Sunday, May 27, 2007

Ruchira

The Marathi cookbook

For someone who likes to cook, reading and buying cookbooks follows naturally. When it comes to Maharashtrian cooking, if you randomly survey some Marathi people and ask them to name one cookbook they know or use, I can predict the result quite accurately, if I say so. The answer has to be 'Ruchira'.



'Ruchira' is a Maharashtrian cookbook, written in Marathi by Kamalabai Ogle, and published in 1970, when she was sixty years old. According to the cover of the book, a record was established when more than 150000 copies of the book were sold within 20 years of its publication, unparalled by any other non-fiction book. As far as I know this is the oldest known documentation of Marathi recipes, but would definitely like to know if there is anything available that dates earlier.

Here is a link to a very nice old article that talks about the book and its author. In it, she is quoted about the encouragement she received from her husband, who wrote the recipes as she narrated them to him, so I am not sure whether she was able to write or not. Given that, it is easy to forgive the lack of quantities and precision in some of her recipes, which is a complaint I heard from someone about the book. In fact, most women I know from those days never prioritized quantities. They believed in 'this much' of this and that. However, many recipes actually have fairly accurate measurements, if only in terms of spoons and katoris and some archaic terms like 'ser'.

Honestly, I wasn't exactly thrilled with 'Ruchira' when it was probably the only cookbook or food resource I had to refer to. At that time, I did not possess the tools to make a ginger-garlic paste, or any other kind of paste, most ingredients in the book were hard to find, and I did not even know what some of the ingredients meant. Those were the dark ages - pre-search engines and even pre-browsers. It was all my fault, then, I realize.

While this is a book that is supposed to guide the novice cook, I warmed up to it only after I had honed my basic cooking skills. Over time, I came to rely on it to stir up something that took me closer to my roots, or to look up something old-fashioned. I have used Volumes 1 and 2 extensively now, making notes about what I should or should not do, what worked, and what quantities would be best for recipes where there are none.

The English translation

The same article I linked above mentions that the book was translated into English, and ever since I read that, I was in search of the English language book for several reasons. When I finally got a copy though, it was a bit of a letdown. The great thing about it is that it makes many common Marathi recipes accessible to those who do not read Marathi, and is overall well written. However, the English version has only around 100 recipes, which is a small fraction of the two original volumes. So while I would recommend it those interested in trying out Maharashtrian cooking, I would also add a note of caution of how it barely scratches the surface.

Since I will eventually write about dishes that were based on recipes from the original Ruchira, I felt it was only appropriate that I write about these books before I embark on those posts.


Adapted Recipes

Volume 1

Baakar bhaji (lal bhopLyAchi bhAjI)

Sweet coconut rice (nAraLI bhAt)

Methi DAL

Volume 2

Popped Rice Chiwda (lAhyAnchA chiwDA)

18 comments:

Asha said...

I had a Kannada version of Ruchira in B;lore.Unfortunately,I left it with mother when I moved.It is great book.

Veena said...

Paaksiddhi by Lakshmibai Vaidya predates Ruchira. It was published in 1967 (I will clarify the exact year once I get my hands on the copy that is arriving in a couple of days). The author died before the book came to market, which is probably one of the reasons it did not get marketed as widely as Ruchira did. Paaksiddhi is not a book on Maharashtrian cuisine, it is a tome. Unfortunately, I doubt an English version will ever be produced unless one of us does it.

Veena

evolvingtastes said...

Asha, I didn't know that there was a Kannada version of Ruchira, how wonderful! What were some of the more commonly cooked Marathi dishes in Karnataka, if at all?

evolvingtastes said...

Veena, thanks for that piece of information. How easily is it available? There is nothing on it on the web when I searched, but I will try to get a copy, though it might be a long while.

Welcome here too!

Veena said...

ET :-)

Berkeley's library has a copy of Paaksiddhi. If you have friends there, request them to borrow it for you (unfortunately, that library is not part of the public libraries' inter-library loan system).

Veena

Veena said...

I meant UC Berkeley. And it is spelt as Pakasiddhi in their online catalogue.

Veena

TheCooker said...

I totally share your sentiments/ experiences regarding Ruchira. Initially I ignored it completly, it is only recently (ie in the past 10-12 years) I've warmed up to it.
Not only the terms, the language too is slightly archaic...but in an absolutely charming way. I'm sure much is lost in translation.

evolvingtastes said...

thecooker, a lot is absolutely lost in translation. Nice to know that there are other people who were frustrated with (or ignored) the book before to discover its charm later on.

Anonymous said...

"Grahinimitra or Hazaar paakriya" is one of the oldest Marathi language cookbook that was written by Mrs. Laxmibai K. Dhurandhar. It has 485 pages of recipes, plus index pages which makes a total of 509 pages. The date of publication is listed as October 13, 1910. Published by Balwant Book Bhandar of Girgaum, Bombay.
My mother had the earlier version and she used it to cook for us. The one I have is the 16th edition printed in December of 1968 and the cost was Rs.10. My feeling is that the method of organization of the recipes is the order she wrote them sometimes by the type of vegetables or types of ladoos etc. However the index is very nice and useful. I used it as a new bride and still use it when I really want to find out or confirm the ingredients or the authenticity of some dishes.The measurements are in sher, chatak and sometimes in teaspoons and dessert spoons --not consistent. One can follow the recipes after gaining cooking experience. Not for a novice cook to learn how to cook as the author assumes a cook's savvy or insight in the kitchen which is absent as a novice. There are terms like use 2 bunches of onions (available in Crawford Market). So the author assumed you were living in Bombay(Mumbai) or had access to the famous market and doesn't specify what makes a bunch of onions. She also used terms like mirchi(chillies) worth 2 Annas(the currency used in that era).In a way she did not forecast for the current inflation !!! Anyway, I will not part with my copy. I love it and will always treasure it. The author was very advanced and learned for her time.

evolvingtastes said...

Anonymous, (?)
What a fascinating piece of information!! I am thrilled. Now I want to know where I can find a copy of the book. Is it available anywhere at all? If I know where to look, I will try my best to get it. Thanks for your detailed response, and would appreciate any more information you could provide. And just to be sure, is the exact name "Grahinimitra or Hazaar paakriya"? Is that a Hindi 'aur'?

Anonymous said...

"Grahinimitra or Hazaar paakriya" as I mentioned in my earlier comment...
The actual word used by the author is "athava" and not or. In Marathi athava means also and not OR as I wrote in my earlier comment. I made a mistake in my translation and I apologize for my error. The cook book might be available in Mumbai bookstores or some second hand book shops. Thanks.

evolvingtastes said...

Anonymous, thanks for clarifying the name, and no apologies needed. I will try looking for it. Thank you again for all that information!

Kunda said...

plz post rajgira receipes...like ladoos, upma , sheera , kheer etc.
I hav 2 books of ruchira part2 ..13 aavruti nov 2002 edition n part 140th aavruthi may 2003...which has this receipes but Iwant my Ma 2 mke this as rajgira is very nutricious...
Ruchira is "D BEST" cook I ever read...
Hats off 2 Shreemati kamala bai

PBP said...

There used to be another book annapurna by Manglatai Barve. This has also been translated in english off-late. If one was to get a book for learning basic maharastrian cooking, what would you recommend?

evolvingtastes said...

PBP, I like Mangala Barve's book too, and I have both the Marathi and English versions of Annapoorna. The few recipes I have tried from it turned out very good. The English one is a true translation unlike Ruchira's English version which is only a small selection of the popular recipes, in a slightly different format.

It is difficult to recommend a single book for basic Maharashtrian cooking, but both Ruchira and Annapoorna are good to start with. Ruta Kahate's 5 spice 50 dishes isn't specifically Maharashtrian, but very slanted in that direction, and the recipes are simplified to suit an international audience, and approachable. To complement the books are of course a lot of wonderful blogs, which can be great resources for homestyle recipes and adaptations.

Soumitra Velkar said...

I have a 1940's version of Laxmibai Dhurandhar's book (was a wedding gift to my grandmother from her mum... I inherited it) The measures cannot be used but the recipes and techniques are of great help... It primarily documents recipes of the Pathare Prabhus (a small Maharashtrian community I hail from)

evolvingtastes said...

Soumitra, thanks for the comment! The book you mention sounds like a treasure!

Unknown said...

I too want this book of Mrs Laxmibai Dhurandhar Gruhini Mitra but it seems out of stock and the new edition for years is not printed.

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