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From the kitchens of Maharashtra

Saee Koranne-Khandekar’s second book ‘Pangat: A Feast’ which was launched at the ongoing  Goa Arts and Literary Festival (GALF) navigates
the many sub-cuisines of Maharashtra and attempts to break the myths that surround the food of the land

Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ

As a writer who wants to just be true to her experience sans taking on assignments in which her food philosophy has to be compromised on, Saee Koranne-Khandekar only writes about things that matter to her.

Excerpts from an interview

Q. From 2008 as a blogger to 2018 as a writer and consultant. Take us briefly through your interesting journey spanning 10 years.

I started blogging under the header ‘My Jhola’ (a mixed bag), because at the time, my writing was a bit of a mixed bag. I was writing about food primarily from the perspective of setting up my own kitchen post marriage and documenting recipes from the family’s repertoire. I was also still working a nine to five job back then, as an instructional designer. Over a period of time, I moved out of my job and took up food writing assignments, taught classes in baking, and got opportunities to work with food retailers and manufacturers. Meanwhile, my family cookbook and ‘Crumbs!’ my first commissioned book, were published and I decided to study food more scientifically, so I went and took a course at the CFTRI (Central Food and Technological Research Institute).

In the 10+ years of my journey as food writer and consultant, I have curated menus for restaurants and trained teams, curated food festivals and popups, designed products for food manufacturers, conducted workshops, and authored three books.

Q. There’s so much content being created on food out there, how do you manage to create a world of your own?

The only way to create a niche for oneself is to be honest to one’s culinary upbringing, I think. And by that, I don’t mean just the food of your childhood, but the composite culinary experience of your life as you live it on a day to day basis. If you write for social media, you will write like other social media writers. If you write for you, you will have a unique voice.

Q. Tell us about the book ‘Pangat: A Feast’.

Angat Pangat actually started as a Facebook group just after I finished writing my first book. I started it because I thought I didn’t know enough about my own cuisine and it felt like a good space to converse about and rediscover the various facets of the cuisine. Today, we are a group of 35,000 people from across the globe, and apart from recipes, there is some discussion on the socio-cultural aspects of the cuisine as well.

Interacting on the group set me off in other directions—connected me with academicians, home cooks, gave me references to old Marathi books, and helped me place whatever I knew in perspective. ‘Pangat’ (the book) is an extension of that process of discovery. My memories of a Konkani Muslim feast at my friend’s wedding, memories of the Brahmin-style food from home, facets of Koli cuisine that I learn from my fisherwoman, etcetera, all find references in the book.  

Q. How are you demystifying myths through this book?

I’m just sharing the recipes as I’ve seen them being made in homes—my own and those of others who opened their kitchens to me. The fact that thalipeeth is never deep fried (the way it is served in commercial eateries) but patted directly on a skillet and slow roasted, or that there are so many versions of the karanji across the state, or that there is no such thing as “veg kolhapuri”!

Q. There is so much of history and
culture that can be explored through food.

Indeed, this warrants a five page essay! Food has always been the greatest and yet most ignored carrier of history. If you look at a ‘cookbook’ in absolute terms even, one where there are just recipes, it will still betray little secrets about the time in which it was written and about the person who wrote it. A middle class cook who lived through the era of strict rationing will offer certain alternatives to ingredients such as sugar and plain flour, which were difficult to come by. Another cookbook may tell you about the ways in which colonial influence seeped into our cuisine.

That the Green Revolution changed our culinary profile from millet producers and consumers to wheat growers and basmati-obsessed people and almost equated non vegetarianism with chicken is
another example.

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