Dubby Bhagat

Kathmandu:

The first food writer was Archestratus a Greek who traveled through the Mediterranean and wrote a poem about the cuisine of the paths he traveled in 355 BC. The first and, probably, the best Kathmandu cook book ever written was called ‘Cuisine in Kathmandu: a bilingual cookbook’. It was compiled by valley residents who lived here in 1988. It was complied by AWON and UNWO and it contains recipes from all over the world. The second great food writer was a Roman gourmet called Apicius who wrote ten books on the art of cooking. He ate so much that he became bankrupt. ‘Cuisine in Kathmandu’, is a great cook book and the many contributors have made sure that no one goes bankrupt. e.g. Rupy Singh’s Shami Kababs combined meat and dal and inexpensive herbs. The Nepali writing is on the RHS in every recipe. Jaya Shah’s, Mismas (mixed vegetable curry) combines seasonal vegetables and inexpensive herbs and spices highlighted by, “zwano” to make a really delicious dish. Dhan Contractor’s ‘Meat in Apricots’ exhorts us to use only 250 grams of dried apricots and adds, “more only if you can afford it.” It is simple and fantastic.

In AD 225 Athenaeus wrote a book about aristocrats and famous people dining together discussing recipes. The people in ‘Cuisine in Kathmandu’ were famous in their time. There was Jane Niwa whose husband was head of UNDP and who contributed a number of recipes including a fantastic Chinese Shrimp dish. She made it for me on a birthday when she gifted me a hamper of food. You can improvise by using canna leaves for Manju Rana’s ‘Fish In Banana Leaf.’ Bobby Malla, friend and fellow foodie, contributed a Chocolate Mousse to the book with variations at the end to change the taste. The driving force behind cuisine in Kathmandu was Lakshme Perera from Sri Lanka and many are her contributions to the book, the best being Masala Chops.

Guillaume Tirel, in 1375 wrote ‘Le Viandier’ which was the first important French cookbook. Tirel was familiary known as Taillevent which meant “cut the smell,” for the length of his nose. He advised food heavily seasoned by spices and was influenced by Apicus who advocated spices and pepper even in desserts. Madhu Sengupta and Niti Rana’s mother, the memorable Preeti Singh, who ran a brilliant Nepali restaurant called Sunkosi in those days, had a prizewinning recipe for Sikharni which was written up in the Gourmet Magazine. A few copies of ‘Cuisine in Kathmandu: A Bilingual Cookbook’ are available from Bhavna Rana at Babar Mahal Revisited. We ought to do a signature campaign to ask AWON and UNWO to update and reprint the book. E-mail Bhavna at bhavs@bmahal.wlink.com.np.