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Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts: Recipes and Remembrances of a Vegetarian Legacy Paperback – November 13, 2008
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About the Author
Born in Kerala, India, financial analyst turned freelance food writer Ammini Ramachandran immigrated to the United States in 1970. She writes a column on spices for www.sallys-place.com, and her recipes and articles have appeared in The Providence Journal, Flavor & Fortune, Food History Primer, and Sacred Waters. She lives in Plano, Texas. Visit her online at www.peppertrail.com.
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In the first 1/3rd of the book, Ms. Ramachandran talks about her idyllic childhood growing up in Kerala as a member of the Kochi royal family. Contrary to the fairytale princess stories that one would associate with such a privileged background, she focuses on the elegant simplicity that remains a hallmark of Keralans to this day irrespective of their social background. Their food is not embellished with silver leaves, nor is it served on gold platters, just because they are royalty, a point she brings out so well in talking about her grandfathers fondness for the humble 'kanji' (p. 90), and yet it clearly is food fit for the most royal of kings.
History in school would have been so fascinating had it been explained the way Ammini skillfully weaves the rich threads of Kerala's spice trade alliances with Europe and the Middle East. The cross pollination of Malabar spices and new world produce such as chili peppers, potatoes & tomatoes have culminated in a culinary legacy unique to South India.
For those readers who may be daunted by the ingredients, relax, Ms. Ramachandran devotes a generous section of the book to detailed yet succinct descriptions of all the ingredients found in a typical South Indian pantry
The third dimension so well expressed in this book is the intrinsic association of food & religious/social festivals and occasions. If we were to look back at what constitutes pleasant memories from times gone by, The probability that food is somehow part of it is high. (on the contrary, how many of us have enrapturing flashbacks of food from the local McDonalds?). She stirs up memories of intimate ceremonies that many South Indians perform at home that outsiders are not privy to.
The recipes are the classic dishes that you would find in traditional South Indian families that adhere to a vegetarian diet. A refreshing aspect is that she does not make it sound orthodox and stodgy, but instead she makes valuable recommendations of pairings with beer & margaritas. There are sections devoted to breakfast dishes, main courses ( if there is such a thing in traditional southie cuisine), desserts, dishes associated with festivals, religious & social.
In conclusion, this is one book that would make a lot of us pick up the phone & call our mommies, mentally making a decision to pay more attention to what she's been telling you all along... or mentally accept selling your soul to the Devil if it bought you some more time with her..
The recipes are clean and just right. My nose is tickled with the scents of coconut, curry leaves, cumin as I write this.
A worthwhile investment for any Indian American under the age of 45.
What a fantastic treatise! Congratulations to the author on a superb job!!
This is not just a cookbook but a review of the transition of a way of living from the past to the present.
There is something fascinating about Kerala. They seem to maintain their traditions for a long time. Some activities (Harvesting the coconuts for example) are the same today as they were in year 1342 as described by Ibn Battuta. I always felt that if we want to go back and live few centuries back, one of the best ways we can do is to go to Kerala and stay in a remote village.
But for many in Kerala, the past few decades have brought the biggest change in their way of living. A society that lived a matrilineal way of life is changing to patriarchical. Joint families of 50 to 100 members living together have disappeared. Individual kingdoms are no more and their special kitchens are gone. Families have become global rather than local.
So we may feel a need to look at the past and review the shift in culture from the past to the present.
This book fulfils such a need. What a "delicious" way to "taste" the past through a cookbook from a person who has experienced the change, first hand. Author has done a magnificent job. Not only has she given us descriptions of festivals throughout the year, family functions, the typical food served at each occasion and their recipes but also the history behind some of the ingredients. What a treat!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Congratulations to the author.
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Grains, Greens and
Recipes and Remembrances of a
By Ammini Ramachandran
Foreward by Suvir Saran...Read more