Rushina, my dear food writer friend and pioneer Mumbai food blogger, is always one to encourage regional cuisine awareness and give it a bit of PR through her work at APB Cook Studio (where I have taught more than a few bread classes). She has launched The Culinary Legacy series, where she invites subject matter experts from various regional cuisines and designs a demo-and-dine event. This time, she wanted to curate an event where Maharashtrian food would be talked about, eaten, dissected, and enjoyed, and I was most overjoyed that she asked me to be part of it.
As you can see, it was an illustrious panel, and I was a little nervous, to be honest. For several days, I wondered what I would talk about without sounding boringly academic. Then I realised that my food knowledge comes from my memories, and Deshastha food or Deshastha anything could not be talked about without talking about Dada. I used that as my premise and talked about his childhood–the peanuts, the pigeon peas, the general hedonistic nature of the community. I digressed a lot and lost sight of my script but I guess it went ok in the end. (Let me know if you would like me to add the entire script of my intended talk here.) I then demonstrated Jwarichi Ambil (a sour sorghum porridge) that is typically made as an offering to Gouri (a recipe sourced from a cousin’s mother-in-law, who lovingly sent across a voice message detailing the recipe). And to wrap it up, I sang a small Ovi–a couplet that used to be sung by women of yore as they ground grain, drew water from the well, or did other mundane tasks–an entire genre of oral literature completely wiped out of our lives thanks to a modern way of living. The Ovi I sang was composed by my great-grandmother when my grandmother was born, and my voice trembled as I sang (a little because I was nervous, more because I wanted to burst into tears).
The highlight of the day was to listen to the other illustrious speakers, though. It started with Shakti Salgaokar, writer in her own right, who easily took us to our own grandparents’ kitchens and brought lumps to our throats–she, her sister Nani, and I share a special bond over the special relationships we shared with our respective grandfathers. It was lovely to hear her talk about the different styles of cooking her two grandmothers followed–so much like my own.
I had been in awe of regional food historian, Mohsina Mukadam, for the longest time and to meet her in person and hear her talk about the fine nuances of Kokani Muslim cuisine was sheer delight. I listened to her in a meditative state as she walked us down her childhood and the wedding feasts and Eid delicacies that were cooked in her family home. She had got along Saravle, a small ring-shaped pasta typical to the Muslim community of the Konkan–this, quite like its Hindu cousins Gavhle and Maaltya, are sundried, and are used in savoury cooking. The Hindu pastas are used more often in desserts. Anjali Koli of Annaparabrahma regaled us with stories of the Koli way of life and cooked us a lip smacking Chicken and Potato Curry, redolent with smoky flavours and mushy cloves of garlic.
Aditya Mehendale, author of Rare Gems, a book dedicated to the non-vegetarian fare in Maharashtrian cuisine shared a few interesting facts such as the existence of 15 other “Rassas” in Kolhapuri cuisine. Kunal Vijayakar turned up in all his Pathare Prabhu finery to talk about the cuisine of the early settlers of Mumbai while his sous chef for the day, Manisha Talim, demonstrated a lovely Prawn Pathvad recipe–an Alu Vadi stuffed with prawns–delicious! Soumitra Velkar, a prolific blogger and enthusiastic preserver of Pathare Prabhu culinary traditions, pitched in with more information and along with his wife, catered a particularly delightful, home-style Pathare Prabhu feast that I wolfed down despite having a stomach bug. THAT outstanding. They also retail some of their fabulous prawn pickle, that I bought. Sharing a few pictures from the afternoon here (courtesy Manisha Talim, Chef Ranveer Brar, and APB Cook Studio). Do stay tuned for more on this series from APB Cook Studio.