Tasty with a hint of adjective

Atta Galata, the cosy café and bookstore in Koramangala, was a hive of activity for the launch of Bookworms & Jelly Bellies (Hachette), a quirky recipe book inspired by children’s books. Roopa Pai, whose Taranaut series inspired chocolate snow and who has also written the foreword for the book, was there as were some of the food (chocolate trees, makhana munchies, psychedelic pesto pinwheels) and the books that inspired them including Alice in Wonderland, The Adventures of Toto the Auto and The Lorax.

The authors, Ruchira Ramanujam and Ranjini Rao, “met in Chicago over a decade ago, while we were on our way to a community potluck, chatting about food and books, sampling each other's dishes, and planning tea parties and playdates with our kids.”

Ranjini writes for various publications, and teaches at COMMITS — in fact her students had been given various tasks at the launch which they were executing with panache. Ruchira used to work in the IT sector and now hosts exclusive baking workshops, and freelances for recipe development assignments.

The friends “work together on planning and conducting food and culture immersion workshops for children, food writing, photography, and menu consulting projects.”

Talking of the genesis of the book, 46-year old Ruchira says, “The idea for this book was born out of a casual conversation, which is usually the case for many of our projects. We were talking about our daughters’ obsession with books (and food, particularly their perpetual craving for ‘something special’) and how, while growing up, we were so fascinated by descriptions of food in various books, like the Famous Five series, or Alice in Wonderland.

All of this, thrown in with an exchange of updates on Masterchef Junior, and plans for kids’ cooking workshops, quite naturally led to this gem of an idea taking seed.

The process of developing the book, 41-year-old Ranjini says, “Started with narrowing down book choices. We wanted to ensure we had a good mix of classics and contemporary books, books written by authors from the West and India, books that suited different age groups, and books that led to a variety of recipes and cuisines. Of course, what followed was a round of dealing with hits and misses, re-alignments and re-calibrations, but this seemed like the ideal way to go about putting things together.”

Ruchira, who is based in JP Nagar, says their favourite recipe in the book is, “the Tamarind Pops, inspired by Malgudi Days and a similar treat we enjoyed during our childhood years!”

The toughest recipe to match, according to Ranjini who lives in Bellandur was “the pies for Masha and The Bear. The initial idea was to have a classic sweet pie recipe, but it seemed to be complicated for the three-to-five age group. After several ticks and crosses, we came up with the Savoury Pie idea, by simplifying both the look and method for the recipe: we simply used pie-shaped moulds and turned the recipe into that of a simple savoury cake.”

Hoping that the book will inspire children to cook and read, Ruchira says, “We were rather bent on making the writing and the cooking fun, easy and tempting for children across the chosen age groups. We wanted to arouse a sense of curiosity and wonder in the children; and also have them take responsibility for and appreciate, the food that comes to the table. Of course, it helped to have the fine aesthetics of page design and graphics adding the final touches to the whole thing.”

The book with its funky design and pop colours is easy on the eye. Talking of their brief to the designers, Ranjini says, “We wanted the design to be child-friendly and big on visuals, from cover to cover. So we asked for bursts of colour, eye-catching illustrations and fun design elements, which stand out in the final product. For instance, the ingredient lists in the recipes are pictorial, which lends a nice pop to the pages.”

This is Ruchira and Ranjini’s third collaboration after Mango Masala and Round the World with the Tadka Girls apart from their blog Tadka Pasta. Talking about the collaboration,

Ruchira says, “The dynamics of our friendship, which have seen us through both highs and lows, are reflected in our working partnership too. If one of us is tied down by something, an illness or a family obligation, the other steps up to hold fort. If one of us slacks off, the other nudges, and so forth. As for how we work together: we have a strict policy about documenting everything, even the random snatches of conversations and sparks of creativity that hit us from time to time. We literally collaborate on Google Docs, most of the time; while talking on the phone simultaneously.”

While the book has currant scones inspired by Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, I ask about my favourite Google Buns from the Magic Faraway Tree stories.

“Honestly, for us Enid Blyton just meant one of few things: hot scones with clotted cream, buttery mashed potatoes or finger sandwiches. So, no Google Buns for us,” Ruchira says with a laugh.

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Printable version | Jun 10, 2021 7:14:02 PM |

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