Sunday, May 4, 2014

Time-Life: Cooking of India

As anyone who follows my blog knows, I adore Indian cooking. What I have learned about Indian cuisine to date comes mostly from Madhur Jaffrey, who has introduced the English speaking Western world to the delights of Indian home cooking. I also had a little recipe booklet from the Time-Life Foods of the World series but it provided no background information.

But that's changed. Through the wonders of the Internet I was able to order the Cooking of India from the Time-Life series, and am learning more about the background and cultural differences between North and South India, at least as they were in the 1960s. The world, and India, have changed a lot since then, but it's still an interesting read. I'm lucky to also have young Indian colleagues with whom I can discuss both food and Indian traditions. I'd love to get their perspective on the world depicted in this book.

Cooking of India was written by Santha Rama Rau as part of the Time-Life Foods of the World series and tackles the almost impossible task of providing an overview of Indian cooking for a Western audience with limited or no experience with Indian food. She has an interesting background with one parent coming from the north of India and the other from the south. It was a progressive, Brahman, middle-class (not to say wealthy, by Indian standards) background.

I think my favourite chapter is the first one, in which she describes her grandmothers' kitchens (probably in the 1940s), one in nothern Allahabad, the other in south-western Mangalore.

The heat of these recipes has been radically reduced to accommodate Western tastes. However, Northern Indian cooking is much milder than that of the south. Not that long ago I ate at the home of an Indian colleague, and her cooking was very mild, and she hadn't adjusted it for me. She said it was a very typical meal for them (a cauliflower curry, eggplant bharta, rice, and chapatis).

I think most of the recipes have been stripped down to their basics, but they are accessible and tasty. You'll find more elaborate recipes and more complex spice mixtures in other books and the internet, but I will be forever thankful to it for introducing me to baingan bharta.


  1. I got the same book!! Glad that you enjoy Indian cooking!

    1. You bet! I'm looking forward to trying some of the recipes on your blog too.