I like to think Indian food is better understood now than 30 years ago, says Sameen Rushdie – Times of India

By on December 1, 2019
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The globalisation of communities means there are generations of people of Indian descent who are at risk of losing their home cuisines if they only eat Indian restaurant food. My own daughters are two of them, and I can’t let this happen!

Writing this book reminded me of the importance food has in human memory and how certain foods or smells can generate nostalgic moments as our brains receive a sudden charge of emotion. Food informs us of who we are, gives us a sense of continuity and connects us to our roots. I hope the millions of meals I’ve cooked for my two children will do this for them. They will intimately know many of the dishes recorded here and it is a lived continuity of their family history.

How do you think attitudes towards Indian food have changed in the UK and US since you wrote your book 30 years ago?

There is a real appetite now for cooking food from different parts of the world. I like to think Indian food is better understood now than when I first wrote the book although Indian restaurants haven’t done much to dispel the misconception that Indian food is spicy, oily, over rich, fatty, difficult and time consuming to cook.

I really don’t care for the word ‘curry’. Indian restaurant entrepreneurs of the 50s and 60s must answer for their part in perpetuating this usage by serving several dishes, all called curry. Chicken tikka masala was held up to be a shining example of British multiculturalism, an Indian dish to which, we were told, sauce was added to satisfy the desire of the British people to have their meat served in gravy! Racist attitudes to Indian food meant that it was thought of as an inferior cuisine that people weren’t willing to pay a lot for.

This has somewhat changed now and alongside the mediocre Indian restaurants, there are several upmarket ones in the UK and US serving fine food for which people are willing to pay well.

What do you think makes your book distinct from the crowd of Indian cookbooks?

Haute cuisine in Indian food has just begun to emerge in a handful of restaurants. Amazing, creative chefs are taking the best of India and fusing it with western ideas. I am a traditionalist at heart because while I love this fine nouvelle Indian cuisine, it is not the food we eat every day, or that I serve at dinner parties. India’s principle relationship with main meals is still centered in the home. At a time when good food relies on celebrity chefs and ‘best of’ lists, the personal and traditional are in danger of seeming passé.

In my book, I’ve tried to describe the cooking process in a way that involves the cook engaging with the food rather than just blindly weighing and measuring — talking not just about the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’ of cooking. I believe a cookery book shouldn’t simply be a collection of recipes, but a friendly guide sharing tips that can make food excel.

Many of these recipes seem rather personal, coming from your family. Is there one that sparks a fond childhood memory?

Sabut Raan (whole roast leg of lamb) was and is a firm family favourite. We were a Bombay family and our mealtimes were often an eclectic mix of cuisines. A special Sunday treat after we returned from the movie special at the Metro Cub club would be raan and chips! Now I find it invaluable as the centrepiece at a dinner party and I love that it can be prepared well ahead of time.

Your brother was the unofficial taster while you were writing the book. What was that process like?

That was a lot of fun. It worked very well because he is the one person who would have a clear memory of what the food in our home had tasted like and he was meticulous in following the recipes and methods suggested. And of course, at the end of the process we could enjoy a meal together.

What is your view on the growing veg-non-veg divide and the politicisation of food?

Religious beliefs have always influenced language, fashion, the food we eat, and the dietary rules and regulations we adhere to. However, it’s a shame that the extremism we see in our society these days permeates every aspect of our lives, politicising separatism between communities.

Source Article from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-times/all-that-matters/i-like-to-think-indian-food-is-better-understood-now-than-30-years-ago-says-sameen-rushdie/articleshow/72312525.cms
I like to think Indian food is better understood now than 30 years ago, says Sameen Rushdie – Times of India
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