Sunday, February 22, 2015

On Meeting Jiggs Kalra and What He Means to Me

Yesterday I was privileged enough to meet one of the grand old men of the food business in India - Mr. J Inder Singh Kalra, known to most as Jiggs Kalra. The venue was the very swish Masala Library in the Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai, and the guests included the who's who of the Indian food world - chefs, restaurateurs, food columnists, editors, and bloggers. The evening was in honour of Mr. Kalra completing 40 glorious years in the business.

Why was I there? I wanted to honour the man too. It's his recipes published in a weekend newspaper magazine that started me off on my journey of food discovery. His style of writing is etched in my mind and will always be.

I must have been around 10 years old; my parents subscribed to the Telegraph newspaper and on weekends there was a magazine supplement. Mr. Kalra had a recipe column in it and that was my first encounter with food writing of any sort. In most homes in those days, mothers just cooked what they'd learned from their own mothers, aunts and grandmothers, and later, from the in laws. Not many people had cookbooks - my mom certainly didn't. The recipe column was, therefore, a huge novelty for me. I didn't know food writing existed and hadn't realised that there is a system in cooking. At that age I hadn't given it a thought. Cooking was something moms did and that was that.

I looked forward to the weekend supplement and to Mr. Kalra's column. It was magical. There were wonderful pictures and the recipes seemed unreal to me. The measurements were so exact they seemed impossible. 3 gram saffron, he said. Or 12 ml garlic juice, strained. I'd never seem my mom measure anything when she cooked, neither did Ahmed aunty from downstairs, or Shobha's mom upstairs who made the world's best dosas. Nor had I ever seen them strain garlic juice or anything like that. Didn't they just chop the garlic or bash it on the grinding stone? The recipes must be fiction, like other stories, I concluded. I was fascinated.

Years later I realised that recipes were real and they fascinated me even more. I had started cooking by then. I didn't encounter Mr. Kalra's writing again for many years till I chanced upon his classic book Prashad in my mother in law's library. I remember smiling at my own innocence all those years back.

The invitation to celebrate 40 years of Jiggs Kalra took me back to that magazine column and the magic I found in his recipes. I received my own copy of Prashad yesterday - a slice of that same magic, from the magician himself.

Marathon Bloggers

1 comment:

Joy said...

Wow! What a grand experience!