Ramakrishnan has simply been declared the winner (lengthy format) of the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing contest, for his e book The Story Of India Through Food: OPOS Cookbook. Published in November 2019, this e book was practically 15 years in making. It particulars how 60 totally different Indian and ethnic cuisines developed over time, with recipes.
“This book is about telling people why we eat the things we do today, and what shaped these foods. Why do some communities eat fish, some eat mutton but not chicken… a lot of these questions are answered by the evolution of each cuisine,” he says.
The e book began as a weblog in 2009, and was born out of disputes and debates in varied food teams. How is a South Indian korma totally different than a North Indian one? Why did the Hyderabadi Nizami delicacies, thought of royal, stay in the center of Andhra, and fail to unfold throughout the Telugu states? These have been questions for which he wished solutions.
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Explaining that Indian food history is extra oral than written, Ramakrishnan says he travelled to totally different states to know the standard substances used and the strategies of cooking in every place. “I picked up stories from elderly people in each household…”
The richest supply of history for him have been temple cuisines, that acted like time capsules in their rigidity and stickling to rituals. “For instance, none of the temples I discovered served tomato rice as prasad. They serve tamarind rice, coconut rice, lemon rice however they don’t use tomatoes in any type as a result of tomatoes solely got here into India 500 years in the past and are nonetheless considered as ‘foreign’ food,” he says.
Given there are such a lot of totally different oral histories floating round for every delicacies, an element of Ramakrishnan’s problem was digging into what could possibly be probably the most believable principle of origin. He takes the instance of biryani, ubiquitous throughout Indian communities, and its ‘authenticity’, a trigger for a lot debate.
“Biryani came to India in the North through the Mughals from Persia. Originally, it did not even have rice, just meat and flatbread. But a 1000 years before that, the primitive version of biryani was brought by traders in the South, through Kerala, the same time that Islam arose in the country,” he says, describing the erachi choru, which is principally meat and rice cooked collectively.
“The refinement of biryani, the technique of cooking on low heat, sandwiching meat between two layers of rice, so as to keep the flavours sealed and infused… that happened in the North,” he provides.
In each home that he went, he would sit with the households and cook dinner their recipes utilizing the OPOS technique, till his dishes earned their validation. He notably loved visiting households in Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura. “It’s the only place in India that has not subscribed to the masala craze! Just fresh vegetables and meat, with minimal oil.”
Ramakrishnan hopes that this e book would change into a blueprint for de-skilling and automating cuisines. “I think it’s racist to say that only a North Indian can cook the best paneer butter masala, or nobody can make sambar like a South Indian. With the right tools, anyone can.”