Tarla Dalal, pioneering chef to a generation of Indians, is no more.
Mile-high piles of traditional Punjabi paneer parathas finished with a flourish of desi butter, crunchy handmade Mexican nachos drizzled with a perfectly spiced cheese sauce, beautifully al dente penne pasta tossed in a rustic Italian tomato-based sauce, fire engine red Thai curry with fragrant rice, and American-style burgers with a side of French fries. An entire generation of vegetarian Indian chefs, home makers, self-taught cooks, mamas, grannies, daughters and gourmands have the effervescent sari-sporting Gujarati food goddess, author, chef, and household name, Tarla Dalal, who passed away of a cardiac attack early yesterday morning, to thank for the above and 17,000-odd more recipes she’s left behind.
For the younger generations, who aren’t in the know, or haven’t seen any spine-cracked issues of Puneborn Dalal’s books tucked away in their mother’s kitchen cabinets; before India was introduced to Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, his TV show, and later, recipe books came his predecessor… in the guise of an ever-smiling, pint-size spectacled mama who started her career as a humble home chef in 1966. “The chirpy lady chef was the real inspiration behind my writing cookbooks. She will be missed for her generously kind words,” says a sombre Kapoor, putting to rest to a decade-plus ‘who came first’ debate.
Little less than 10 years later, of her conducting he first home cooking class, Dalal had already penned first cookbook, The Pleasures of Vegetarian Cooking (in 1974).
Over the last few decades, Dalal has notably published 100-plus cookbooks – which sold more than three million and counting copies – run one of India’s most detailed food websites, and also produced a bimonthly magazine, Cooking & More. Her cookery show, Cook it Up with Tarla Dalal, has also seen its fair share of air time across pockets of South East Asia, India, the Gulf, the UK and USA. Since then, she has gone on to garner an unheard off (or seen) fan-following with titles like India’s best selling cookery author, India’s recipe queen, and more recently, a Padma Shri awardee (in 2007) being bestowed upon her.
And rightly so. Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal, food blogger, author-to-be and proprietor APB Cook Studio agrees, “In a time where there was little to no literature on the subject, the bubbly lady singlehandedly gave us a long line of groundbreaking international-standard cookbooks.”
We don’t know a single vegetarian (or non for that matter) kitchen that doesn’t shelve at least one or more of her titles. For her fans and family, Tarla Ben – as she was fondly called – may be no more, but her legacy of khichdi, kadhi and dhokla, will live on.