May 15, 2011

Madhur Jaffrey at AWRF 2011

"How Madhur Jaffrey, author of 'Climbing the Mango Trees: a memoir of a childhood in India', satisfied one librarian's appetite for food (talk)" would be a good subtitle for this contribution to our AWRF 2011 coverage by Ana, Customer Service Librarian at the Central City Library, who joined hundreds of foodies at the ASB Theatre for this event, chaired by Alexa Johnston.
No sooner had I sat down than the woman sitting beside me asked: “Is this the side for the vegetarians?” I told her there wasn’t actually going to be any food, that this was a presentation about food.

An event about food was the right thing for me to go to, as I just had a health check that meant I had had to fast from the night before. I did have a coffee and a brioche straight after but it didn’t assuage my appetite before going over to the festival. It was wonderful hearing Madhur Jaffrey talking about gharam-masala and delicious, mouthwatering food. She said you have to cook with intelligence, clarity and calmness. “What distinguishes Indian food is the magical use of spices.” Imagine her disappointment when she arrived in England in 1959 and was confronted with plain English fare. She made do with Bovril tea and Cadbury chocolate.

At that time she didn’t really know how to cook. So she wrote to her mother and learnt to cook by correspondence, with her mother sending her very short, three line recipes. She says that if you have a good palate, you recall the flavours and bring the taste back. She started writing cookery books and made a modest income. She realised that she had to be published if she wanted to get somewhere.

At this point, BBC radio was going to do a cookery series and they required audio tapes. So she got a few students to her little flat, put a little tape recorder on top of her fridge and gave them cooking lessons. Because the result was so confusing, she decided it was best to pretend to be doing a cookery class while she was on her own at home and that was so much better: “We’ll put a bit more pepper there,” she said as she sat in front of her tape recorder.

When she moved to America (where she now lives), an influential friend helped to get her a job with The New York Times writing about food. She still goes to India about once a year; she says she has always felt like an explorer going to little corners of the world.

I liked her relaxed style and she gave a multitude of tips on cooking and life in general. For example, she says in India it’s always better to enjoy wonderful food that has been cooked at home, rather than eating out. So, when you are there, make sure you get yourself invited to someone’s house. And one final pearl of wisdom: “Don’t use ‘lite’ anything. Much better to use the real thing, and exercise.”

-- Ana Worner

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 03:00


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