Critical Review for the Book Titled "Zaika-Kashmiri Pandit Cuisine"

I was searching for some good books on Kashmir cuisine. At this time, I came across the book on Kashmiri Hindu Cuisine titled “Zaika-Kashmiri Pandit Cuisine”. I wanted to purchase the book online. However, it was a futile attempt for me. The name of the author for this book is Sonya Atal Sapru. Somehow I got her contact information and placed a call to her. I told her about my interests in Kashmiri Cuisine and my attempts to get a hold of her book. In a very polite manner, she added on to me that she has one copy of the book and she may like to gift it to me. Nothing could prevent me now other than reaching to her place, meeting her and get the copy of the book. Finally she gifted me the book with her blessings. It took me nearly five years to write the review of her book (I was lazy enough). I read it six times till date.

The book is not very thick one. The total number of pages is 70. It was published in the year of 1999. it was published by harper Collins, India. The ISBN is 81-7223-341-8. The cost of the book is Rs.195. The cover page is a photograph with two frames combined together-one with the photograph of Kashmiri Puloa and fennel seeds and second one is the photograph of a typical Kashmiri Pandit lady wearing a saree with full blouse, typical Kashmiri Jewellery with the characteristic long chained jhumkas and handmade fan in her hands. The back side of the book is the awesome photograph of the author with her child in her lap. The author claims the authenticity of the genuineness of the recipes shared in the book. She thanked her mother-in-law -Smt.Gita Sapru- for her help and guidance.

The book has been divided into six sections and they are the following:

a. How to plan a Kashmiri Meal (original contribution)? There are in total four ways in which the menu can be set for the day.

b. Kashmiri Garam masala (separately discussed in the entire book)

c. 16 Non-vegetarian recipes

d. 12 Vegetarian recipes

e. 5 Dals and 4 Rice dishes

f. 2 Chutneys,2 Raitas and 4 Desserts

The excellent points in the book are:

1. There is good number of rare and unique family photographs exhibited in the book. These are old and black-white in color showing the period during which they were clicked and shared with not only the future family members; however, with each and every reader of the book. They are rich in showcasing the culture of the Kashmiri Pandit families. The author states “portrait of an ancestor and found in an old chest of photographs”.

2. The author has taken time to mention total number of servings, preparation time and cooking time for each and every recipe in the book.

3. She has explained every recipe in simple English language.

4. The manner in which she acknowledges to her family members for their contribution towards the publishing of the book.

5. The best recipes are: mutton cooked in milk with green almonds, liver cooked in sour curd (khatti kaleji), meat cooked in plums (stuffed passande dum), mutton cooked in coriander powder (dhania ka shufta), jackfruit kababs (kathal kababs), fried pieces of lotus stem (nadru ki kurkuri), colacassia cooked in curds (khatti arvi), sour lentils (khatti arhar dal), mixed vegetable biryani (sarvari), baria, kishmish raita, and meethe chawal.

The weak points of the book are:

1. Very few recipes have been shared and presented in the book.

2. Festive recipes are missing in the book.

On the whole, the book is small and with few pages. It exhibits the recipes and their contributors. The book is a mixture of recipes and culture of Kashmiri Pandits shown via the rich and detailed photographs from the author’s family.

‘Ayurvedic Cooking For Self-Healing’ by Usha Lad and Dr Vasant Lad – Book Review

There is a quote, from the scriptures about Ayurveda, in one of the web pages of Dr. Vasant Lad’s site. It is given as follows: “Ayurveda is beyond beginning and ending. A science of eternal healing, it is compared to a vast ocean, and studying Ayurveda to swimming across. A true teacher can teach one how to swim, but the swimming is up to the student;…it is a lifelong journey.”

From using it as a heart-warming cookbook, I succeeded to experiment and then appreciate the simple and natural ways of healing some common ailments, such as fever and cold. But as I open myself to the depths of learning that has been designed into this work, the book reveals the microcosmic journey of swimming the seas of Ayurveda. The fundamental principles that make-up a human body, like the five elements, the three bodily humors or doshas, the step-by-step processes of digestion according to Ayurveda, and much more are covered in this book.

This book has been written by Dr.Vasant Lad and his wife, Usha Lad. Vasant Lad, BAMS, MASc, ‘is a world-renowned Ayurvedic Physician from India with more than 40 years of Indian medicine clinical experience.’ He is also the founder of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The book shows the painstaking work of the authors to present to readers the complex details of food and cooking, uniquely derived from the fundamentals of Ayurveda. Even those readers who have little background in this ancient method, will find it easy to understand because of the simplicity and clarity in the presentation.

Tables are used wherever possible, making it easy to look things up. Sketches drawn by Dr.Lad himself, lend a distinct attraction for readers. It tends to unburden the reader from feeling any kind of heaviness while going through the exhaustive information provided. It would be beneficial to also consider publishing a ‘large print’ version of the book, which I have not come across as yet.

If you are not a healer, particularly not familiar to the Ancient Indian system of Ayurveda, this book can make an excellent introduction to other life enhancing works of Dr. Lad. Another book of Dr. Lad’s called, ‘The Complete book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies’, covers the same details of the foundational principles of Ayurveda given in this text, ‘Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-healing’. But I found this work as a gentler introduction to this ancient system of healing. Both the works are extensively packed with details, but have their own unique focus.

One of the issues in the process of changing one’s diet to vegetarian food is said to be, according to a Q&A section with Dr. Weil, getting enough protein. If you are one among those trying to adapt to vegetarian diet, this book can give you the wholesome picture required to keep your health in balance. It provides an ample amount of recipes and an exhaustive list of simple fruits, vegetables and spices. Dr. Weil mentions this as ‘varied vegetarian diet’ and also as a healthier alternative.

One of the works of Andrew Weil, M.D., that I first read was, ‘Spontaneous Healing’. The works of Dr. Weil and Dr. Lad are quite comparable in the distinct field of healing, predominantly through natural means. Years before I was introduced to the works of Dr. Vasant Lad, I was using the works of Andrew Weil, M.D. Dr. Weil’s website is a well of resource, and the information that is provided is from his unique expertise in the field of health, healing, food and more.

I also learn that many of us have a longing for connection with the ways of our ancestors to live our lives better. ‘Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing’ is definitely a book that renders such wisdom. It also contains in it an ambiance that caters to readers from both the Eastern (India) and the Western (U.S.) countries. A copy of this book, which I have, has become antiquated in appearance. It has been kept open several times, on my kitchen counter.

254 pages; The Ayurvedic Press (N.M.); 2nd ed., 1997; $19.50;

Critical Review of the Book Titled "Sal-A Feast of Kashmiri Cuisine"

I wanted to prepare a typical Kashmiri Sherbat at the time of Ramzaan. I was searching for Kashmiri recipes. I was not very fortunate enough to know about it. Luckily I discovered the details of the recipe in the book titled “Sal-A Feast of Kashmiri Cuisine”. It was written by Smt. Neerja Mattoo-a Professor in English literature and teaching in the Kashmir University. It was a colorful book with lots of recipes from the valley. It was published in the year of 2008. The name of the publisher was Gulshan Books, Srinagar-Kashmir. The ISBN is 81-8339-063-3. The cost of the book is Rs.495.

The book is dedicated to her mother. The contents of the book are:

1. 11 Wazwaan recipes

2. 7 Non-Vegetarian recipes

3. 21 Vegetarian Recipes

4. 8 Mutton and Vegetable

5. 9 recipes prepared from fish and 1 recipe prepared from duck

6. 2 Dried Vegetables

7. 4 Recipes using rice

8. 4 Desserts

9. 4 Beverages

10. 7 Snacks and Tea-Time Savouries

11. 4 Chutneys

12. 1 Pickle

13. 2 Spice Cakes (garlic and asafoetida based)

The excellent points present in the book are:

a. Different varieties of recipes have been shared by the author.

b. The author gives a vivid introduction about the Kashmiri cuisine-right from seasonal dishes to festive cuisine.

c. The authentic recipes shared from her side are Sadre Kaenz, Sheer Chai, bakery products, harisa, girda, etc.

d. She discusses about the use and prevention of certain spices and vegetables during festivals and seasons as described in traditional books.

e. Very clear colored photographs for various dishes are showcased in the book (this even includes the traditional copper utensils used for different purposes).

f. Her major contribution lies in the sharing of recipes using dried vegetables.

g. This is the only book sharing the recipe for a beverage called Babribyol Sherbet (beverage prepared from chia seeds) and sadr-e-kaenz-a fermented rice water).

The weak points of the book are:

a. The sections on non-vegetarian and mutton and vegetable could have been taken into one category only.

b. The author was not fair in her contribution towards the discussion and listing of the Wazwaan dishes.

c. Though the author mentions about various bakery products in the Introduction of her book, however, there is nowhere mentioned or discussed about the manner in which these products are prepared by the Kandarvaan or the baker’s shop.

d. The author is not shown much attention towards the preparations of various dishes from the dried vegetables.

e. There are other varieties of pickles prepared in Kashmir. The author misses her points in it too.

To summarize in the end, the book is truly an introduction to the world of Kashmiri cuisine. The author describes the steps in a very lucid manner and one can follow them nicely. I enjoyed cooking some of the recipes from the book.