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.

Pickles / Preserves


 Share

Recommended Posts

sujatha,

sounds yummy. quick question: how ripe do the tomatoes have to be? by the way, this is not unlike a salsa.

mongo

Mongo,

I prefer to use as ripe tomatoes as I can get. Though the tomato has to be firm enough - this way it would have a great bite to it...

Unlike a salsa, this pickle has gravy to it. The tomato 'juices', spices and oil all come together & surprisingly, makes enough gravy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Reading this thread on Indians and pickling reminds me of this story I wrote recently which is somewhat rude on the subject.... I hope a certain San Francisco based writer isn't on eGullet, but honestly has anyone READ her work?! Have people read Monsoon Diary? Any comments?

Vikram

Indian Food Writing

Vikram Doctor

There was a time when Indian women who married and went abroad would make pickles to sell to other Indian immigrants. These days Indian women who marry and go abroad enrol in creative writing programmes to write impassioned narratives about making pickles. Pickle making seems to be the hidden subtext in modern Indian writing (it even features in its ur-narrative: in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children the hero, Salim Sinai, ends up in a picklemaking factory). Somewhere in the US, in a midwestern University a Ph.D. student must surely be doing a thesis on the analytical aspects of aam-ka-achar as an attribute of alienation among Americanised Indian authors.

These narratives come in different forms, fiction, autobiography, poetry, even film, but share a numbing sameness. Idyllic childhoods spent watching grandmothers cook slide into the confusions of school and college where for the first time people from other communities are encountered, then comes the journey abroad which may or may not be preceded by marriages, arranged or unwise, then the culture shock, the unfamiliar shops, new temptations, new tastes... all in an ultra lush prose style brimming with bathos and basmati rice. Here’s a typical extract from Preeti Nair’s recent novel One Hundred Shades of White. The narrator, Nalini, is, naturally, making pickle:

"Day by day, I let feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness burn with peppercorns and chilli. The peppercorns and chilli would sizzle in the boiling hot oil and expand until they could grow no further and then they exploded, releasing a suffocating smell that choked. Freshly squeezed lemon juice and the ginger would calm and soothe the aroma, evaporating the stench, bringing it back to a neutral place. To this mixture was added a sweet ripe mango, bursting with so many dreams, and lightly fried onions that grounded and made things safe and possible. All were bottled until the man became a shadow of a memory."

The doyenne of this heartburn inducing school has to be Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, a San Francisco based writer whose double jobs of teaching creative writing and running a helpline for South Asian women seem almost to guarantee the steady stream of anguish and asafoetida laden novels she’s come up with, starting with The Mistress of Spices, best described as Tarla Dalal meets Harlequin Romances: “I put on the white dress Raven gave me, all foam and flower-scent falling over slimness of waist and hip, all whisper and glide around my bare legs. I fill a small silk sachet with lotus root, herb of long loving. Tie it on a silk cord around my neck so the sachet lies between my breasts that smell of ripe mangoes.” (In this genre breasts evidently can’t be like anything other than mangoes).

Despite all this prose, purple as eggplants, there is something to be said for these books. They are, at least, expanding the scope of food writing that in India has otherwise stuck stubbornly to cookbooks. Abroad food writing is a broad field, also including anthologies, anthropology, articles, fiction, film, guides, history (the latest trend is for the histories of particular ingredients: potatoes, apples, caviar, codfish), humour, memoirs, poetry, travelogues, even culinary crime fiction. Indian equivalents are still rare and little read. For example, many Indian chefs and food fans haven’t heard of K.T.Achaya’s pioneering work in Indian food history, and despite all the media coverage given to food, his death last year went almost entirely unacknowledged.

Achaya’s work has been followed up by a few scholars like R.S.Khare, Arjun Appadurai and A.K.Sinha (author of an interesting Anthropology of Indian Sweetmeats). With more general food writing though one pioneer, as with much else to do with popularising Indian food, is Madhur Jaffrey whose first cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Food, had stories of her Delhi based family woven in. Another pioneer (from a Pakistani background) is the Yale based writer, Sara Suleri whose luminous book, Meatless Days, with its wonderful title essay with stories of meaty meals in pre-dawn Ramzaan mornings, sets the model for such books of cross cultural memoirs. Its just as well the memoir field is strong since on the evidence of Divakaruni, Nair or even Bulbul Sharma’s pleasant enough The Anger of Aubergines, we’re far from getting an Indian equivalent of Joanne Harris (Chocolat, Five Quarters of the Orange) in food fiction.

Oddly enough, the best contender in memoirs is confusingly closely named to Divakaruni: Chitrita Banerji, an American based writer of Calcutta origin, has written outstandingly on the place of food in Bengali culture. Her first book, Life and Food in Bengal is simply the best book on any Indian regional cuisine, combining seasonal descriptions of Bengali cooking with a fictionalised telling of her own life. Her more recent book The Hour of the Goddess: Memories of Women, Food and Ritual in Bengal, is a meditation on key aspects of Bengali cooking: the importance of fish, the difference between East and West Bengali cooking, on the Bengali love of bitterness, of cheese based sweets and panchphoron, the typical Bengali five spice mix.

Shoba Narayan’s Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes, is the most recent entrant in this field. The New York based has written of growing up in a family from Kerala, living in Coimbatore and Chennai, and then going to study in the US. Its a well written book, lively in its characterisations and descriptions of the frustrations of negotiating across cultures. At times the tone is a bit simpering: the author is too aware of always being the perfect daughter, sister, foreign student, budding artist - perfect even in her (carefully contained) rebellions - until she ends as the perfect Indian wife. Still, if one can stomach this, (and the excellent recipes make it easier) Monsoon Diary is engaging reading, and hopefully might serve as more of a model than Divakaruni for all those Indian women on creative writing courses.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing this article Vikram. Great read. I have never been able to go past a few pages of the SF based writer you speak of. I always felt I was not adventurous and open enough.... Glad to see I am not alone in not getting the hype that follows that writers work. :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't read "Monsoon Diary", but I have and love "Life and Food in Bengal" (isn't there two different versions of this?). I was given "The Mistress of Spices" by someone and dutifully read it, rolling my eyes and snorting all the way through.

regards,

trillium

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      This almost had me in tears of nostalgia. My London home is a few minutes walk from here and I love the place. So glad to hear it seems to be being protected from developers, as I had heard it was under threat.   Wonderful food, too. Mostly vegetarian, which I'm decidedly not, but will happily eat from time to time.   London's most authentic Indian food?    
       
    • By SobaAddict70
      I LOVE pickled ginger. In fact, in some instances, moreso than sushi or sashimi itself. When I was first introduced to sushi, it was my least favorite part of a sushi meal. Now it's the opposite.
      Besides sushi/sashimi, what other uses for pickled ginger are there? And how do you make your own? What goes in the pickling solution? Fresh pickled ginger (not premade) is undyed and a pale beige in color, whereas the premade version is a slight tawny pink.
      Any suggestions?
      Soba
    • By liuzhou
      Yesterday, an old friend sent me a picture of her family dinner, which she prepared. She was never much of a cook, so I was a bit surprised. It's the first I've seen her cook in 25 years. Here is the spread.
       

       
      I immediately zoomed in on one dish - the okra.
       

       
      For the first 20-odd years I lived in China, I never saw okra - no one knew what it was. I managed to find its Chinese name ( 秋葵 - qiū kuí) in a scientific dictionary, but that didn't help. I just got the same blank looks.
       
      Then about 3 years ago, it started to creep into a few supermarkets. At first, they stocked the biggest pods they could find - stringy and inedible - but they worked it out eventually. Now okra is everywhere.

      I cook okra often, but have never seen it served in China before (had it down the road in Vietnam, though) and there are zero recipes in any of my Chinese language cookbooks. So, I did the sensible thing and asked my friend how she prepared it. Here is her method.
       
      1. First bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the washed okra and boil for two minutes. Drain.

      2. Top and tail the pods. Her technique for that is interesting.
       

      3. Finely mince garlic, ginger, red chilli and green onion in equal quantities. Heat oil and pour over the prepared garlic mix. Add a little soy sauce.
       

      4. Place garlic mix over the okra and serve.
       
       
      When I heard step one, I thought she was merely blanching the vegetable, but she assures me that is all the cooking it gets or needs, but she did say she doesn't like it too soft.

      Also, I should have mentioned that she is from Hunan province so the red chilli is inevitable.
       
      Anyway, I plan to make this tomorrow. I'm not convinced, but we'll see.
       
      to be continued
       
       
    • By missdipsy
      Two of my family members are pescetarian, one of whom is my picky daughter who only likes a few types of fish cooked in very specific ways so to all intents and purposes is mostly vegetarian. Many Chinese soup recipes involve meat or fish, or at least meat broth, so I'd love to find a few more recipes that would suit my whole family (I also don't eat much pork as it doesn't always agree with me, and a lot of soups involve pork so this is also for my benefit!). Vegetarian would be best, or pescetarian soups that are not obviously seafood based (I could get away with sneaking a small amount of dried shrimp in, for instance, but not much more than that!).
       
      Any kind of soup will do, although I'd particularly like some simple recipes that could be served alongside a multi-dish meal. But I'm always interested in new recipes so any good soup recipes would be welcome!
       
      Any suggestions?
    • By Druckenbrodt
      So, our flights have been booked for next Sunday, we're servicing our loyal bikes, the panier bags are coming out of the cupboard and we're checking the tent still has all its poles.
      Our plan is 10 days of cycling, through the Pelopponnese and Crete, far from the madding crowds, through mountain meadows and forests full of bee hives, with regular visits to pristine hidden beaches. That's the plan.
      Of course, to make our holiday perfect, some feasting would go down well. I had thought that this would be impossible for my boyfriend, given he's vegetarian (no fish either), since I assumed the options will only be grilled meat, grilled fish, or Greek salad. But having had a look at some of these posts, it seems like there are quite a few really delicious (and popular?) dishes that don't involve meat or fish, but do include delicious things like spinach, fava beans, chick peas etc.
      So, I'd like to compile a list of Great Greek Dishes that vegetarians can eat, the sort of simple everyday stuff that we might be able to get in a small village taverna. To kick start the list I'm nominating:
      Briam - I had this about 10 years ago on the island of Amorgos and it was mindblowingly delicious. Potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes and maybe onions and lots of olive oil? All cooked together extremely slowly. I've tried recreating this but never succeeded. It's something I still have fond memories of!
      Any general advice or additions to the list would be most gratefully appreciated!
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...