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Friday, July 8, 2011

GRANDMA'S WISDOM, RECIPES: Digital Natives - Word-of-mouth wisdom!

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KRISH ASHOK / The Hindu / July 8, 2011.

You can find tons of information on the Internet, but what about tacit knowledge?
It’s quite critical that the flame be turned off precisely at the point that orange frothy things appear on the surface. If turned off before that point, the rasamwill taste of uncooked rasam powder. If turned off even a bit after, the rasamwill taste like dishwater. The timing, as it always is with fine cooking, is the taste. The potato, after being cut into small pieces, must be soaked in water and squeezed with the hand to remove the surface starch. This will ensure
that when it’s fried, it will not stick to the pan. These were bits of kitchen wisdom handed down to me by my mother a little before I was to go for a long-term assignment in the US (some 10 years ago). Like every boy before me, I had fancifully grand notions of cooking at home every day. I noted these tips down in a diary and also asked my grandmother what the ingredients were for what I consider to be the greatest form of dosa ever invented, the venerable adai. Her reply: “Lentils, oil, and a lot of patience”.
Today though, I could do a Youtube search for “Srirangam Radhu” and watch several hundred highly detailed videos of vegetarian cooking wisdom recorded by a very web-savvy lady and her camera-wielding husband who keeps asking her questions that most beginners might have. Of course, even 10 years ago, I could have searched for recipes online and simply followed instructions, but I wanted a little bit more. I wanted to capture tacit knowledge, the kind that recipes rarely tend to have. Recipes will tell you what to do, but only grandmothers will tell you what not to do. But even if Srirangam Radhu didn’t quite tell me how long the lentils must not be soaked or exactly how coarsely they should not be ground for that perfect paruppu usili, I could still do a Skype session with experts back at home and get my tacit knowledge of paruppu usili.

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