Culinary Histories
Verve|February - March 2020
The origins of recipes, some of them accidental, fascinate Madhu Jain who travels back in time to her grandmother’s rich, layered paranthas
Madhu Jain
Debating the origin of an iconic recipe can lead to heated arguments — even fisticuffs in some cases. A discussion about the origins of butter chicken can raise temperatures more easily (and higher) than an argument about the merits of one political party over another. Or, who’s prettier: Deepika Padukone or Kangana Ranaut? Or, even, who are more intelligent: rice eaters or wheat eaters?

Food is not just something you put in your mouth to savour and linger over. Or, simply to survive. Certainly, it descends through your alimentary canal and keeps you alive and standing. But, it does so much more. Some dishes serve as triggers for nostalgia and memory — like the crumbs of the shell-shaped madeleines dipped in lime blossom tea that transported French writer Marcel Proust to his past. Those little pastries brought the past to life, into the present and his cork-lined room.

Grandmothers, mothers, wives

Clichés such as, ‘the way to a man’s heart (could be many a woman’s too) is through his stomach’, embody a truth barely changed down the centuries. Grandmothers, mothers, wives and lovers have long known this, despite the fact that the greatest chefs in Europe and the United States have predominantly been — or are said to have been — men.

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