Tales from the Kayasth Kitchen :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Food columnist and writer Anoothi Vishal traces the journey of the Kayasth community by going back to recipes and memories from her grandmothers kitchen in her maiden book. Food evokes memories, especially if it is closely associated with your childhood. The aroma of a certain masala, a special tadka in a dal , melt-inmouth koftas , crunchy pakoras or flavourful curries; all have the ability to stir nostalgia. So it comes as no surprise that popular food columnist and writer, Anoothi Vishals maiden book Mrs. LCs Table: Stories About Kayasth Food and Culture is an inventive and delightful food narrative that combines her memories of her imperious grandmother – Mrs. LC to the world – and her impeccable gourmet sensibilities with endearing tales of feasts and fasts, weddings and charming musical soirees – all accompanied by generously served meals.

The book has 20 recipes that speak of the incredible variety and stunning adaptability of Kayasth communities in different corners of the country, who as bureaucrats in Mughal courts and the British administration alike assimilated elite Muslim manners, culture and food into their universe as easily as they did the westernised ways of the colonial rulers while retaining the essence of their own caste and religion.

The Kayasth are not a geographically or linguistically defined community, but a subcaste spread across the country. So what makes their cuisine so unique, that you decided to write a book on it, we ask? “As a community, the Kayasths are well-known as Indias first bureaucrats. Traditionally well-educated, the members of this privileged community are fairly widely scattered geographically — certainly all over the Indo-Gangetic plain, and even beyond in places such as Hyderabad and West Bengal. Yet, a common cultural thread unites all the sub-sects — the composite Ganga-Jamuni culture, which survives in their lifestyle, speech, sartorial preferences and of course, food practices.

Since I have a knack for food writing, I decided to present the story of the Kayasth community through food,” says Anoothi, speaking at the launch of her book at ITC Grand Chola on Tuesday. The fascinating history of the Kayasths comprises the first part of the book, the entrée, so to say, to the main course. Anoothi has invested depth of emotion in giving a detailed account of the Mathur clan and especially her barima (grandmother), with whom she spent her early years.

“I had been writing columns for a while and it was always intriguing how food has a sociological connect. I thought about how one could link the Kayasth and Ganga-Jamuni culture. I didnt want a recipe book or a food book, but something further. I wanted to connect food with culture,” she explains. But she does elucidate about uniqueness of the cuisine.

“The Kayasth community always believed in using a lot of seasonal produce and ate a lot of meat. The big-ticket dishes on their table even today include the y akhni pulao, mutton pasande, shami kebab. There is an array of faux-meat for the women, who cooked meat perfectly but preferred not to eat it adhering to vegetarian Vaishnavite mores.

Experimenting with simple stuff in their kitchens, they came up with creations such as aate ka keema (mince made with wheat gluten) and moong ki dal ki kaleji (faux liver fashioned out of dal). Though the meat preparations, regularly featured on our festival menu during Dussehra, Diwali and Holi,” she put forth.

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