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Heirloom from a grandmother’s kitchen

When Bengaluru-based Archana Pidathala set out to write Five Morsels of Love, she did so in memory of her beloved grandmother, G Nirmala Reddy, carefully curating her heirloom recipes with a warm narrative.

“The book was bigger than me,” she tells us, so much so that her own name doesn’t take its stately place on the cover, beneath the title! With nearly 2,000 books from her first edition flying off the shelves globally, her book leading her on a tour of Europe and USA, and now, being one of the 12 in the world to be nominated for the reputed Art of Eating Prize 2017, her journey has been nothing short of delicious.

“I received an email about it at 1 am while I was winding up the day’s work. I absolutely had no idea,” says the thrilled 36-year-old about the annual prize of $10,000 that is awarded to one author for the year’s best book about food.

Spurred on by memories of being around her grandmother and being fed by her – everything from a comforting tomato rasam to an eggplant biryani (!) bursting with flavour, Archana’s self-published book is a careful curation of 106 recipes based on her grandmother’s 1974 South Indian cookbook Vanita Vanakalu.

It’s especially precious to her because, “Ammamma published her book when she was 37 and I turn 37 this month,” she muses. Having worked on the copy for over nine years, it was her passion project.

“Every time my cousins and I meet, we sit around talking about her food. Some of them don’t know how to read Telugu and it was all the more reason for me to translate the recipes after testing them,” she says, confessing that she only took to cooking a couple of years ago.

Before her advent in the kitchen, Archana worked in the corporate sector for several years. “I’d work on the book every weekend and I did, for about five hours. It then reached a point where the book needed a lot more of my attention,” says the NIT Warangal alumnus who then decided to call it quits.

When her collection of 60 cookbooks from around the world doesn’t serve as enough inspiration, she tells us that her five-year-old son, Arjun, who loves to cook with her, keeps her going. “There’s a lunch programme in his school where parents need to send out lunch for the entire class once a month. I really look forward to it,” she says, cooking up an elaborate luncheon for the tots.

So, is there a second edition of special recipes? “Not really. My grandmother forayed into other cuisines as well and she made a note of those timeless recipes (about 300 of them) in another book. I hope to someday publish it as is in Telugu,” she smiles, taking it one course at a time.

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