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Madhur Jaffrey: A Chat with an Icon of Indian and Vegetarian Cookery

July 10th, 2010 · No Comments

Madhur Jaffrey/ photo by Jan Norris

MIAMI – Surrounded by mangoes from her native homeland, Madhur Jaffrey, noted Indian cuisine author and speaker looked cool despite the humid heat in the ballroom of the Fairchild Gardens. She related the proper way to use a mango – “Just eat it.”

The Alphonse mango of India was the star of the 2010 International Mango Festival that runs through Sunday at the Fairchild Tropical Gardens. A number of culinarians were on hand to talk about using the prized mango in dishes; Jaffrey concocted an aromatic spiced mango salsa after telling how, as a girl in India during summer, she would eat the mango: “We would find a cool stream and put the mangoes in the cold water, then take on and squeeze it like this.” She pressed a ripe mango between her fingers and turned to create a wrinkled fruit. “Then with our fingernail, we’d take off the top…” she ran her thumbnail around the top to create a small hole – “and suck out the juices.”

For her recipe, she turned the mango over a bowl and pressed. A stream of juice ran into the bowl.

After the day of demos and lectures, I chatted briefly with Jaffrey about her upcoming cookbook, her career and her passion for traveling.

Jan Norris: Do you have any new cookbooks in the works?

Madhur Jaffrey: Yes, my new one is coming out in October. It’s At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. These are all simple recipes for the home cook. They can be done quickly, and don’t require so many ingredients.

JN: Was it difficult in the beginning, introducing Americans to Indian cooking?

MJ: Oh, yes! For my first cooking class after I wrote the first book, no one signed up to come. My publicist said, well, I will bring a couple of friends. Then James Beard called and said, ‘Have it at my house and I’ll have my friends over.’ So that’s what we did, and thanks to Jim Beard, it was a success.

He helped put me on the map, along with my book editor, Judith Jones.

JN: After all these years and the phenomenon of your cookbooks, are you well known among younger cooks today?

MJ: Very much so – I find it so rewarding when I speak at events, cooks come up to me and tell me that they have eaten foods from my books from their mothers, or grandmothers – so third-generation cookbook readers are following me now.

JN: What do you think about the future of cookbooks, since the publishing industry has changed radically to digital readers?

MJ: I think the young people may get the books on their Kindles or whatever devices, but I still think there is room for print cookbooks. My grandson is publishing a cookbook!

JN: How old is he and what’s the book about?

MJ: He is off to college. He is keeping the book a secret! He doesn’t want to share any of his information but it is beautiful.

JN: What group of people most embrace your books and recipes?

MJ: I think college towns – they are vegan and  vegetarian and more young people explore that cuisine.

JN: Are you traveling to learn about other foods, and if so, where?

MJ: I travel all the time and write for the Financial Times and occasionally the New York Times; I am planning a trip to Colombia. I go on my own because it’s where I want to go but I would like to write for some magazine; there’s still Saveur.

You can still catch Jaffrey at the 2010 International Mango Festival at Fairchild Gardens, through Sunday. She will be speaking and will be on hand to autograph her cookbooks, Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking, Quick and Easy Indian Cooking, Indian Cooking and World Vegetarian.

Other chefs and speakers are on hand; mangoes and trees will be for sale at the event.

Tags: Food People

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