LAHORE: The kitchen, often taken as the heart of South Asian homes, led to the new book of Claire Chambers ‘Desi Delicacies’ which was launched at a virtual session of the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) with Sanam Maher, Rana Safvi and Sultana Al Quaiti who contributed to the anthology, edited by Chambers.
Moderated by journalist Raza Rumi, Ms Claire told the audience how she developed an interest in South Asian culinary tradition while teaching English language in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Covid-19 crisis, she added, had rekindled interest in cooking as families got locked down.
With contributions from 18 writers, three of them being part of the discussion, the book lists a rich variety of recipes, both old and new and how they changed during the last one century.
Sanam Maher, who wrote a chapter on ‘burgers’ for the book, traced how this American delicacy made it to the sub-continent and then saw a whole industry being built around it. She spoke about the first outlet that was opened by three brothers in Karachi in the 1970s.
“The burger journey did not stop here but a whole political class was built around it that was then attached to a particular party during the last decade or so.
This political allegory of an American delicacy was a fascinating thing to happen,” she claimed.
Rana Safvi, a historian and cookery expert from India, spoke on the centrality of ‘qorma’ in the Indian households for centuries.
“When we were growing up, it was a symbol of party and it was mutton, not chicken qorma. Chicken replaced mutton over the years as the latter became more expensive and only a few could afford it. Over time, income, convenience, time and health awareness has changed eating habits of the people in our region. The food has changed on the tables of our kids from what used to on our tables and our parents’ tables,” she claimed.
Sultana Al Quaiti, whose mother had migrated to the UK in the 1940s, narrated how her mother formed the Pakistan Society in 1951 where Pakistani cuisine was central to whole activity and all those women would share and practise South Asian recipes and then invite Pakistan heroes, like cricketer Fazal Mahmood, to their homes and serve them the food.
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2021