My first ever cookbook was written by the queen of cookbooks- Tarla Dalal.
Those years, hers were the only dependable cookbooks. She made everything seem so easy to do. Her measurements were always perfect to a T. She took the uncertainty of out of the most complicated dishes. Cakes and desserts were impossible to tame, mystical things for most Indian cooks those days. Tarla Dalal’s cookbooks made cakes and desserts as easy as Kheer and Halwa for the Indian cook. I have received hundreds of compliments on the ‘melt- in- the- mouth’ fluffiness of the eggless cake Tarla Dalal taught me. So perfect, so flawless, so utterly delicious- every single time.
She was passionate about cooking- and to teach it to others. She did what she did best and through it, enriched and blessed many lives.
Countless new brides must surely have learned how to rule the kitchen from her. The only thing you needed, to be proclaimed a master chef, was to follow her recipes exactly. For that you needed a complete set of measuring cups and spoons. Armed with these measuring devices and one of her books, you could conquer the kitchen every time you set foot in it- even if it was once a decade.
A year ago I subscribed to her Youtube channel. I saw a video recently in which she was teaching how to make chappatis. I found it weird until she said, “I know many of you young girls don’t even know how to knead the dough, so we’ll begin from scratch.” And minutes later there were light as air phulkas ready. I watched that video only to see how she unfolds the intricacies of Indian bread making for the uninitiated. Magic, sheer magic.
The first time my daughters saw her video, there was a moment when all three of us looked at each other and in one voice said, “She TOTALLY looks like Nani.” Maybe it was the short hair, maybe it was the short sentences. I don’t know, nor care.
The endorsement from my daughters surprised me. I thought she looked like my Ma only to me. Apparently, there was very obvious likeness between them even though precision, which was Tarla Dalal’s middle name, was an alien concept to my Ma. But that was hardly relevant. She had the same hand gestures, she had very similar diction. She was a teacher- as was my Ma.
She was incredibly graceful and was always impeccably groomed. There was a decided charisma about her that made you warm up to her even in the virtual world.
Tarla Dalal passed away of a heart attack today. She was seventy- seven. Somehow, I feel bereft. It’s like I lost my Ma all over again.
When I was a kid, I noticed something about cricket which seemed very strange to me. When a batsman got out after playing a great innings, everyone clapped and gave a standing ovation- even his own teammates. It surprised me very much. “Shouldn’t they feel upset that he got out instead of clapping happily?” I asked my father. He explained to me that the batsman was being appreciated for having played very well.
I feel awful that you are no more Tarla Dalal. But I will stand in your honor and clap for all I am worth. What an innings you played O graceful lady! My salute to you!
Rest in peace Tarla Dalal. You’ve earned the rest.