Meenakshi Ammal and her cookbook Cook and See (translated from the original Tamil Samaithu Paar in three bestselling volumes) are to South Indians, especially Tamils, what Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management was to nineteenth-century Englishwomen. Meenakshi Ammal was married in her teens and widowed soon after. Her extraordinary culinary skills helped her to face the hardships as a single mother with a young son. Her family recorded her recipes and the first volume of Cook and See was printed in 1951. Several editions and translations later, the collection is a handy guide to vegetarian cooking, traditional wellness, and nutrition. The first volume introduces daily menus and tips, shopping guides, and essential kitchenware; the second focuses on traditional sweets and savories, tiffin, and thrifty family food budgeting; and the third describes elaborate rituals through festivals, bereavement, and wedding menus. Nourishing recipes for pregnant women, post-partum healing foods, elixirs and pantry remedies are part of home menus. Seventy years on, some of the household and kitchen management duties may be archaic, but Meenakshi Ammal is still a wonderful culinary companion for the global South Indian vegetarian.
Meenakshi Ammal’s cookbooks explain how:
- Recipes and culinary rituals work for celebrations, healing and bereavement
- Traditional cookware and cooking from scratch support healthy eating
- Heirloom vegetarian menus and cooking methods serve the modern cook well