About Us Introduction : S. Meenakshi Ammal is a pioneer in cook book writing in India. This book was immediately lapped up, and there was a lot of demand for more such guidance. In line with this, Meenakshi Ammal came out with two more volumes of Samaithu Par. The second volume dealt with more recipes, while the third volume focused on various festivals and the preparations for these festivals.
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Some dwell on preservation, such as removing the seeds from water lime pickle to increase its shelf life. But back in , when Meenakshi Ammal compiled the recipe book with dozens of sambar and rasam varieties, pickles, payasam, uppumas and rotis, there was no friendly note to tell her that her book of vegetarian recipes would stand the test of time. She was born into an orthodox family near Madurai, and was about 19 years old when she got married. But just a few years later, her husband died suddenly.
Around 21 years old then, she was left to care for her two-year-old son, her seven-year-old brother-in-law, and her mother-in-law. Despite the responsibilities heaped upon Meenakshi Ammal at a young age, her growing cooking prowess was apparent. Relatives would often seek her out for culinary tips, and she was constantly writing down recipes to send near and far. It was only after the boys had grown up and had left for college that Meenakshi considered writing a cookbook, an idea that was encouraged by her uncle, KV Krishnaswami Iyer, a prominent Chennai figure.
According to Priya, Meenakshi faced skepticism from those around her — Why would she write a book of recipes that were familiar to so many South Indian families? But she forged ahead and wrote the Tamil version of Samaithu Par, which was self-published in September She still refers to the books for some of her favourite recipes, such as paruppu urundai kuzhumbu and arasi uppumas, and even ones for special occasions and festivals, such as adhirasam.
The original cookbook remains an important historical text, but instructional cooking has largely moved to the internet after an explosion of YouTube cooking videos, says food historian and columnist Vikram Doctor.
It is literally Cook and See, just in a slightly different medium.
How Meenakshi Ammal made vegetarian cooking accessible to generations of homecooks
Recipes of Meenakshi Ammal