The First Lady Of Indian Cuisine – Madhur Jaffrey
When Madhur Jaffrey, the undisputed First Lady of Global Indian Cuisine, came to India for a global cuisine event not too long ago, she was greeted like a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by the crowd.
Madhur Jaffreywon the award for the best actress just at Berlin Film Festival for her role in “Shakespeare Wallah” in 1965, she was the only Indian to receive the honor and was widely considered the most outstanding expert on Indian cuisine. So many people were mystified as to why she had never received a Padma award. Her many fans and readers rejoiced on Tuesday when it was revealed that President Ram NathKovind had awarded her the Padma Bhushan for her work in the field of cuisine.
Jaffrey has never been one to rest on her laurels, and 2019’s publication of Instantly Indian Cookbook (46 years after ‘An Invitation to Indian Cooking’ established her as the leading writer on her country’s food) is more evidence of this. For Madhur Bahadur, a member of a prominent Delhi Kayastha family (her late grandpa, Rai Bahadur Raj Narain, is memorialized on the street in the City’s Civil Lines), life has been a long and exciting trip. Jaffrey’s beloved memoir, “Climbing the Mango Trees,” is set in that mansion at No. 7, Raj Narain Marg (2005).
After graduating from Miranda House with a degree in English Literature, Madhur Jaffrey joined All India Radio (AIR), where she offered to host a western music program every evening and met her first husband, Saeed Jaffrey. She also acted in plays on AIR published by Ruth PraverJhabvala, her Civil Lines neighbor, long before Ismail Merchant & James Ivory signed her up as one’s screenplay writer.
It is believed that Madhur and Saeed were models for the protagonists in Jhabvala’s debut novel, “To Whom She Will” (1955). However, despite their mutual success, their marriage did not survive, and Madhur Jaffrey returned to her hometown with her current husband, the classical musician Sanford Allen, in 1969.
Jaffrey, desperate as a pupil at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in 1955, perfected her cooking abilities even though she would become famous in the culinary world thanks to Merchant, a passionate cook himself. During a visit to Delhi, she recalled those gloomy times, saying, “I was so depressed that my mom began sending me mails and recipes for basic delicacies like ‘aloojeera.’
When asked about her time in New York, she said, “It was Ismail’s idea to bring ‘New York Times’ celebrity chef Craig Claiborne to feature me as an artist who cooks.” Jaffrey said she cooked the lunch in “a friend’s home,” meaning she went to someone else’s house to do it.