Saare Jahaan Se Dabba


Saare Jahaan Se Dabba

Illustration: Akshita Monga


hen my mother made the journey to north India and made Agra her home, she did so with her Bible, Samaithu Paar, the classic south Indian vegetarian cookbook.

Published in the 1950s, it’s an unpretentious guide written by a simple Tamilian housewife, and was a part of the trousseau of young brides learning the ropes of south Indian vegetarian cuisine. From this book my mom whipped out dishes like molagootal or kootu, where coconut is ground into the gravy of vegetables like gourd or squash, along with jeera, red chillies, and pepper. My favourite was keerai kootu, cooked and mashed spinach leaves mixed with boiled tur dal and tempered with urad dal, mustard, and red chillies.