From Andaz to Recipes: How I wrote this Book

 

Unity in Diversity which is the hallmark of Indian culture applies to Indian food as well. The basic pattern of Indian food is the same but there are infinite variations on one theme  - from one part of India to another, from one sub-region to another, from one caste[1] to another and even from one family to another! There is an essential creative element  in these variations which connoisseurs never fail to appreciate.

 

The cuisine presented here belongs to Karwar, a small town on the west coast just south of Goa. It is a tradition unique in its flavours and tastes, in grave danger of going extinct with the migration of people to cities. This book aims to preserve this unique cuisine for posterity.

 

 One basic difference between Indian musical traditions and western traditions is that Indian music is not written, it is demonstrated by performance. To learn the art, one sits at the feet of the Guru and engages in a dialogue spanning several years of learning[2]. Each Guru has his own personal style and interpretation that he imparts to the student and so we have all the great gharanas or schools of music.

 

It is much the same with food traditions. My Guru was my mother and from her I learnt the special secrets of her dishes. When I was a little girl, I helped her in the kitchen with cutting vegetables, grinding masalas, rolling chappatis, scraping coconuts, breaking and scraping shellfish to collect the flesh and peeling prawns. I watched her using different spices for different dishes – mild smelling fish with onions, coriander seeds and chillies while strong smelling fish with more chillies, and the special flavour and taste of tepla. Slowly I imbibed the special personal secrets of her dishes. A deep intuitive relationship developed with the different spices, the heart of Indian cooking. The individual personalities of each spice and their social personalities - which spices go well with which others and in what proportions.

 

This is the basis of andaz – roughly translated as “estimate” - on which all Indian cooking is based. This is what makes Indian cooking a very personal creative process. The same dish made by one person has its own individuality, distinct from  the same dish made by another.

 

Which means there are special difficulties in writing recipes for my dishes. Andaz is very essential to Indian cooking, but at the same time ineffable.  I was once trying to explain a dish to Anna, and the question was how much salt to add. I replied with the usual Indian manner of a gesture of the fingers. But she brought a measuring spoon and wanted to know exactly how much!  On another occasion, while rolling chappatis, she asked what should be the thickness - ¼ inch or 1/8 inch?!

 

All my recipes are based on the mysterious andaz. I have tried my best to translate this into more concrete exact estimates of measures.

 

 

 

 



[1]    The institution of caste may be inconsistent with modern times but the special dishes characteristic of a caste are not.

[2]    A difference which seems to go all the way back to the origins of civilization – in contrast to the civilizations in China, Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Indus valley culture seems to have had no use for a written language.