Madhur Jaffrey is that rare culinary writer who principal’s ingredient is life itself. Whether you are reading any of her many cookbooks or watching her latest film (yes, she is also an accomplished actress), you can’t help but sense a joyful depth in all she does.
There is purpose and passion to what she shares. And share she does – from the story of her childhood in India surrounded by a large extended family to her days as a young acting student in London.
It was in cold foggy London that she first longed for the comfort of the foods made by loving aunts and her distant mother. There was only one problem – Madhur had never been one to see the kitchen as a place of interest. In short, she couldn’t cook.
After short (and often incomplete) cooking notes began arriving from her mother, Madhur realized that if she wanted authentic Indian cuisine while aboard, she was going to have to learn to cook.
Soon two career paths emerged for Madhur – the stage and the kitchen. Yet her rich heritage from the ancient cultures of India saw these two interests as part of a single life focus: community shared.
During a recent interview she explained that she sees acting as sharing the passion/the inner meaning of the play with the audience – to draw them in until they discover a warmth of understanding that makes the evening worthwhile.
She shared that she considers cooking to be no different – it should also enrich community, bring people together in a deeper sense of self.
In her newest cookbook, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, she carries that spirit forward on every page. Each recipe is adjusted to comfortably fit in a western kitchen. Yet each recipe was collected directly from cooks in Indian, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanks as they cooked for family and friends. You can almost smell the spices as you read recipe after recipe.
Each dish is enticing and begs to be shared with others. Madhur explained that her goal was to free the cook from the tiring tradition of long and difficult hours of ethnic food preparation. Then there would be time for what truly matters in life – laughter, conversation, fellowship and family.
There is a gentle grace and ease in Madhur’s writing that makes you feel at home within these rich cuisines of Asia. She is truly a citizen of the world and invites you to be one, too – one bite at a bite.
Just be sure to invite your friends to join you. No one should dine alone.
Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2010