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'Paati's Rasam' is about a lost recipe to remember

The story revolves around a young girl's search for the recipe of a type of rasam that was lost with the demise of her grandmother.

Published: 20th December 2021 02:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th December 2021 02:12 AM   |  A+A-

The book was launched at Mathsya

The book was launched at Mathsya. (Photo| EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Every family has that one heirloom recipe which is close to their hearts. Even if the person behind the original recipe may have passed away, they remain immortal through it for generations to come.

Here's one such story that revolves around a young girl's search for the recipe of a type of rasam that was lost with the demise of her grandmother. Paati's Rasam, concocted by mother-daughter duo Janaki and Dhwani Sabesh, has heartwarming ingredients of love, loss and other powerful emotions that food can hold. 

Of food and family

Rasam is little Malli's comfort food too. Weekends at her paati's house involved head massages, engrossing stories, endless banter and a meal comprising piping hot gottu rasam, prepared in an eeyachombu.

Paati would gently ladle some hot rasam over the mountain of rice on her plate and top it off with a generous dollop of ghee. After a mouthful, Malli would compliment her paati saying, 'You are the best rasam-maker. Can I have it every day and will you teach me to make it?' But the reply would always be, 'Someday Malli, someday'.

Little did Malli know that she’d never see that day because paati was soon a memory. Dhwani, the co-author, recounts her childhood days and paati’s influence on her. "Yes, I'm that Malli from the book. It talks about my Sarasa paati who passed away in 2011. I have grown up with my grandparents since I was five and I’ve been fortunate to enjoy all of paati’s cooking. After her passing, I stopped liking rasam until I started making it by myself."

Little Malli’s hunt for the recipe begins when she’s asked to write down an essay on the one thing she loved the most. While there were plenty of objects of her paati's memory like her yellow silk sari, the books they read together, and the sudoku puzzles they solved, it was rasam that topped her list. Malli's mother calls her siblings and experiments with different combinations of spices, but there's no luck.

Janaki Sabesh shares how writing about rasam transported the duo back in time to paati’s house. "One of my friends would call the gottu rasam a no-kachada-rasam as it had minimal ingredients. More than me, my sister and daughter have inherited the art of cooking from amma. The one habit Dhwani and I have picked up is to add a spoon of sugar to anything we eat and rasam was not spared either," she laughs. 

A taste of home 

After multiple failed attempts, Malli and her mom head to paati’s cupboard and rummage the shelves. They stumble upon her medical report and on the envelope, in neat handwriting, is the recipe. Malli gets to have paati's rasam now and forever. For what looks like a sweet and simple ending, Dhwani and Janaki had over 25 versions of how the story could end,

"Since it’s a picture book, we had to be conscious with minimal text. How much can we say without saying it and let the pictures do the talking? Our shortest draft was 550 words and we also dabbled with many characters from childhood," notes Dhwani. 

Besides the empathetic plot, what brings joy to the reading experience is the vibrant watercolour illustrations by Pallavi Jain and the captivating storyboard by Vaijayanthi. Right from the individual elements that go into the making of rasam to a messy kitchen where it simmers to life, the artists offer you a realistic peek into Malli's home and heart. And, hoping that you fall in love with the versatile staple, the duo has also shared their family recipe of gottu rasam at the end of the book.  

Brought out by Karadi Tales, the picture book was launched at Mathsya on Friday. The first copy was received by food historian Rakesh Raghunathan and his mother Rama Raghunathan. The guests were served Udupi rasam and the hotel's special rasam with pattani sundal and vadai. The goodie bags also had the gottu rasam powder, just so that you get the taste of their home.  

  • Book: 'Paati's Rasam'

  • Publication: Karadi Tales

  • Price: 250

  • No of pages: 20



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