True Experimenter at Heart ~ Granny Sundari Ganesan

by on February 5, 2018

“I enjoy learning and experimenting,” she says. It is a simple mantra that reflects her zest for life and keeps her young at heart. For Sundari Ganesan, a TamBram living in Mumbai, variety is truly the spice of life. With a deep appreciation for India’s various regional cuisines, she enjoys learning new techniques and recipes.
 
Her recipes are published in magazines, she makes appearances on TV shows, and thoroughly enjoys teaching eager foodies, the proof of which is evident in her two grandchildren. Young Kavya Shyam, just 12 years old, already enjoys baking, and college-going grandson Kartik experiments with making pizzas and pastas from scratch. As I chatted with Sundariji, I could see how certain people had the power to channel their energy into energizing others as well.

 
Sundari Ganesan

Here are a few snippets of my conversation with her.
 
LIFE AT A GLANCE:
I was born in Mumbai and spent my early years in this city. When I turned 10, we shifted to our hometown Thirunelveli, in Tamil Nadu. There, I lived in a large, joint family of almost 30 members. It was an orthodox upbringing, where children were not allowed into the kitchen. But I remember watching the large scale cooking that took place during festivals and celebrations. I think the seed of interest for cooking and hospitality lay there. After marriage, I moved to Ahmedabad. I enjoyed my time in that city and learned many Gujarati dishes. Now, for the past 15 years, we are settled in Mumbai.
 
A LOVE FOR WRITING:
I always enjoyed writing in Tamil. Soon after my marriage, I started submitting recipes to magazines such as Mangai Malar, Rani, Snegithi, Saheli (Tamil), and many more. So far, I have more than 200 recipes published in magazines. I particularly enjoy writing recipes that are simple and easy to read and follow. Apart from writing recipes, I also write short stories. I enjoy weaving stories from what I see around us, in the people around us, and in our families.
 
INFLUENTIAL COOKING SHOWS:
As a family, we have always enjoyed watching cooking shows on television together, such as Masterchef or Khana Khazana. I have also made appearances in some television shows, including AMN TV, Khana Khazana and Captain TV. I enjoy interacting with youngsters and enthusiastic foodies. There is always so much to learn and to teach; I find that I discover new things from them every now and again.
 
AN ENCOURAGING SPOUSE:
When I was 21, I married P. S. Ganesan who is now a Retried Central Government Audit Officer. My husband is my main source of inspiration. He has always had an encouraging nature, and says that participation is more important than winning or losing. He is enthusiastic about what I cook and always has a word of appreciation. What more can I ask for?
 
A FAMILY OF FOODIES:
All of us share a common love for good food. We have two children, Shyam and Subha, who are married. Both Subha and my daughter-in-law Priya, enjoy cooking and preparing new dishes. My granddaughter Kavya, bakes delicious cakes and prepares some Gujarat delicacies, even though she is only in the 7th standard. My grandson, Kartik, is currently doing his B. Tech and has an avid interest in cooking. He likes watching how we cook and often pitches in to help in the kitchen. I think that as a family, all of us are enthusiastic to trial new concoctions.
Kartik (grandson): I grew up watching Masterchef on TV with the family. I think that is how I became interested in cooking. I may not cook often, but when I do, I enjoy it thoroughly. I like making pastas and pizzas from scratch. I get good Indian food at home, so I prefer trying out other cuisines. I am sure cooking will always be a part of my life, whether there is a need to cook or not.
 
FAVOURITE FOODS:
As a family, I don’t think we have any favourite recipes; each of us just loves the rich assortment of flavours. When our extended family visit us from the South, they enjoy trying our North Indian dishes. I enjoy making Chana Bhatura, Parathas and paneer varieties. When my husband’s colleagues come home, they enjoy a South Indian meal served on banana leaf. To watch people relish your food is the biggest compliment. My son says everything I cook is tasty, and my heart swells with pride whenever I see my grandchildren in the kitchen.
 
A QUICK AND DELICIOUS RECIPE:
When unexpected guests arrive, it takes no time to make upma or dosas. Give me half an hour and I can whip up many more dishes. One dish I make often, particularly when we have guests, is a spread with sweet corn. To make this, grate the corn off the cob. Heat some oil in a pan, and add some mustard, jeera, curry leaves, chopped green chillies and ginger. Add the grated corn and a cup of milk and allow it to cook. Add salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder and a dash of sugar. Cook until the mixture thickens. Serve with rotis or as a spread to top toasted bread.
 
JAMS AND JUICES:
I enjoy buying seasonal vegetables and fruits to make jam preserves and juice concentrates. Allowing the preserves to cook on a slow simmer fills me with immense joy. One absolute favourite recipe I make is a squash using 1 kg ripe guavas. Clean the guavas, place them whole in a vessel (without adding any water), and cook in a pressure cooker for up to three whistles. Cool and grind the guavas without adding any water, and strain to remove seeds. Mix the guava pulp with 1 kg sugar, add 2 teaspoons of citric acid and cook until it reduces down to ¼ the original quantity. Allow to cool, add ¼ teaspoon of sodium benzoate and mix well. Preserve in a clean bottle and store in a cool place. This concentrate is now usable for up to one year.
To serve, add water and ice to concentrate and enjoy this refreshing drink chilled!
 
OTHER INTERESTS:
I don’t know how the day passes because I have so many interests. I enjoy reading books, chatting with friends and family on the computer, and discovering new dishes on the internet. Whenever we go on holiday, as well, I really enjoy visiting historical places and temples. At home, we have a fantastic collection of old coins, old paintings and statues on display. We also have a collection of old palm leaves (olai chuadi) with astrological inscriptions on them, which our elders could read. When we travel down South, we make sure to stop and pick up some antique vessels. It is a sheer pleasure to decorate the house with all of these artefacts.

 

Part-2 of this post is the recipe of Instant Masala Vadai, a family favourite from Sundari Ganesan kitchen.
First published in ‘Heart to Hearth’ – a column in Harmony Celebrate Age magazine. A series about elders who believe in nurturing the body and mind as the key to joy.

 

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