Thursday, August 24, 2017


Jollof rice is an unique African delicacy relished at every important event literally from the cradle to the grave. It is craved by all Africans young and old alike. 22nd of August is World Jollof Rice Day.

The name Jollof owes its origin to the Wolof tribe who live in Gambia and Senegal. Though originally Jollof rice started as a fish-based recipe, the chicken garnished Jollof rice has gained greater popularity. Both enjoy unparalled adulation throughout the African continent. I was surprised to know that plain seasonal vegetables are used to make a stew and mixed with basmati rice and tomato sauce to prepare a vegetarian Jollof rice.

Jollof rice is normally avoided in the mornings. It is taken at dinner time. Tomato sauce dominates the various spices and herbs that are added to give it a special flavour and it gives this popular dish its distinctive redness. Even palm oil and tea bush leaves are added to give Jollof rice a very special aroma.

I decided to have this dish prepared at home and asked my cook whether she was ready to experiment with a new dish. She happily agreed and what you see in the picture below is the result of my encouragement and her efforts.

Needless to say that I enjoyed eating Jollof thoroughly and it was then that I realised why this culinary king has become a national obsession in Africa.

Friday, February 19, 2016



Chef Vikas Khanna’s latest book, “Shaken and Stirred” promises to “refresh, soothe, revive and energise”. It delivers on its promise. “Unlike the rest of the world, India has a lot of non-spirited drinks. We all have vivid memories of our comfort drinks. For me, it was warm milk, scented with cardamom, sometimes garnished with almond slivers,” says Khanna.

Vikas Khanna is an award-winning, Michelin starred Indian chef, restaurateur, food writer, filmmaker, humanitarian and the host of the very successful TV show MasterChef India. He was also the host of another well-received television programme – Twist of Taste – on Fox Traveller. Vikas Khanna is based in New York City.

“Shaken & Stirred” is a dazzling collection of non-alcoholic drinks, including some timeless classics and exciting modern recipes with a smorgasboard of delectable options. These drinks do not take much time to make and yet taste so good. These versatile recipes allows one to play with one’s imagination and create drinks for any occasion, while keeping the pure flavour and wholesome goodness of the ingredients intact.The book gives a methodical and step-by-step recipes for creative drinks for different times and occasions. Easy to put together, these recipes clearly indicate the time taken, number of persons who can be served and also special equipment required, if any. The recipes are original and innovative. They use uncommon fruits and vegetables as well and have a variety of ingredients that make the concoctions truly titillating. The book has separate information on ingredients used and techniques and equipment required. It is a visually appealing book with excellent photographs accompanying each of the 101 recipes selected from the author’s huge repertoire. It also packs loads of information on making the drinks which have interesting flavours. For example, star anise has been used in mint iced tea.  Sandalwood and basil seeds have been infused with lime juice and pomegranate juice and mixed with jaggery and coriander sherbet.  Vikas Khanna has even used the recipes of roadside vendors selling ‘Jal Jeera’ and ‘Nimboo Pani’ for creating new flavours in his book. It is always relaxing to create magic in one’s kitchen or bar and  also on one’s palate. The drinks are not very heavy on the purse. Its effects are verily uplifting and ideal for the Indian summer.

Besides an interesting introduction, the book has 10 categories of recipes in ten chapters with meaningful names such as Refresh, On the go, Soothe, Revive, Savour, Chill, Restrain,Trick and Treat, Inspire and Raise a Toast. There is a chapter on techniques and equipment and an index on recipes.

“One of the most important aspects of anything we eat or drink is pleasure. We are bombarded with scents and flavours every day. These experiences can be stored with surprising vividness for a very long time. We all have childhood memories of our ultimate comfort drinks. Some kids wake up to the smell of coffee and for some it’s a fruity, juicy morning. For me it was warm milk scented with cardamom, sometimes garnished with almond slivers. I spent most of my childhood experiencing flavours and tastes of foods and drinks from around India. The nostalgia of perfumed cardamom chai in a clay pot, steaming my nostrils, and the kokum-flavoured coconut milk served before a lavish spread of south Indian delicacies still lingers on. I learnt how to combine the woody flavour of cumin with the liquorice taste of star anise or cool mint with lemony coriander. I remember creating a thick jam in Kashmir, using the sweet-tart flavours of cherries and combining them with the slightly liquorice flavour of fennel seeds.
Inspired, I embarked on a quest to collect and catalogue as many flavours and scents from foreign cultures as possible. This collection of drinks is a fruition of all those experiences and insights”, says Vikas Khanna. The above sums up the author’s passion behind the book. He is truly an authority on eclectic cuisine and non-alcololic drinks and an epicurean’s delight.

Vikas Khanna has risen from humble beginnings. He used to sell ‘chholey-bhature’ and ‘paneer pakodas’ in the streets of Amritsar. When he was a seven-year-old, his grandmother used to take him to the Golden Temple to make breads. Then in 1990 at the age of 19, he started his own eatery with just Rs.8000 which his mother and he earned by selling sweaters in a school. With that money he bought 24 chairs, 23 plates, two small frying pans and one tandoor. He always dreamt of opening one of the biggest restaurants in the world. He fulfilled his dream when he set up his restaurant in New York called ‘Junoon’.

There are some unknown aspects of the author’s personality. He is a great lover of poetry. He reveres the famous Urdu poet Ghalib. and calls himself a great fan of Ghalib Saheb. He even recites Ghalib’s kalam.There is yet more to Vikas Khanna  than Ghalib and international food and non-spirit drinks. He is a very down to earth man and has extraordinary knowledge on Indian spices .
Vikas Khanna has also authored a book titled Utsav. It is a 1200-page tome. It is priced at a staggering Rs eight lakhs. “This is going to be one of the world’s most expensive books. It’s an exclusive book. I just want the world to know that Indian food matters and Indian cuisine is the mother of all cuisines.” He is also planning a book on 100 varieties of rice available across the world.

Allow me to let you all into a few secrets. I have decided to 1) give my  grandaughters a terrific surprise when they come home next with ‘Cindrella’s Chocolate’, 2) to my daughter, a foodie, ‘Sandalwood and Basil Seeds on the Rocks’, 3) to my wife, a great lover of dogs, ‘Cherry,Cherry Everywhere’ (Cherry is our pet dog’s name) and to my son-in-law a great connoisseur of drinks, ‘Goji Berry Shakeratto’. I will treat myself with ‘God’s Own Drink’. To whom should I gift a copy of this book?  It is a no-brainer .To my son-in-law of course. In addition to his Stanford MBA and a fabulous job in Mumbai, he is a qualified bartender from the State of California. I will now be assured of my favourite non-alcoholic drinks when I visit him and his family. All of you too will drool over the eye-catching names and go bonkers over the drinks.

‘Three Cheers’ to Vikas Khanna for a wonderful book containing an incredible collection of recipes and pictures. One is reminded of one of the verses in Omar Khayam’s ‘Rubaiyat’ translated into English by Fitzerald: “Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, a Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse and Thou beside me singing in the Wilderness - And Wilderness is Paradise enow.”

Shake it or Stir it, you will love it anyways.



Sunday, November 01, 2015



Benevolence is an act of kindness or a desire to be kind. It's the quality of someone who volunteers in a freemeals service centre, teaches children for free and helps senior citzens cross the street. Nearer home, helping your grandmother with her provisions for the kitchen is an act of benevolence — as long as it is ‘gratis’. Giving your little brother or sister the last helping of an ice cream cone or bar of chocolate shows benevolence. Benevolence is any kind act, but it can also describe the inclination to do good things. If you think of yourself only, it is unlikely that you will be benevolent. But if you can change that attitude and think of doing good to others besides yourself you are a benevolent person. You must also have a social conscience. You can then help towards transforming your society, your nation and the world at large. This is what the author conveys in this book.

The author Sri A R Chandrasekar raises a very critical question through the title of this unique and remarkable book. And answers the question he raises in its 259 pages. He highlights the importance of doing good to others and at the same time of taking care of one’s self. The two have to go hand in hand for the benevolence movement to be sustainable.

We cannot have islands of prosperity for long when the majority of the world population is poor. Maximum wealth is concentrated in the hands of 10% of the worlds’s population. More than 3 billion people live around poverty line conditions.We see that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The excess money flow to the rich has to be restricted. How long can this societal imbalance continue? Surely, not for long. Strife, disputes, rebellions, wars are all fought for dominance of one group over another. The rich consume disproportionate percentage of natural resources in comparison to the poor. Like individuals, this applies to nations as well. Natural resources are depleting and a time will come when the natural resources will get completely exhausted. We have to arrest this situation and make our society, our nation and the world at large a safe and happy place to live in. Selfishness, greed, etc must be replaced by kindness, caring, sharing, and love. Current societies must change from being consumption-driven to care and love-driven. The young and the old who are both vulnerable sections of societies must be protected and made to live happily. The young have to be nurtured with the right thoughts and the old insulated from disease, loneliness and deprivation. People must live connected and care for one another. The author is 79 years old but his age has not diminished his passion to correct this societal imbalance. He formed a Trust  in 2012 to covert his passion into a mission. Thus was born the ‘Mission Benevolence’ at Bengaluru.

The book has ten chapters. After describing the idea behind writing the book in the first chapter, in the next six chapters (pages 15 to 104), which is almost half the book, the author dwells on what benevolence means, why we should make it our choice, the need to create and develop benevolent people and societies around us, how emotions can be handled benevolently and the idea of benevolence in love, marriage and family life. The last three chapters are devoted to the idea of personal wealth, income inequalities, the need for generating social consciousness required for benevolence and volunteering and what needs to be done to correct the income imbalance and inequality and eliminate the destruction of scarce natural resources and improve sustainability of the planet earth for future generations. We need good governance and it requires continuous monitoring by the people as well says the author. Further,  India has an unrivalled youth demographic: 65% of its population is 35 or under, and half the country's population of 1.25 billion people is under 25 years of age.
The youth of the country must be developed to ensure well-being and prosperity of our country.

While reading this book, I was reminded of a similar movement called TZM (The Zeitgeist Movement) which was founded in 2008. According to the founders of this movement,the evils of modern society have come about because of disproportionate accumulation of resources in the rich countries and the financial enslavement of the poorer countires which remain deeply in debt. It gives a clarion call to come out of these shackles and build a sustainable world of goodwill,trust,love and caring with due repect to nature and the environment. The Zeitgeist Movement has no allegiance to any country or traditional political platforms. It views the world as a single system and the human species as a single family (vasudhaiva kutumbakam). It recognizes that all countries must disarm and learn to share resources and ideas if we expect to survive in the long run.

The book is very readable and written in a cogent style. The author gives many a illustrations for building benevolent people and societies, developing social consciousness  and improving sustainability. The youth in particular will greatly benefit by reading this book.


Thursday, September 17, 2015




Lt Col. Athavale served the Indian Army for 34 years before he took up a second innings after retirement. He decided to study the science of ageing and put the knowledge that he gained into practice for the benefit of all senior citizens. For more than two decades, he has been working for the cause of the elderly. He is a member of many associations connected with Ageing and the welfare of senior citizens.

Elderly people in India as elsewhere in the world face complex health issues and financial problems besides familial pressures, loneliness and physical and emotional abuse. In our country, there is a large rural population of senior citizens both men and women for whom many of the benefits and conveniences available to the urban population are sadly missing. Importantly, access to emergency health services and opportunities for second career are not available to them thus compounding their problems which makes them financially and emotionally very vulnerable.

The author is of the view that the age range between 60 and 80 is the golden period of a person’s life. The author’s interactions with this age group in his hometown Pune and his study of gerontology and the many research studies conducted by him have convinced him that the sunset years need not necessarily be gloomy and traumatic. This is the message he has been trying to spread to the increasing number of senior citizens in his hometown and elsewhere.

The book has two parts. The first part explains the meaning of Gerontology (Study of old people). It is the study of the social, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. This subject has not yet got the prominence it deserves in the field of education and in medical care. Research on Gerontology which is significant in developed Western countries is minimal in India where the demography is rapidly changing with an expected senior citizens’ population of 320 million by 2047 from about 100 million currently. In this section, the author writes on some of the research done locally on gerontology, the status of senior citizens of India with respect to other developed countries and the role of senior citizens in society. He espouses the need for a strong Senior Citizens’ movement to bring about rapid changes in legislation and Government policy leading to betterment in the life of the elderly and an Action Plan on Ageing in line with our age-old culture. The elderly, says the author, are valuable human resources and their strengths and experiences must be leveraged effectively for common good. The author gives many examples of how most people are unprepared to face the sunset period and that by proper long term planning, attention to finances, maintaining good health, remaining socially active and pursuing studies on new subjects and doing social work, a phenomenal change can be brought about in one’s life which is bound to make the post-retirement period productive, successful and satisfying.  

The second part of the book is about converting gerontological knowledge into daily life usage consistent with our lifestyle, ethos and culture. Long term planning encompasses health planning (physical and mental health), emotional, spiritual and social health, financial planning, choosing the location where one wishes to retire, and importantly covering oneself with medical insurance. The author has given practical suggestions for effectively handling security issues, loneliness and elderly abuse. There is a full chapter devoted to “Wills” and the concept of the “living will” and another on “Day Care Facility”.

Geriatrics which focuses on health care of elderly people and aims to promote health by preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in older adults seems to be getting more attention than gerontology. While gerontology is a social issue, geriatrics has commercial overtones. Both are vital for productive and successful ageing and deserve equal importance and consideration.

The book has an attractive cover page and may members of the author’s family have contributed to the overall excellence of the book. The author has provided a great deal of statistics on the elderly population and the demographic changes that are taking place. This would be of particular interest to students of gerontology and those who are doing research on this subject.  Though the book will have a niche audience as it addresses the problems of a particular age group, it should be of equal if not more appeal to those who are in the threshold of retirement and those who want to be part of a Senior Citizens movement. Policymakers at the Centre and State levels would also benefit from reading this book and they will hopefully initiate policies for the betterment of senior citizens who are an ignored set of people today.

The red lights are flashing and the alarmbells are ringing. The author highlights the plight of the elderly with facts and figures and draws attention to the powers that may be to take the warning seriously. Those policymakers who ignore the writing on the wall will make the country pay heavily in the years to come with unpreparedness for facing a mammoth demographic challenge.




Anita Ratnam is a renowned dancer and choreographer. Since her Arangetram at an early age, she has been giving Bharatanatyam performances for more than four decades now. She is also well adept in Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Mohiniaatam, Taichi and Kalaripaayattu dance forms. Trained at a young age by Guru Adyar K Lakshman , she  spent many years at Rukmini Devi’s Kalakshetra and has over the years evolved into a complete dancer. Born and brought up in a Sri Vaishnavite family, she is steeped in the religious culture and ethos of Sri Sampradaya. She can chant Sanskrit sholkas fluently as well as recite paasurams from the Naalayira Divya Prabandham (4000 sacred verses composed by the 12 Ahzwaars and by Thiruvaragathuamudanaar- a devotee of Sri Raamanujaa), who propounded the Vedanta philosophy of Vishishtaadvaita and its related theology, Sri Vaishnavism.

Though trained in the classical Bharatanaatyam style, Anita has constantly innovated this dance form and has adapted it to evolve an unique and distinct dance style of her own which she refers to as Neo Bharatam (Bharatanatyam was earlier referred to as Bharatam). On this platform, Anita has made this dance form new, invigorating, modern and very contemporary. On 3rd September, she gave a scintillating performance of a deeply spiritual extravaganza titled “Neelam- Drowning in Bliss”, at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA. It was, as I learnt later, her 50th performance of this dance-drama.

The programme started with an introduction of Anita Ratnam and the theme of the solo dance-show by poet Arundhati Subramaniam. She traced back to the Bhakthi movement in South India during the period between the 6th and 9th centuries, when twelve saint-poets called Aazhwaars ( immersed in God) devoted to Lord Vishnu or Tirumaal, the dark one, sang psalms in His praise. Almost during the same period, there were 64 saint-poets called Naayanmaars who sang in praise of Lord Shiva.  Their outpourings are among the earliest devotional hymns in any Indian language. Arundhati Subramaniam aptly quoted one of the verses of Nammaazhwaar (our aazhwaar)  from the English translation of selected verses by poet A. K . Ramanujan. The title of the dance show ‘Drowning in Bliss’ plays on the meanings of such an immersion or diving deep in the love of God .

During her formative years, Anita Ratnam had visited many Vaishnavite temples. The architectural beauty of these temples left her in awe and amazement. The distinct tall pillars supporting the hundred pillars and thousand pillar Mandapams and the seemingly never ending corridors where peace and serenity reigned, left a deep impression on her psyche. The quiet chanting of the Vedas and the Divyaprabandham in the background provided her with an ambience of sublime spirituality. She developed a great fascination for Aandaal (one of the twelve Vaishnavite saints and the only woman saint). Aandaal had unparalleled love for the Lord and completely surrendered to him. She exhorted all to do the same and secure their places in Vaikunta. The essence of Vishishtaadvaita philosophy is unconditional surrender (Prapatti) to Lord Vishnu. All individual souls are feminine and are totally dependent on Lord Vishnu, the supreme Soul and Paramapurusha.

The dance performance started with the chanting of the Sri Vaishnavite moolamantra- ‘Om Namo Narayanaya’, followed by the first verse of ‘ Sri Venkatesha Suprabhaatam”- the early morning awakening of Lord Srinivaasa at Tirupathi and Periaazhwaar’s (Aandal’s foster father) benediction to the Lord- “Pallandu Pallandu………” (may you live for thousands of aeons). There were four sections to the show. The first part had the procession of Lord Vishnu at Thirukkurungudi. In the second part, the subject was Aandaal where she expresses her envy for Paanchajanya, the conch of Lord Krishna which enjoys absolute proximity to the Lord which Aandal is yearning for. She wants to know how her beloved Lord’s lips taste and she repeatedly asks the conch “Karpooram naarumo, kamalappoo naarumo,(how does it smell, like camphor or like the lotus flower?), “shol aazhi ven shange” (please answer me you white conch) . In the third part is the dance where Mahalakshmi arose from the ocean during the great churning of the ocean in search of Amritam and garlanded Lord Vishnu. In the last part was the story of Lord Rama in Srirangam. She danced to Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s composition. She used a ragam-tanam-pallavi format of Dikshitar's 'Rangapura vihara' sung by Sikkil Gurucharan to visualise Lord Ranganatha through the Ramayana and the Dasavatara.

Flutist R Raghuraman was perched on the top of the stage and played so well that he received applause from the audience for his wonderful brilliance constantly reminding me of the magic of Lord Krishna’s flute playing skills conveyed in Periaazhwar’s hymns. Arvind Srinivasan’s piano for the section on Mahalakshmi was absolutely sublime.

Anita with her choice of colour for the costumes was a showstopper. For the first one on Lord Vishnu (Nambi) in a temple procession in Thirukurungudi she wore a yellow dress, for the second part as Aaandal she wore a golden costume, for the third part as Mahalakshmi she wore a shining lotus pink dress and for the last part of Lord Rama she wore a striking blue dress in consonance with the colour of the ocean (neelam). Visual design was one of the outstanding features of “Neelam”.

After the dance performance was over, the audience was invited to talk with Arundhati Subramaniam and Anita Ratnam who were on stage. It was an enjoyable tete-a-tete after the first few seconds of stunning silence when everyone was expecting another person to break the ice. The feeling was not the usual terror of audience participation but one of warmth and inclusion. Anita articulated her ideas well and with Arundhati’s imploring questions and comments, she handled them tactfully and gracefully. The finale was when one person asked Anita what was her idea of bliss. To which pat came the reply “ After all the rigours of the day, my idea of bliss is to get back to my hotel room and eat a bowl of curd rice”.

The settings of the dance theatre, the incredible costumes created by visual designer Rex, the lingering melodies of the flute and the piano and the elegant dances by Anita Ratnam resulted in an ecstatic and unforgettable evening for the audience. For Anita Ratnam, dance is a language of faith. The fond memories will linger on.


Sunday, August 30, 2015



This is the prolific author’s thirteenth book. Her earlier books are very popular with children. Minakshi Chaudhry is a former journalist who now lives with her husband Rohit Kanwar in Shimla. A cancer survivor, she is the Founder-Trustee of Swarn Educational Welfare and Awareness (SEWA) Trust, a NGO working for the cause of breast cancer awareness and screening which has the laudable objective of reaching every woman in Himachal Pradesh.

The author has taken a personal diary approach in writing this book. While reading the book, one becomes involved with the characters and the love and affection for each other leaves a deep and lasting impression in one’s mind. The author (Rewa) lives in a close-knit family. They are four siblings strongly attached to each other and to their parents. The author describes how the greatest tragedy in their lives started unfolding on 3rd March 2012. Rewa’s Dadoo (father) could not recognize his wife Asha. It is a pathetic story of an intelligent and self-made man from very humble beginnings with almost nil parental affection who became a mathematics professor, who travelled extensively abroad with his family when he was posted in Nigeria, who was meticulous in his paperwork and record-keeping and who built a fortune for himself and his family by hard work, savings and by making shrewd investment decisions. But then a time came when he started gradually losing memory and from then onwards it was a downhill slide. A very proud man, at the same time modest, caring, friendly, helpful, charitable and a very practical and down to earth person. He didn’t believe in temple going,rituals and spiritual Babas. His religion was service to people which gave him immense happiness. Having lived a clean life with no bad habits and in a happy family environment, the diagnosis of dementia came as a deep shock to all family members. How could this happen to such a person? The author’s loving Dadoo was losing his mind.

Dementia is an omnibus term for a set of symptoms including impaired thinking and memory. It is often associated with cognitive decline as one ages. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often used interchangeably as many people believe that they are one and the same. In fact, the distinction between the two often causes confusion for the patients, their families and caregivers. However, issues other than Alzheimer’s can cause dementia. Alzheimer’s and dementia are still a mystery in many ways. This is why the two similar diseases are often mixed up in every day conversation and understanding. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities and Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. Dementia isn't a disease. It is a group of symptoms that affect mental tasks like memory and reasoning. Dementia can be caused by a variety of conditions, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). This is what the author’s father suffered from. AD destroys those affected in a slow and vicious manner. It strips a person of every unit of his/her dignity and self-esteem and that too bit by bit.. The afflicted behave in a manner totally uncharacteristic of themselves. It is a terrible disease which gives a horrific time to the patient and caregivers.

After introducing the readers to the shock of non-recognition of his wife Asha, the author goes back to January 2010 and from there onwards how it all started and continued till February 2012 when Dadoo had almost lost his mind. He lives but it is a lifeless life. The author’s love and devotion for her father is very deep and touching. Taking care of a dementia patient is a challenging task for the caregiver. There are moments when the patient can turn angry, abusive and violent. Great tact and patience is required. The patients also become repetitive, monotonous, irritating and suspicious. Rewa has experienced all these emotions of her father. Supported by a loving husband who is equally kind and helpful, the author and her husband keep reaching to their doting father and provide admirable support to their mother to enable her to maintain her mental balance and control against such heavy odds.

4% of India’s population of seniors (above 65) of 100 million people suffer from dementia. That makes it a whopping 40 lakhs. The prognosis is scary. There are no medicines/drugs to stem the rot of the brain. The incessant killing of the brain cells finally reach the lungs and heart. Medical research is trying to find out the cause and develop medicines to arrest dementia and AD. It looks a long way off yet. The only people who can really make a difference will be the near and dear family members who can provide the love, care and affection to their beloved ones. The problem of dementia/AD is not confined to India. It is a world-wide phenomenon and is spreading dangerously.

Minakshi Choudhry has written a very readable book and has written it in a simple and lucid style. While reading the book, I often shared her emotions and feelings as I too went through somewhat of a similar experience. It is always good to know what needs to be done if AD strikes our elders. We should be careful enough to detect it at an early stage. There are possibilities of some reversal then. However, if it advances, then there is no cure for this devastating disease which is irreversible. The author has created a much need awareness of Dementia and AD through her book. The book is a great and courageous daughter’s account of a loving father’s stolen life. It is anecdotal, informative, and extremely  readable. I strongly recommend it to children and parents. They might face the same predicament one day. There are many lessons to be learnt from this first hand and heart rendering account on how to cope with and manage an AD patient. Understanding this disease which can strike anyone beyond 60 and reaching out to them will greatly alleviate their loneliness and suffering.



Most grandchildren go gaga over their grandma’s culinary skills and traditional values. Bharathi Raviprakash is no exception. She is absolutely thrilled with her Thathi’s preparatory functions and the delectable food that is served. Cows are given a spanking bath, poojas are performed,food is offered to the Gods and then the finale. Food is served after these must-do chores are completed. And then she and her cousins are in seventh heaven.

Childhood memories don’t fade away easily. No wonder that the cousins got together to put together a cookbook spilling out the famous and time-tested recipes emanating from Paalakkad, Kerala of their dear octogenarian (93 years) grandmother Pankajam Muthuswamy. There are about a hundred of them. They are classical and yet cater to the needs of the younger generation who want to finish cooking in a jiffy. It is a bonanza of sorts. Not only are they shown the recipes for the daily sambhar, rasam and kootu, they are carried away to a whole new world of sweets like paayasams and kozhakattais,vella aval, mohanthaal and rava laddu. The initiate is taught how to make tamarind water, extracting coconut milk and even the difficult art of making pickles. The book has colourful pictures thus making the instructions appear simple and easily doable.

Pankjam’s grandchildren have done a great job of faithfully and meticulously reproducing the recipes of their grandmother so very lovingly that it would make any grandmother proud. Pankajam will always remain in the memories of her initiates for the unforgettable knowledge that she has transferred with so much affection and attention to detail. Like the flavor and aroma of her food which linger long, so will her recipes continue to remain embedded in the minds of the readers. Grab this amazing do-it-yourself cookbook and as they say the heart and soul of Paalakkaad will now be in your own kitchen.

Does the price look steep? Perhaps so, but then if you see it as value for money, I don’t think you would grudge it.