One of the quirkiest & memorable awards I've ever recieved was ' the resilient taste buds award' at the Medical Residence annual, while working towards my Biomedical Engineering degree at the University of Cape Town... & the single factor that made me the clear winner for this title, my ever present sidekick at the dinner table, a bottle of home made Andhra style red chilli chutney sent to me regularly from Johannesburg by my mother's friend Mrs. Satya Somaiyajulu. Needless to say, it was so essential to keeping my taste buds happy when faced with daily doses of dorm food! So when I came across this book while browsing through Amazon.com, it brought back such vivid memories of the best academic experience I've been through.
The first thing that strikes you about the book is the sepia toned photograph of a graceful lady, Mrs Subhadra Parigi, against a pastel green & olive background. She could be anyone's grandmother, paati, nonna, aaji, (take your pick of language), the loving warm kind who would welcome you & your friends & acquaintances home for a sumptuous meal! But while the books layout may be in shades of pastel, the recipes within burst forth with a vivid palette of intense flavors.
The recipes itself are typical of what is cooked daily in a traditional Andhra household. Keeping with Mrs. Parigi's or 'Pedhatha's (Grand Aunt in Telugu, the predominant language spoken in Andhra Pradesh) principle 'Anyone can cook', the recipes are simple and straightforward in their use of spices & seasonings. Its the solid time tested techniques that catches the eye. Most of the recipes have a callout with Pedatha's tips for raising the flavor profile up a notch or two, resulting in a dish that is unforgettable.
The recipes are divided in 8 sections with a chunk of the book devoted to classic Andhra dishes like pachadis (chutneys) & podis (Dry powders made with lentils & spices) that are serve as an accompaniment to steamed rice. While it is the widespread belief that Andhra cuisine is just extremely spicy & hot, The heat from the red chillies & the tartness of the tamarind is well balanced by the use of jaggery (an unrefined Indian sugar) and other spices such as fenugreek to create dishes that cater evenly to all the four taste bud categories.
As much as it is about these lip smacking recipes, its the passion about Pedatha's home cooking that has been brought out so well by the authors Jigyasa Giri & Pratibha Jain. The book hints at a story, a story of food, warmth, joy & comfort that pedhatha brought to people who came into contact with her, and the culinary legacy she leaves behind, not only for her near & dear ones, but to everyone who uses this book.
Last but certainly not the least, this is probably one of the few books on South Indian cuisine apart from 'Dakshin' (Chandra Padmanabhan), which has been published with such elegance & class. Absolutely on par with any international publication.
'Cooking at home with Pedatha' is available through amazon.com
or through Pritya publications (http://pritya.com/shopping/)