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Madhur Jaffrey highlights subtleties of South Indian cooking

Speaking at a lecture, Jaffrey recalled that when she first moved out of India she didn't know how to cook.

Madhur Jaffrey (Image: File photo)

Popular Indian American television personality and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey featured as the guest speaker at Harvard University's Mittal Institute’s Harish C. Mahindra lecture held on May 3, 2023. The actress turned author, who recently bagged the Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation spoke about the "Subtleties of South Asian Cooking."

During the lecture Jaffrey narrated the story of her upbringing in British India, her career in acting and the journey of becoming an icon of South Asian cooking globally. In conversation with an economics professor Abhijit Banerjee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Jaffrey was asked what should be the national dish of India, to which she responded, “We are too diverse a nation to have any one dish."

Madhur Jaffrey at a lecture (Image: The Mittal Institute) 

The 89-year-old Padma Bhushan awardee, recalled how she did not know cooking when she moved abroad and often found that Indian recipe books only told "half the story, leaving out key subtleties."

She highlighted that the popularity of her cookbooks could be because her recipes include information on how high the heat should be or whether to stir fast or slow and at what points. Professor Banerjee went on to ask if Jaffrey thinks of her audience when she pens her book, to which Jaffrey replied that her only thought while writing is to finish the book.

The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute's press statement noted Jaffrey is celebrated for having first introduced Indian cuisine to the West, with over 15 cookbooks, including classics such as Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible and Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. The release added that professor Banerjee has authored a food book - Cooking to Save Your Life.