Culinary Memoir Celebrates Family Secrets of Traditional Muslim Cuisine

Tabinda Jalil-Burney
magical culinary memoir by Tabinda Jalil-Burney

INDIA: Penguin Random House India has published a new memoir by writer, translator, and doctor Tabinda Jalil-Burney. The book celebrates the traditional Muslim cuisine of her middle-class Aligarh family in the 1960s and 70s, including family recipes for shami kebabs, qormas, gosht, and desserts.

Jalil-Burney’s memoir conjures a vanished world of social customs, academic influences, and Urdu poetry, all centered around the family’s love of food and cooking. The book celebrates the unsung women of the family, including wives, mothers, sisters, and khalas, who passed down their culinary secrets through generations of talented home cooks.

The family’s love of food and cooking was a central part of their entertainment, with bait bazi involving people reciting couplets in a chain. Some family dishes were prepared by extended family members, with recipes becoming associated with a particular aunt or grandaunt. No one used a recipe book or measured quantities when cooking, instead relying on seasonal produce and measurements by Andaaza.

Jalil-Burney’s keen interest in Urdu poetry, nostalgia for her family’s food and culture, and desire to delve into the family’s history inspired her to write this richly textured, densely peopled memoir. The book offers a glimpse into a long-gone India, where family and food were at the center of social life.

Penguin Random House India publishes over 250 new titles every year, with a strong fiction and non-fiction list that includes biography, travel, business, politics, history, religion, philosophy, lifestyle, cookery, health and fitness, sports and leisure, visual books, and children’s books. The children’s titles are published under the Puffin imprint. The publisher’s illustrious list includes Booker Prize-winning novels and winners of virtually every major literary prize, including the Nobel Prize, the Magsaysay Award, the Jnanpith Award, the Sahitya Akademi Award, and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Several of PRHI’s authors are also recipients of the Bharat Ratna and the Padma Vibhushan, India’s highest civilian honors. Penguin Random House India is also the exclusive distribution partner for several leading local and international publishing houses in India and the sub-continent.


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