I must have been 10 or 11 years old and I was using a box brownie mix from the grocery store. I followed the box directions to mix up the batter and put it into the oven as stated on the box. Then, I checked the brownies to see if they were done at the given time. I thought it made perfect sense to test them using a toothpick as I had done for cakes. So, I continued baking them until the toothpick finally came out clean.
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Last Updated: Apr 05, , Recently pre-virus , in an old Goan kitchen, I saw a meat safe. The small cupboard with wire mesh sides and legs placed in cups of oil used to keep meat and other perishables safe from flies, ants and rats in pre-refrigerator days.
This one was crammed with medicines and fruits, and seemed just an interesting anachronism. Today, I wish I had that meat safe. The vagaries of supply in Goa make it advisable to buy in bulk when one can. But the fridge soon fills and food left out only benefits a diabolically intelligent rat, who avoids any traps put out and goes straight for our precious supplies.
Covid may be new, but dealing with fears of infection, short supply and near isolation in India are not. It was the way our grandparents grew up and is still how too many on the margins live.
The meat safe is one example of such a world and so are the household-advicecum-cookbooks that our grandmothers had, like Rasachandrika in Marathi or Samaithu Paar in Tamil. A meat safe, used in pre-refrigerator days, to keep perishables safe from flies, ants and rats These books were inspired partly by paternalistic 19th century tracts instructing women about proper behaviour and by practical tomes to help British women run households during the Raj.
Some of these are now freely available through websites like archive. These are far more than collections of recipes. Want to bake a cake without an oven? Samaithu Paar describes how to make cakes in a large can covered with sand and coals. Low on eggs? Mrs Routleff has a whole section on eggless desserts like Bananas La Princess stewed in syrup and served on fried bread.
We may not yet feel the need to raise our own chickens but if it comes to that, Steele and Gardiner have advice on everything — from constructing a coop to treating common poultry diseases. Much of this advice, updated for today, is available online. These books help you realise that survival is not a single formula, but an attitude, and this is what we really need today.
Our hand washing and social distancing seem simple by comparison. The household help plus recipe manuals were written by women, or groups of women, usually connected by a local ladies club. One of the most notable is the Time and Talents Club Cookbook, first produced in by a group of ladies in Bombay as a charity fundraiser, and then in six more editions till They gave us intriguing new ways to use regular ingredients like eggs, by making them into a thick, cold savoury custard, that was then cut into pieces and fried into creamy cutlets.
They teach us of the value of local ingredients, like karonda, the tangy dark berries that summer will soon bring, to thorny bushes in the hills of the Deccan, which make jam as good as any made from imported berries. Above all, the ladies club books and cooking manuals remind us to reduce waste and reuse leftovers, which is imperative in these times of uncertain supplies. These books tell us how to pickle vegetable peels, grind leftover dal into rotis and then soak old rotis in milk and fry them in ghee with lots of onions, chillies, dhania-jeera powder and coriander leaves for a delicious, eggless version of Parsi akoorie.
The world of these books has mostly gone and as our current, hopefully brief, return to some of its restrictions reminds us, this is really for the best. It was a world that placed unreasonable demands on women — just as the burden of housework in home quarantine is falling unfairly on women today.
But these manuals show how well women coped and their learnings, and even more their attitude, are relevant for all today. And perhaps online furniture sellers might think of launching a modern-day meat safe for a world in which pandemics might become regular parts of our lives. Read more on.
S Meenakshi Ammal Books
If you liked my baklava buns , please vote for me by clicking here and logging in. Thanks in advance for your support! Let me give you an example My grandfather would go fishing late at night at a lake in our village.
Print It seems to me that S Meenakshi Ammal usually appears to one under duress. In the s Tamil Brahmins migrating overseas carried her cookbook along with a pressure cooker each, to cure homesickness with food from home. More recently, families have taken to gifting their sons the book as they leave their homes for idli-less shores. A theme of reassurance runs through this iconic cookbook from the Tamil Brahmin community. The instructions inside provide alternative suggestions and steps to take care of kitchen disasters.
A 67-year-old Tamil cookbook taught me what shiny food sites could not
Last Updated: Apr 05, , Recently pre-virus , in an old Goan kitchen, I saw a meat safe. The small cupboard with wire mesh sides and legs placed in cups of oil used to keep meat and other perishables safe from flies, ants and rats in pre-refrigerator days. This one was crammed with medicines and fruits, and seemed just an interesting anachronism.
S Meenakshi Ammal
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