Tracing the history of various Keralite communities and their unique recipes, food columnist Sabita Radhakrishna’s latest offering, ‘Paachakam - Heritage Cuisine of Kerala’ preserves the culture of a bygone era. The double-page spread cookbook documents the origin of Keralite cuisine while representing the various historic nuances that are further simplified and passed down to younger generations.
It took her almost two years of research to complete the project, which was delayed by the pandemic. Throughout the lengthy process, they made sure that the diversity of Kerala’s cuisine comes through; conducting in depth research on communities such as the Nairs, Thiyas, Syrian Christians, Moplahs, Cochin Jews, Poduwals, and Namboodris, in order to understand the spices and cooking techniques and dominant ingredients used by each of them.
The book also highlights the organic nature of regional cuisine that features locally grown ingredients to make a variety of delicious dishes that are sattvic (Sanskrit for pure). These recipes are beneficial to health while maintaining their rich flavour and versatility. Although Kerala has a number of diverse communities, the cookbook aims to bind them together through their shared culinary soul and focuses on the many similarities that inspire slow cooking and a simple diet.
Illustrated by Nupur Panemaglor, Paachakam is in many ways also a thematic representation of the state of Kerala. The intricate sketches of the landscape and its flora, and fauna such as the backwaters, fish, jackfruit trees, boats, monsoon and most importantly banana leaves, perfectly represent the region’s natural beauty that inspires its diverse culinary culture.
After conducting in-depth research into some truly complicated dishes, Sabita has simplified and tweaked a few recipes, to better appeal to younger generations. Many of the family recipes and heritage cuisines are disappearing due to fast-paced lifestyles that do not allow time for individuals to invest time in elaborate recipes. Hence, cookbooks like Paachakam are a way for future generations to hold onto their rich culinary cultures despite changing times.
Find the cookbook here.