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Posted on Tue 05 Sep 17

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Ruchira: The Making of a Culinary Classic


For close to five decades, it has been the definitive guide to Maharashtrian cooking. Brides, home-makers and cooking enthusiasts swear by its precision, lucidity and authenticity, even as the ubiquitous copy dots countless book cases. It is a cookbook as simple and elegant as the cuisine it represents. If you happen to believe that true charm lies in the uncomplicated, then Ruchira is the book you ought to be reading at least once.

So whether you are a collector of regional cookbooks, or a fan of Maharashtrian cuisine or simply a cooking enthusiast looking to experiment with a sea of easily deciphered recipes, pick up your copy today.

Creating Culinary History 

The year 1970 was witness to a best-selling book on a scale rarely seen before. Written by home-maker Kamalabai Ogale, it's USP was its sheer simplicity and lack of jargon. No fancy measuring devices or mysterious proportions, it asked budding cooks to use simple steel bowls and glasses—standardised utensils in most Indian homes.

Mostly dedicated to vegetarian Maharashtrian Brahmin fare, save for the  sporadic appearance of egg in some recipes, it is the veritable holy book for anyone aspiring to well, cook.

In the 20 years that followed, it sold over 1,50,000 copies—an unbelievable number for a regional book. What's more, it became a collector's copy, to be passed from mother to daughter, or mother-in-law to daughter in law. Young, experienced home-makers benefited from the infinite wisdom of a domestic goddess as timeless as she was easy to understand whereas the more experienced cooks could seek confirmation of the exact constituents of traditional recipes.

In keeping with popular demand, part 2 of the book came out in 1985 with a bigger line up of desserts, tips and a few continental recipes with a desi twist—as a nod to the changing times. 

A few years later, Ms. Usha Jategaonkar translated the book into English—a great service to those constrained by language.

"The best part about the Ruchira is that if you follow the recipes to a Tee, the results will be exactly what you hope and expect them to be," says home-maker Rashmi Joshi, herself an accomplished cook. "This is not always the case with other cookbooks and it's not something to be taken lightly."

While changing times have seen the introduction of cakes and puddings, the 300 recipe strong index can be counted upon to exactly replicate, innumerable bhajis and sides, desserts like puran polis and modaks, festive fare like bharleli tondli (Stuffed ivy gourd/kundru), masale bhat and much, much more. Above all, it is the perfect place to learn all about the masalas, pickles and spice mixes (phodnis/seasonings) that are the very essence of Marathi cooking.

Recent editions have also seen a marked improvement in printing value, though there are those who crib that the English version doesn't quite match up to the stature of the original Marathi. "It is, however, a boon for those of us without the benefit of an older person in the house to teach us the secrets and basics of our Marathi fare," says educationist Sulabha Vikas. "As a defense wife, I had been away from Maharashtra for several years, but each time I felt like a taste of home, I could pick up a Ruchira. It's reassuring to know some things don't change."


 


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