British writer Jenny Mallin traces the lives of her ancestors through a cookbook
A Grandmother’s Legacy is a cookbook that reveals intricate details, and traces the lives of author Jenny Mallin’s grandmothers who lived in India since the late 1800s. And soon, Mallin will travel from the UK to promote her book in cities including Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai, in a quest to explore the places where her ancestors once lived. “I am very excited at the thought of being able to showcase my book, and have the opportunity to talk and share with others the history of my family and my heritage recipe book of my grandmothers,” says the 56-year-old.
The original legacy book was passed on to Mallin’s mother Cynthia, and that has over 500 Anglo-Indian recipes such as country captain and coconut pepperwater, and kulkuls, which are unique to the Anglo-Indian cuisine. Almost all of these recipes have an interesting story. For instance, the country captain and coconut pepperwater dish traces its origins to the British Raj in the 1800s when the British trade ships were called country ships and their captains were known as Country Captains. Some of these stories have found a mention in the book too. “When the British first arrived in India, they insisted on soup being served as a course at dinner — however, soups were not part of the Indian menu, so their Indian cooks served a mixture of spices boiled in water,” Jenny reveals.
Incidentally, the word Mulligatawny (an English soup) comes from the Tamil word for “milagu” meaning pepper and “tanni” meaning water. “There are also plenty of spicy curries (in the recipe book) which are mostly Indian but with a twist.”
Jenny has spent five years researching the book. “This was no easy task,” she admits. “I needed to find out from my mother what some of the unusual terms written in the book were, for example, what an ‘ollock’ (an old measurement term from Madras), and a ‘pollum’ was (a very old term for the weighing scale dish used in bazaars).”
Whilst in Bengaluru, Mallins intends to speak with the Anglo-Indian community here, “I shall be cooking with some of the families too. I am also most excited about seeing my grandmother’s heritage house, which still stands on Jeremiah Road in Fraser Town, and exploring the Bowring Institute where my grandmother would have played tennis in her 20s, all in her Edwardian dress too!” she concludes.
Mallins’ book launches on December 3 at 6.30pm at Bangalore International Centre; December 4 at 6pm at Catholic Club, 6 pm; December 5 at 4pm at The British Council Library.
— Nandini Kumar