

I am sure there are other howlers that the others will recount.

episure,

are you making fun of my mother? :-)

this is a sample recipe as written by her: "take some of ingredient 1, add to a little bit of ingredient 2, fry nicely for a while, and take off heat when done". the beauty of these instructions, however, is that by the time you figure them out the recipe has become entirely your own! but it isn't the kind of thing you'd want in a recipe book, no.

mongo

Link to post
Share on other sites
Mom still instructs the maid- " Kanda acchi tarah fry karna

That's classic, and the most maddening of all cooking instructions when you're trying to capture something you've eaten in the past with only verbal instructions to go by. Fry "nicely", bhuno "nicely", it's always irritating.

In Konkani, there is a phrase roughly transcribed 'illeshe'. This means "a bit", but in practice I've learned it could be anything from a pinch to a cupful.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm with Mongo, I prefer the vague instructions because more than anything else they convey that sense of authority about which I wrote in my earlier post - the feeling that the person really knows this recipe and that hopefully some of that authority will pass on to you. Of course, it shouldn't be totally vague, but one or two imprecise instructions won't kill a recipe.

I am tempted to say... OK, I'm saying it, my guess is that Episure doesn't like this vagueness because his style of cooking is so instictively male, he wants it all nice and precise and scientific because for him the interest in the cooking is the recipe and his passion is to perfect it (and you better believe he perfects them - read the recipe for raan he sent ages back). Whereas most of the women who actually had to do the cooking were more interested in just bunging something out to put on the table!

Vikram

Link to post
Share on other sites
Rushina,

What I dont want in Cookbooks is statements like:

"cut onions nicely"

"fry masalas till smell comes"

I am sure there are other howlers that the others will recount.

episure,

are you making fun of my mother? :-)

this is a sample recipe as written by her: "take some of ingredient 1, add to a little bit of ingredient 2, fry nicely for a while, and take off heat when done". the beauty of these instructions, however, is that by the time you figure them out the recipe has become entirely your own! but it isn't the kind of thing you'd want in a recipe book, no.

mongo

I am a strong advocate of both cultural gloss and "cutting onions nicely". O.K., maybe not, but I do want to point out that there are other ways of looking at things. . .

I personally have an intense dislike for the contemporary cookbook format, which is based upon the "domestic science" paradigm pioneered by the Boston Cooking School in the early part of the 20th Century. The main goal of the movement was to eliminate variability in cooking by specifying recipes in completely precise and mechanical fashion.

The result effectively separates the "dish" the "cook". For this reason, I find many Indian recipe (as well as Victorian era British cookbooks) very refreshing in their vagueness and brevity. They actually assume that the cook knows what she is doing and will take the recipe in the appropriate direction.

All this reminds me of a common phrase found in the Korean cookbooks - which often call for the addition of "gajin yangnyeom" - meaning, more or less, "appropriate seasonings". This can be irritating or completely liberating, depending on the context. . .

. . .

2) Sameen Rushdie is quite famously (if, that is, you're a Rushdie obsessive) Salman's sister. For one thing, she and her brother successfully sued the Indian government a few years ago to get back a mountain "villa" in Solan, in Himachal Pradesh. For another, she mentions that she was raised mostly in Karachi, but born and spent some early years in Bombay. That's the Rushdie 'backstory', he went to Cathedral school in Bombay for some years and then went to Rugby in England - it's at this point that his parents and three sisters migrated to Pakistan (I think Sameen is the one of his three sisters closest in age to him).

. . .

Thanks for the enlightenment about the Rushdie family - wow, they had an interesting childhood!

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

Link to post
Share on other sites

Responding randomly to observations on this thread:

(On the Rushdie cookbook)

1) how she conveys information like an experienced member of your family would with regard to times and quantities being imprecise, but at the same time, not to worry about it too much and trust your judgment, because it'll be ok in the end, just let the right side of your brain take over. Besides, the truth is, a lot of it is impossible to quantify like that anyway because the ingredients won't always be on the same level day by day. Maybe this would be nerve-wracking to some people, but it feels liberating to me. I can dispense with all the noise in my head around tracking exact temperatures and such. Cook until tender, brown, etc. works for me!

2) her grouping the spices in four rough categories, with the caveat that it's not a categorization written in stone, but is a good place for the rest of us to start out in order to make sense of what goes with what.

This sounds like the sort of cooking I would love to do, but as of now I am still depressingly likely to go by the book (male tendencies, what to do). But as an example of why Ms.Rushdie's approach makes so much sense, I really like her idea of grouping the spices like this. Recipe books tend to make you think its all laid down in stone, but of course its not and that's why variations happen and food becomes interesting.

If its not too much trouble Sleepy_dragon (if you're the one who posted that, sorry can't read down the thread far enough) could you post a rough indication of her grouping?

I love reading Prasad, as intimidating as the it may be. Kalra is such an engaging prose stylist, and he puts forward an infectious enthusiasm for celebrating the potential for Indian restaurant cuisine to recognized as a world-class and for giving its chefs the recognition that they for so long had been denied.

Yes, but there's a thin line between infectious and undescriminating, and my problem with Jiggs has increasingly been his inability to consider anything he is dealing with less than outstanding, amazing and the best in the world. Where I started viewing this with some cynicism is when I realised how these enthusiasms were invariably related to whichever product he was professionally promoting at the moment - somewhere along the way the slide from food enthusiast to food public relations guy had started to happen and something was definitely lost.

the pioneering 35 year-old book by Santha Rama Rau, Cuisine of India, part of the great Time-Life Foods of the World series.

This really is good, and I know this has been said on eGullet many times, but what a brilliant series that was. I have been collecting it odd volumes at a time from the Bombay footpath and just bought Scandinavia last Saturday and was delightedly reading it most of Sunday. Of course, parts have dated - the pictures and layout above all, but its still very good. That same footpath expedition yielded up a hardcover copy of Mrs.Balbir Singh's cookbook which is also looking very promising.

right, i meant an indian audience. however, i'm not sure why a non-indian audience requires contextual gloss to "do justice to indian cuisine". do you really need to know the significance of the harvest festival in northern punjab to enjoy a paratha with ghee? if so, i fear most of us don't to do justice in a similar manner to american, french, italian cuisine etc.

I think this might help in 'selling' the recipe to the reader. As I said earlier, there are so many cookbooks and recipes and only so little time. So what makes a recipe stand out if you're not specifically looking for it? Possibly its the ingredients -if they are something you already have or particularly like. But next it could be things like the contextual stuff that make it interesting for someone to decide to try it out.

even among recipe books there are many that in my opinion get it right: see most of the books in the penguin regional series. they give a cultural background that enables an understanding of the role particular foods play in their regions (though none of this is necessary to cook any of the dishes well--you don't need to start by understanding the introductions); but none of them read like copy for the next festival of india--it is the latter kind of thing that bugs me. but at this point i'm repeating myself so i'll stop.

This is SO true. There is a kind of vapid PRspeak way of giving context which is much worse than no context at all, and increasingly many books are doing this - they're presumably been told by their publishers that readers want a bit more than the recipe, so they add it in, but they don't know how to write (and their editors don't know how to rewrite) and the results are most dreadful.

If you're writing a book perhaps the best thing you could do is just do a lot of reading of the books that do it right. And really, you have to start with Elizabeth David. Anyone who wonders about her status has just never read her. French Provincial Cooking has been my bedside reading ever since I picked up an old hardback copy in New & Secondhand for a song, and its not because I'm planning on turning out elaborate charcuterie, but just for that quiet, but matchless authority.

Many of those recipes aren't that detailed, but god, do you feel you could do each and every one - and that each and every one is worth doing! She gives a fair amount of context, but doesn't load each recipe with it. Its given where its appropriate and while she describes the country and the visits she makes and where she got the information from, its always clear that the recipes are the ultimate reason for doing all this.

Vikram

Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps instead of listing what we like about cookbooks, we should list what we definitely do not. Like I said that the italics in the Sanjeev Kapoor book were a definite turn-off, and I would add that too many pictures of the author are also not desirable. Two more pet peeves:

- books that are just a random collection of recipes. You know what's happened, someone is a good cook, his or her family says you must print these, some publisher lets them do it as vanity or because their arm is being twisted and before you know if here's another addition to a long list of books that should go straight to the pulper. I think we're going through a particularly bad phase of this here in India at the moment.

- OK, my big peeve, the one irrefutable way of proving that a book is a stinker is when it has a section on.... fruit and vegetable carving. I'm sorry, fruit and vegetable carving have no place in cooking and while I am willing to tolerate it as a display in a Thai restaurant (preferable to the side and out of sight), you know that any Indian book that has it has been written by someone you could rather not know. The one I'll list is Jyoti Nikunj Parekh's book called something like 'The wonderland of vegetarian cooking', yes I know the indication is there from the title and if any further proof was needed its there on the flyleaf which says the author is also an expert on bonsais... I can't pass this book without shuddering.

Vikram

Link to post
Share on other sites
whippy,

your enthusiasm is laudable i suppose, though i'm not sure about the whole "mastery" thing. it is good to know more about what we eat--but i'm still not seeing how knowing the history of ghee impacts how you use it in food or whether you make something tasty with it. for one thing you're over-estimating the average indian's own knowledge of/interest in such matters. i'm reminded in a roundabout way of people who when they find out that i'm indian assume i know yoga, ayurveda and the exact zipcode of enlightenment (not suggesting you're one of those people--just that your assumption that all indians have this knowledge of their food hard-coded into their systems is in the same genre).

it is easy to cook any food badly, especially if you haven't eaten it growing up or a lot since. however, knowing an intellectual history of this food is hardly a substitute for this experience--though it can supplement it in other ways, give you more ammunition for conversation about food etc.

and no, knowing about thanksgiving doesn't do much for my enjoyment of roast turkey, nor baseball for my relationship with hot-dogs. it certainly doesn't do anything for how i might cook these things. then again i'm not the most romantic person.

i'm sorry if i seem like a bucket of cold water--i'm just sick of the exoticizing fluff in cookbooks about asian cuisines. and the kind of thing that bugs me is probably not the kind of thing you're looking for and so this cold water may be doubly unnecessary.

mongo

p.s: i do know the way to enlightenment and for the right fee can transmit this information to interested parties in a dream.

mongo, it's upsetting to me to have created such a brouhaha with you! :unsure: i agree with all you've written, and respect where you're coming from. but i think you may have mischaracterized what i was trying to say?

by "mastery" (which as i posted i put in quote marks to qualify the word as somewhat absurd) i meant a complex, and lifelong process for anyone engaging practically any subject. i was thinking of the life of julia child, her tv work, her kitchen now in the smithsonian, her numerous cookbooks, her dedication and her passion for french cuisine. she literally changed the way america eats. i personally never expect to cook at her level. but her incredible energy was a gift to us. julia explained a "then exotic" cuisine to us, and made us better for it. her breakthrough cookbook, as i'm sure you know, was titled "mastering the art of french cuisine." maybe for you julia's work was a bad thing. i can appreciate that, it laid the foundation for a lot of grotesque fetishizing in the hyper-fashionable american culinary scene.

i never "assumed" the "average indian" (whatever that is) has a knowledge of indian food "hard coded into their system." what i wrote was: "as an indian, you've got the link between indian culture/cuisine inextricably built in." as an american, i've got the link between american culture/cuisine inextricably built in. for instance, i know without thinking about it, that hot dogs are served at baseball games. isn't there a lot you know about indian cultures/cuisines without thinking about it? i absolutely did not mean that indians were some kind of special species, and i regret not making my meaning more clear.

i live in portland, oregon. there's a lot of bad indian food being served here. i cook it so that i can enjoy it. i've been a chef for 15 years, and a restaurant owner for 8 years. (i never serve indian food at my restaurant.) i take food seriously, it's my job. i am motivated to know everything i can about indian food out of love. all the nuances that i gather from many different resources help create a better dish in my experience.

i'm not a "romantic" person "looking for exotic fluff." i'm an ardent student of a multifaceted set of cuisines from a big country with a long history: i didn't grow up eating the food, but i love it, and am seriously dedicated to being a good student.

i'm sorry that there's a tradition of american dummies dreamily not engaging their counterparts in india. i hope you will believe me when i say, that's not me, that's not what i want. i view this forum as an invaluable resource in teaching me about the food of india.

i'm not a daffy, blissed out moron looking for (culinary) enlightenment in a dream, either.

i dearly hope i remain welcome here, and especially after this blunder with you mongo, i dearly hope i remain welcomed by you. :sad:

Link to post
Share on other sites
i never "assumed" the "average indian" (whatever that is) has a knowledge of indian food "hard coded into their system." what i wrote was: "as an indian, you've got the link between indian culture/cuisine inextricably built in." as an american, i've got the link between american culture/cuisine inextricably built in. for instance, i know without thinking about it, that hot dogs are served at baseball games. isn't there a lot you know about indian cultures/cuisines without thinking about it? i absolutely did not mean that indians were some kind of special species, and i regret not making my meaning more clear.

whippy,

i'm not mad at you or anything like that--i find it charming that my opinion means as much as it does to you (to most people on egullet i suspect i'm just a persnickety pain in the ass :-) ). and i did acknowledge that the kind of thing i was bugged by probably wasn't at all the kind of thing you were talking about.

but i think we're still seeing the point quoted above differently. i agree that indians and americans and uzbeks etc. have some relationship to their culture/food built in to some extent (and i also take bhelpuri's point that many of them may have for complex reasons "forgotten" other important parts of this relationship and may need to be reminded). however, i am not sure that this relationship can be captured, even to a limited extent, via the kinds of things you've cited so far. it is one thing to know that indians rarely eat pakodas or samosas as appetizers with their meals (or that indian cuisines rarely have a concept of appetizers or courses in the same way that high french cuisine might); quite another to know the ins and outs of cow vs. buffalo milk ghee. the latter information is something very few indian home-cooks know or worry about either. in the search for relevant context we have to be careful not to over-inflate the local cultural currency of every kind of information. and especially we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that x, y or z have to be "known" in order for a cuisine to be authentic--especially since if we aren't careful about the identity of x, y and z we might render many local practitioners of that cuisine inauthentic!

regards,

mongo

Link to post
Share on other sites

Whippy,

Two cents.

On another thread, the (valid) question is being asked - 'Is Indian food finally hot'.

In my opinion, the only way it is going to become truly 'hot' and appreciated globally like Italian or French or Japanese or Chinese food - is if the elements of the many regional cuisines are looked at afresh.

What hope there is in Indian food "making it", in my opinion, lies in the hands of interested and diligent chefs like you - people who are not irrevokably married to tradition and custom. People who can freely work within the Indian palette without baggage or hang-ups, and with skills honed in other culinary contexts.

i take food seriously, it's my job. i am motivated to know everything i can about indian food out of love. all the nuances that i gather from many different resources help create a better dish in my experience.

May your number proliferate and multiply !!

Link to post
Share on other sites

thanks, bhelpuri! :smile: maybe as my skills improve, i'll throw in an indian soup here and there as a gentle start. i'll go read over the "hot" thread and see if there's more i can add there.

in the search for relevant context we have to be careful not to over-inflate the local cultural currency of every kind of information. and especially we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that x, y or z have to be "known" in order for a cuisine to be authentic--especially since if we aren't careful about the identity of x, y and z we might render many local practitioners of that cuisine inauthentic!

mongo, first i'm really relieved you're not mad at me. :smile: i was very worried you saw me as sort of a big jerk.

secondly, and this might sound flip, but i'm sincere: i have no idea what that quote means. i've been staring and staring at it, and can't make my head eat it. but it's okay. as long as i haven't really pissed anybody off, i think we've gone far enough with this one.

however! i'm hoping this might crystallize everything we've been discussing, and bring it back closer to topic:

what about an Indian Encyclopedia of Food? no recipes, just basic information of techniques, equipment, ingredients, regional styles etc. etc. etc. i enjoy my "food lovers companion" immensely, and also often consult "the oxford companion to food" by alan davidson. there are some books along these lines already, but nothing massive.

Link to post
Share on other sites

in the search for relevant context we have to be careful not to over-inflate the local cultural currency of every kind of information. and especially we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that x, y or z have to be "known" in order for a cuisine to be authentic--especially since if we aren't careful about the identity of x, y and z we might render many local practitioners of that cuisine inauthentic!

secondly, and this might sound flip, but i'm sincere: i have no idea what that quote means.

Heh.

Something is happening here, but you don't know what it i-i-is, do you Mistuh Jones?

(sorry, couldn't resist)

Edited by bhelpuri (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
in the search for relevant context we have to be careful not to over-inflate the local cultural currency of every kind of information. and especially we have to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that x, y or z have to be "known" in order for a cuisine to be authentic--especially since if we aren't careful about the identity of x, y and z we might render many local practitioners of that cuisine inauthentic!

secondly, and this might sound flip, but i'm sincere: i have no idea what that quote means. i've been staring and staring at it, and can't make my head eat it. but it's okay.

allow me to try and translate my own obliqueness:

you have to be careful not to over-inflate the importance of every single piece of possible cultural "context". you say you're looking for context (and you cited the example of the buffalo/cow ghee discussion) in order to be able to cook more holistically or something like that. i'm suggesting that if you think knowing exactly the difference between/cultural history of buffalo and cow ghee (or something else along those lines) is one of those things then 95% of indian home-cooks fail your criteria. where does that leave where you started from? in an endless logical loop, that's where. if these indian home-cooks don't know enough to cook indian food properly/holistically then why do you want to know what they don't know in order to be more like them?

that isn't much clearer is it?

Link to post
Share on other sites
can't make my head eat it

You've been hanging out with Indians a lot, whippy, or (avert your eyes, Mongo) perhaps you were an Indian in a past life...

That's a common metaphor in India, especially in Hinglish. As in, 'don't eat my head, yaar'.

Link to post
Share on other sites
My first dish from the book was the kheema with tomatoes, please do post about your own experience (and inevitable successes) with cooking from this book.

I've finished the shopping for my first meal out of it. Bit too late to get cooking, but I'll cook everything tomorrow and report back.

As for Sameen Rushdie being Salman's sister, I would have suspected a connection just based on the occasional flash of acerbic wit. I cracked up at her suggestion to substitute channa dal with another dal if farting and inconvenient social situations was a concern. :laugh: Was like getting another facet into how her brother and the now-deceased Angela Carter got on so well.

Anyway, I'll be attempting three recipes tomorrow. Looking forward to it. :wub:

Pat

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

Link to post
Share on other sites

that's sort of clearer. i'm glad you find this amusing, because it's actually very distressing to me. the subtext here frankly makes me feel, again, like a big jerk.

let me say this, i'm very comfortable with the notion that i'm a better cook than 95% of americans. i don't think that's being egoistic, i think that's because i'm a "professional cook," i've put my chops in, and sweated my life away in the kitchen. i've become better than 95% of americans by constantly educating myself on how food is cooked, and by learning more about food than most americans will ever begin to know. part of that learning process, and that passion for cooking, is in the details.

i don't think of myself as trying to cook absolutely properly, holistically, or authentically. why would i enter the asparagus contest if so? (something this thread has made me regret from head to toe.) why would i make indian "caesar salads" and try to produce a reasoned approach to indian fusion cuisine in america? no, i think i'm really just trying to cook the best possible food i can. i believe that knowing there are two different flavored ghees helps me to do that. i don't know why knowing more about ghee would hamper any cook, anywhere.

where on earth did i ever say indian home cooks don't know how to cook indian food properly? i would never say such a thing, ever.

i imagine that in my quixotic quest to cook indian food at a high level of proficiency, i will learn TONS of things that 95% of indian home cooks don't know. to me, that sounds like great fun.

however, you are right, i am trying to cook as authentically as i can, also. (please, not the word holistic, please.) it's definitely one of the things chefs try to do when working with a cuisine foreign to them. messes are made, otherwise. there's lots of fumbling involved in this learning process, lots of experimenting. i don't know how it could be otherwise.

if i was ever, as a restaurateur, to serve a plate of dum aloo across the street from an indian restaurant, what would happen to me? i'd be a distinct disadvantage, that's what. that's what drives me to try to cook, let me say this humbly, better than my indian counterparts. am i being too competitive here? is there a restaurant in america that can stand not to be too competitive? (note that i don't serve indian food at my place.)

when i travelled in india with my college group, one of the things my professor kept repeating to us was basically this: learn as much about everything as you possibly can, don't specialize too much. i think he was trying to teach us that our wee little brains could might have flickers of insight if we were very broadly interested in learning history, economics, religion, language, etc. it was an idea which stuck with me, that you can't learn "too much." it's why i want to know about all that context.

i think i might be able to handle the repertoire of the kitchen of some kinds of indian homes fairly ably. i'd ultimately, at the end of this journey in like a couple decades, like to do better than that. i'd like to know everything i can know about indian cooking. which is far from knowing everything about indian cooking.

well, that was all over the place, but it's the best i can come up with. if these are the words of a cultural vampire, just tell me they are and i'll go goof around in private.

i'm pouring myself a whiskey now.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I personally have an intense dislike for the contemporary cookbook format, which is based upon the "domestic science" paradigm pioneered by the Boston Cooking School in the early part of the 20th Century. The main goal of the movement was to eliminate variability in cooking by specifying recipes in completely precise and mechanical fashion.

The result effectively separates the "dish" the "cook". For this reason, I find many Indian recipe (as well as Victorian era British cookbooks) very refreshing in their vagueness and brevity. They actually assume that the cook knows what she is doing and will take the recipe in the appropriate direction.

Yeah, I agree with this, and furthermore, it seems the more there are of precise measurements and steps to follow, the longer it takes to make something and the more complicated it is, even though the precision is supposed to provide simplicity and reassurance.

Maybe we could discuss exactly where we all find the imprecision to be liberating or stressful. IMO:

cut onions nicely + fry masalas till smell comes = stressful, gah! (though it's also hilarious! Which cookbook was this?)

cook until meat falls off the bone + cook over medium heat until brown = liberating

As much as I will always (heart) Mrs. Jaffrey's books for all they've taught me, I'm looking forward to figuring out how to take things to a more instinctive level. And at the same time, I wonder what affect this will have on an upcoming career in the backs of restaurants, given the requirement to always knock out a particular dish exactly the same each and every time. Guess time will tell...

Pat

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

Link to post
Share on other sites
If its not too much trouble Sleepy_dragon (if you're the one who posted that, sorry can't read down the thread far enough) could you post a rough indication of her grouping?

Here it is:

Group 1: haldi kay masalay (turmeric spices)

lehsun / garlic

adrak / ginger

dhania / ground coriander

lal mirch / red chilli powder

haldi / turmeric

Group 2: garam masala

choti elaichee / small cardamoms

bari elaichee / large cardamoms

kala zeera / black cumin seeds

dalchini / cinnamon

kali mirch / black pepper

laung / cloves

tejpatta / bay leaves

jaiphul / nutmeg

jaivitri / mace

Group 3: harey masalay (green spices)

hari mirch / fresh green chillies

hara dhania / fresh coriander leaves

pudeena / fresh mint leaves

She also says adrak / fresh ginger would count here as well as in Group 1, but hari pyaz / green onions would not though they would be considered close relatives.

Group 4: panchphoran (Bengali five spices)

sabut safeid zeera / white cumin seeds

methi dana / fenugreek seeds

rai / mustard seeds

sonf / fennel seeds

kalonji / nigella seeds

Lastly, she mentions some herbs and spices always thought of in pairs:

dhania + pudeena / fresh coriander + mint leaves

lehsun + adrak / garlic + ginger

dhania + zeera / ground coriander + cumin

jaiphul + jaivitri / nutmeg + mace

choti elaichee + bari elaichee / small + large cardamoms

All this was accompanied with a mention that none of this was set in stone, and people are free to highlight particular spices of their choosing while using others for background at different times, and each spice has a clear identity which can be used with others.

Hopefully that was a decent paraphrase!

Pat

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

Link to post
Share on other sites

well, that was all over the place, but it's the best i can come up with. if these are the words of a cultural vampire, just tell me they are and i'll go goof around in private.

i'm pouring myself a whiskey now.

whippy,

i'm genuinely sorry i've made you feel so bad. i don't think you need to feel bad or defensive about anything you've said. you raised an interesting question and i responded to it and also to related things it made me think about. i don't think your thoughts on any of this make you out to seem like a "jerk" or a "cultural vampire", and i don't think pat or anyone else used that term to characterize your posts either--most of what i said does not even apply to someone like you (as i noted earlier), though one part of it is an attempt to modulate some of what you said. i think we may be talking past each other on some points but that's an unavoidable hazard with disembodied communication.

please don't take offense--at least believe that i didn't mean any. and certainly don't stop posting here.

mongo

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Similar Content

    • By Sheel
      Prawn Balchao is a very famous Goan pickle that has a sweet, spicy and tangy flavor to it. 
      For the balchao paste you will need:
      > 8-10 kashmiri red chillies
      > 4-5 Byadagi red chillies
      > 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
      > 1/2 tsk turmeric powder 
      > 1 tsp peppercorn
      > 6 garlic cloves
      > 1/2 tsp cloves
      > 1 inch cinnamon stick
      > Vinegar 
      First you will need to marinate about 250 grams of prawns in some turmeric powder and salt. After 15 minutes deep fry them in oil till them become golden n crisp. Set them aside and add tsp vinegar to them and let it sit for 1 hour. Now, make a paste of all the ingredients mentioned under the balchao paste and make sure not to add any water. In the same pan used for fryin the prawns, add in some chopped garlic and ginger. Lightly fry them and immediately add one whole chopped onion. Next, add the balchao paste amd let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the prawns and cook until the gravy thickens. Finally add 1 tsp sugar and salt according to your taste. Allow it to cool. This can be stored in a glass jar. Let this mature for 1-3 weeks before its use. Make sure never to use water at any stage. This can be enjoyed with a simple lentil curry and rice.
    • By Deeps
      This is one of my daughter favorite dishes, being mild and less spicy she loves this rice dish.  Its super easy to make and goes well with most Indian curries.
      Do try this out and I am sure you will be happy with the results.
       

       
      Prep Time : 5 mins
      Cook Time: 5 mins
      Serves: 2
       
      Ingredients:
      1 cup rice(basmati), cooked
      1/2 cup coconut, shredded or grated
      1 green chili, slit
      1 dried red chili
      1 1/2 tablespoon oil/ghee(clarified butter)
      1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
      1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
      1/2 tablespoon chana dal(split chickpeas)
      1/2 tablespoon urad dal(split black gram)
      1 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
      A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
      Few curry leaves
      Salt to taste
       
      Directions
      1) Heat oil/ghee(clarified butter) in a pan in medium flame. I used coconut oil here because it tastes best for this dish.
      2) Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chana dal(split chickpeas), urad dal(split black gram), green chili, dried red chili, ginger and curry leaves. Fry this for 30 seconds in medium flame. The trick is to ensure that these are fried but not burned.
      3) Add a pinch of hing(asafoetida) and mix well.
      4) Now add the cooked rice and coconut. Stir well for about 15 to 20 seconds and switch off the flame.
      5) Finally add salt into this and mix well. You could add peanuts or cashew nuts if you prefer. Goes well with most curries.
    • By loki
      Sour Tomatillo Achar

      Made this one up from a recipe for lemons. It really works for tomatilloes. A unique spice mix, and really sour for a 'different' type of pickle, or achar. It is based on a Marwari recipe - from the arid north-western part of India. Tomatilloes are not used in India (or at least not much) but are quite productive plants in my garden while lemons or other sour fruits are not possible to grow here. No vinegar or lemon juice is used, because tomatilloes are very acidic and don't need any extra.

      Ingredients
      3 lbs tomatilloes husks removed and quartered
      1/4 cup salt
      1 Tbs black mustard seeds
      2 star anise buds
      10 dried chilies (I used very hot yellow peppers)
      1 tsp fenugreek seeds
      2 inch ginger (ground to a paste)
      2 TBL dark brown sugar
      1/2 cup sugar

      1. In a large bowl, put the tomatilloes and sprinkle salt over them. Cover it and leave for a day, mixing occasionally.

      2. Next day drain the tomatilloes.

      3. Dry roast the star anise (put in first as these take longer, the black mustard, and the chilie pods (add last and barely brown in places). Cool.

      4. Grind the roasted spices with the fenugreek and put aside.

      5. Add tomatilloes, ginger, sugars, and everything else to a large pan and heat to boiling.

      6. Cook till fully hot and boiling.

      7. Fill half-pint jars and seal.
    • By loki
      Sweet Eggplant Pickle

      This is an Indian pickle, some would call a chutney, that I made up from several sources and my own tastes. It is based it on my favorite sweet brinjal (eggplant here in the US) pickle available commercially. It has onion and garlic, which are often omitted in some recipes due to dietary restrictions of some religious orders. It also has dates which I added on my own based on another pickle I love. I also used olive oil as mustard oil is not available and I like it's taste in these pickles. Use other oils if you like. This has more spices than the commercial type - and I think it's superior. I avoided black mustard seed, fenugreek, and cumin because almost all other pickles use these and they start to taste the same. One recipe from Andhra Pradesh used neither and I followed it a little. It's wonderful with all sorts of Indian foods - and also used for many other dishes, especially appetizers.
      SPICE MIX (Masala)
      4 Tbs coriander seeds
      3 hot chilies (I used a very hot Habanero type, so use more if you use others)
      18 cardamom pods
      2 inches cinnamon
      24 cloves
      1 1/2 Tbs peppercorns
      MAIN INGREDIENTS
      1 cups olive oil
      4 inches fresh ginger, minced fine, about 1/2 cup
      6 cloves garlic, minced
      1 large onion finely chopped
      3 lb eggplant, diced, 1/4 inch cubes
      1/2 lb chopped dates
      1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
      2 cups rice vinegar (4.3 percent acidity or more)
      2 cups brown sugar
      2 Tbs salt
      2 tsp citric acid
      Spice Mix (Masala)

      1. Dry roast half the coriander seeds in a pan till they begin to brown slightly and become fragrant - do not burn. Cool.

      2. Put roasted and raw coriander seeds and all the other spices in a spice mill and grind till quite fine, or use a mortar and pestle. Put aside.

      Main Pickle

      1. Heat half the oil and fry ginger till slightly browned, slowly.

      2. Add garlic, onion, and half the salt and fry slowly till these begin to brown a bit too.

      3. Add eggplant, turmeric, and spice mix (Masala) and combine well. Fry for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

      4. Add rest of ingredients, including rest of the salt and olive oil and heat slowly to a boil.

      5. Boil for about 5 minutes. Add a little water if too thick - it should be nearly covered with liquid, but not quite - it will thin upon cooking so wait to add the water till heated through.

      6. Bottle in sterilized jars and seal according to your local pickling instructions. This recipe will be sufficiently acidic.
    • By rxrfrx
      South Indian Style Broccoli
      Serves 2 as Main Dish.
      Broccoli isn't a traditional Indian vegetable, but I designed this recipe to use up leftover boiled broccoli in the style of cauliflower.

      3 c broccoli, cut up and cooked
      3 T oil
      2 T cumin seeds
      2 tsp tumeric
      2 tsp corriander powder
      2 green chilis, sliced thinly
      1/2 c chopped cilantro
      salt, to taste

      Fry the spices in the oil until they smoke a little. Add the broccoli and chilis and fry for a couple minutes to get the flavors mixed. Add salt to taste and stir in the cilantro before serving with chapati.
      Bonus recipe: just before adding the cilantro, crack 2-4 eggs into the pan and stir them around.
      Keywords: Main Dish, Side, Easy, Vegan, Vegetables, Indian
      ( RG2107 )
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...