Motherhood & nostalgia in Sudha Menon’s food memoir with a difference

Motherhood & nostalgia in Sudha Menon’s food memoir with a difference

After the launch of her first book titled ‘Legacy: Letters from Eminent Parents to Their Daughter’, columnist, actor and motivational speaker Sudha Menon is back with ‘Recipes For Life’ – recently launched at an online event at the Nehru Centre in London.

Between indulging in untouched family recipes from India and acknowledging the sumptuous fragrance of her Aai’s (mum’s) khichdi masala, Sudha spoke eloquently about her writing process with Nehru Centre Director Amish Tripathi.

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Cultural identity

Secret family recipes have always been handed down over generations through pipelines that are often the women in the household. Penning these down has never indeed been a tradition. “Food is part of our cultural identity. If we don’t write them down, we stand a risk of losing centuries worth of recipes and experiences of eating together.”

Speaking of her mother-in-law who was a talented home cook, the writer expresses that “all the things that she cooked in the kitchen, came from recipes from her mother and grandmother.” This made Sudha more committed towards presenting a book about relationships that are moulded out of food that is served with much love.

Motherhood lies at the essence of this touching narrative. “I want this to be a book of mothers, food and memories associated with mother’s cooking.” Just the way our mother’s delicacies bring comfort to our souls, the stories that Sudha has incorporated are heart-rendering.

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Diversity within

Bringing diversity onto the pages, Sudha reached out to personalities whom she admires the most. “I thought that the celebrities wouldn’t speak to me about food but when I sent a note saying that it is about mothers and memories, all of them agreed.”

As you flip through, tales from every land in India articulated by some of the well-established names in the field of arts, literature, sports and cinema dominate your emotions. Some of the names that articulated their childhood include Vidya Balan, Ajit Agarkar, Mithali Raj, Mary Kom, Atul Dodiya, Shanta Gokhle and Amish Tripathi.

From the popular actress Vidya Balan’s troubled relationship with food to the renowned journalist Shanta Gokhale’s Konkan mother’s journey to learning to cook non-vegetarian food, Sudha has enclosed it all. The author remorsefully reiterates Shanta’s words, “one of the biggest regrets in her life was that her Aai’s (mother) book of recipes never got published.”

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Special conversations

“It is not just about recipes. It has become a food memoir”. She describes her discourse with the preeminent artist Atul Dodiya: “His Rajput mother integrated well with the rest of the Maharashtrians in their building, merging her Kathiawadi style of living with theirs. What he is today is what she made him over their shared lunches.”

Growing up in a tiny village near Imphal in Manipur, boxing champion Mary Kom had plenty of anecdotes to share with the author. “Her mother had a patch of garden behind their house where she grew vegetables and other greens which were then sold in the market to run the household.”

She adds, “In the hills where Mary grew up, organic and local produce was part of the staple diet. She along with her siblings would wait for Sundays where they would sit on the floor and finish their meals.”

Former cricketer Irfan Pathan reminisces over his mother’s hardship in bringing the boys milk and protein rich khichdi while they practiced at the stadium.

Takeaway notes

Amish Tripathi, himself a prolific writer, gets nostalgic and shares the valuable lessons that he learned at the dining table from his dearest mother. Connecting the past with the present, the author recollects her mother using home grown fresh and seasonal produce from their land- coconut, jackfruit, mango, drumsticks into her cooking.

“The food that we eat is who we are and is what keeps families together,” says Sudha. “Take some time to document these recipes.”

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