Pedatha Spreads the Joy of Cooking – Asian Age

by Pritya Books on January 20, 2006

Pedatha, the protagonist of our vegetarian cookbook on Andhra recipes was featured in The Asian Age in an article titled “Pedatha spreads the joy of cooking” on Jan 17, 2006.

Traditional vegetarian recipes by The Asian Age


Bangalore: When Subhadra Krishna Rau Parigi entered the kitchen as nine year old, little did she know that her culinary expertise would eventfully get acknowledged by political bigwigs like Pandit Nehru and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The former enjoyed her kheer and the latter appreciated her rice preparations. As the eldest daughter of the late President of India, Dr.V.V. Giri, Pedatha, as she is known by family members, had many opportunities to improve her cooking skills. “I have nine sisters and six brothers and every time my father travelled, my mother stayed back for my siblings, while I accompanied him as his hostess, remembered Pedatha.

Her book on vegetarian Andhra food titled ‘Cooking at home with Pedatha’ was released in Bangalore recently. Cooking became her identity and by her admission, her only qualification. It definitely stood her in good stead especially during overseas postings, when Andhra food made her popular with people of different nationalities.

Though she learnt baking, she never treated guests to cookies or cakes. Rice or annam was the mainstay around which the rest of the menu revolved. The meal was rounded off with strong, filtered south Indian coffee.

She describes the day at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan – from 1969 to 1974 – as grand and memorable.  The stint brought her in contact with many youngsters who are now big names in Parliament. ‘’There used to be a private screening theatre, where my father invited everyone from the union minister to the peon for film screening. During these, food was prepared in a separate kitchen that my mother had. Family cooks who stayed with us since 56 years would cook Andhra food.”

Luckily her late husband Krishna Rau Parigi worked in the capacity of labour officer in the union government. Later he was posted as her father’s personal secretary in Ceylon, later Srilanka. Travel opportunities and regular parties enabled her to pursue her culinary desires. “We were in Burma around 1952-53, when the delegates of the American embassy wanted to taste Indian food. They enjoyed the meal, served on a plantain leaf,” she recalled.

While in Pondicherry, her husband served as vice consul and she treated guests to sumptuous traditional food during bridge parties.

And finally, the icing on the cake was the cookbook. The work has given her a chance to share home recipes with the world at large. Certainly at 85, it was never her intention to hog limelight. The wheelchair bound Pedatha led a contented life. But her spirit and memory helped her connect with the people, while sharing recipes with the family. The latter brought her to the forefront. Since the last two years, her nieces from Chennai have been frequenting her home in Bangalore. During the course of several luncheons, Pedatha shared her family recipes, whose xerox copy were distributed at a family function. Putting these recipes in the form of a cookbook came later.

To a lay person, Andhra food brings to mind images of spicy fare like chilli chicken and chicken biryani. However there is a range of vegetarian delicacies waiting to be explored. “Documenting traditional recipes was a challenge as it was necessary to retain the Pedatha essence—an unhurried approach conveyed through step by step methodology,“ explained Jigyasa Giri and Pratibha Jain, her nieces.

Which is why the dishes are not accompanied by an overall time frame. The answer being, “As long as it takes for a good dish to be made.” Several trips to Bangalore taught them the importance of podis(powders) like kerivepaku podi(curry leaf powder), kothimeeri podi(coriander leaf powder) which are eaten with rice and ghee. In the process, two north Indian women grasped the nuances of Andhra cooking.

As they record in the book, “When it comes to sharing recipes, she was more excited about pachchadi, podi and pappu rather than idli, dosai, pesarattu or vadai. She gave us exact measures like cups and tablespoons and never took for granted that he would understand an approximate quantity.”

(As featured in The Asian Age)

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