A touch of local cooking

Actor Tara Deshpande has added just a few kilos and looks just as beautiful as before, long tresses included!

When you meet someone after a while, you are bound to notice changes in them. But actor Tara Deshpande (Tennebaum after marriage), has added just a few kilos and looks just as beautiful as before, long tresses included! The former VJ-turned-actress whose repertoire of films include Iss Raat Ke Subah Nahin, Bombay Boys, Bada Din, Encounter – The Killing and others, was in town for an informal interactive workshop at Godrej Nature’s Basket in Aundh and to launch her book ‘Sense For Spice’. It’s a personal journey for Tara, as the book’s topic is Konkani cuisine – food of her ancestors.
What made you clinch the deal on writing on a cuisine which your family was associated with?
My father’s family is from Pune (Marathi speaking), while mother’s is from Karwar and spoke Kannada and Konkani. The recipes I got from my grandmothers were written down but were in pretty bad condition. When I got to translating the recipes, I couldn’t understand some of the words or ingredients as they were either not legible or I did not know what it meant in English. So began the research. Slowly, things started taking shape and we realised how much our food is  influenced by outsiders. For example, when the Portuguese came to India, they brought things like potato, chillies and so on. Varan is one dish that survived these influences. The basic thing is, food from any part of Konkan can tell us about people. Depending on their Kuldaivat, they cook things differently. For example, those who have Ganapati as their Kuldaivat avoid preparing anything with red on certain days.
What was the personal discovery for you while researching and writing for the book?
I grew up with certain things, but I discovered them only later. For example, solkadi made on my father’s side of the family was more sattvic while my mother’s side puts garlic in it! I even discovered spices like dagadphool while working on this book! We always think of tamarind or kokum as a souring agent, but I discovered more and found their English names. That is why I have put an easy to follow glossary at the end.
Tara DeshpandeHow did you format the book in terms of what the content should look like and the recipes?
I have tried keeping the content simple not only for those who are good at cooking, but also for someone who has just started. While some recipes are complex, I have included some easy yet authentic recipes too. I have modernised them and made them acceptable to today’s foodies. Essentially, it is traditional food made easy for the young. One of my favorite is the Donlaath Zunka or what my cousins and I would call ‘two kick zunka‘ as kids! The first kick comes with the garlic and the second from the red chillies!
How is the response to the book so far? Also, you have been teaching in the US…

My book has already gone into the second edition. I was surprised to find that people understood categories and techniques. It is not just a bunch of recipes for them. They are eager to know about the food and ingredients. There is so much to know… Also, my buyer is not the regular housewife.
What’s more difficult – cooking or acting?
Both are creative fields with difficult and non-difficult areas. Many describe cooking as a fun experience. But in the US, cooking is easier with AC kitchens and modern amenities. All-in-all, though, I enjoy cooking and people should know how to cook. They can control their food habits better for a healthy lifestyle.