Parusha Naidoo’s Cookbook Builds Community: New Frame


Parusha Naidoo’s cookbook is a fascinating newcomer to the South African scene. Her food philosophies and curation of her recipes are not mainstream but are aware of the times, the power dynamics inherent in the European (and male) dominated world of cookbooks and gender roles in the kitchen, while offering an answer to these problems. .

Harnessing all her creativity in a single project – having done all the illustrations and designed herself – Naidoo brings us 21 colorful and beautifully illustrated plant-based Afro-Asian recipes in Less effort More reward. The dishes are simple and delicious, and prepared with accessible ingredients.

Its chilli noodles offer high-impact flavor but only take five minutes to prepare and Naidoo’s recipe for muriwo unedovi, a Zimbabwean dish of leafy greens cooked in peanut butter, uses just four ingredients and takes about 10 minutes to prepare. If you have a little more time and are looking for comfort, you can cook something like fried aloo, which feels like “a hug from the inside out and eases the need for real human hugs in a time when being held can to be so rare. , inaccessible, dangerous and even forbidden. The book was created as a respite from the Covid-19 pandemic when money could be short, low energy and time limited.

What is unique about this cookbook is that it emphasizes eating together and how sharing a meal heals, creates and strengthens community. By choosing simple and tasty meals that can be made in generous portions – langsouskosstyle dishes – the emphasis is on sharing meals alongside cooking. “Less time in the kitchen, more time at the table,” writes Naidoo.

For those cooking for a group or their community, Naidoo wants you to have a stress-free experience. Cooks can improvise using what they have and not worry about strict measures. Many recipes don’t have rigid rules or ingredients and provide a good foundation for understanding the basic concept of a dish. His 3+3 curry, for example, is an easy way to remember how to make any curry dish, providing the basics to get started.

Finding Healing Through Food

While she loved being in the kitchen growing up, when Naidoo began to realize the sexist nature of the kitchen’s role in many households, she resisted it. “At the gatherings, the men seemed to be having a carefree time – talking, drinking and watching sports – while the women sweated over hot stoves, chased after the kids and then did all the cleaning.” It wasn’t until she was in her twenties and shared a home with six other young women, where they spent time cooking for each other and enjoying meals together, that she returned. thinking about cooking. “They unknowingly helped me unpack my ideas about being an empowered woman and cooking. It wasn’t something to do to please or serve men, but something to do if you like just eat.

Over the years, food became a passion, especially since becoming vegan and dissatisfied with the vegan options and recipes available at the time. She began experimenting with different recipes and opened a pop-up South African vegan dining experience in Berlin, Germany, where she was living at the time, using the concept of “desegregating the plate”, or trying to include as many cultures as possible on one plate. Naidoo comes from generations of progressives: her grandfather is the famous writer Ronnie Govender and her mother is the feminist and political activist Pregs Govender.

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The recipes Naidoo has chosen show the complexities of her identity as an Afro-Asian person. His family heritage is Indian and Burmese, spanning six generations in South Africa. As someone who has spent time living abroad, her identity as a South African Indian has confused people. She found that it is not well known that there are large historic Indian communities across Africa. She hopes her cookbook will raise awareness of this global diaspora and community.

A recipe, for a healing broth named russum, made with things like turmeric, garlic, onion and tamarind, honors his two grandmothers in different ways. “My grandmother Sanna (whose full name is Sakunthala) said that I should include russum in the cookbook. My other grandmother Kay (or Kamalam) always served this to us, her grandchildren , when winter hit Durban. We drank russum and inhaled sambrani (an incense-like incense) to cleanse our lungs. This is one of the practices that connects me to my ancestors, so this recipe is dedicated to my grandmothers and to all those who preceded me.

Building Afro-Asian Solidarity

Although it includes family recipes that reflect its Indian heritage, Naidoo is keen to not only focus on that, but also include recipes from all over Africa. These recipes reflect the community she has built and grown up with, as well as the cuisines she wants to learn more about and share her knowledge.

At the start of the pandemic, she embarked on a virtual journey through Asia and Africa – shared online – “visiting” a new country each week and learning about different African and Asian cultures and cooking their dishes. As cultures with many dishes that are vegan or likely to be “veganized,” these regions offer flavor and variety for people trying to eat plant-based meals. Through this experience, she learned many new dishes, which expanded her world of food influences in her own kitchen.

“I feel like there’s not a lot of knowledge about other parts of Africa, and even in South Africa there’s not a lot of knowledge about foods that don’t make not part of your cultural group,” she says, resisting historical cultural divides. It has become important for Naidoo to encourage others to expand their world as well.

By choosing to write about Afro-Asian identity, and not just South African Indian heritage, Naidoo hopes to promote solidarity and awareness of the bonds that these two peoples and continents share. People from China, India, Indonesia, the Malay Archipelago and other countries came or were brought to South Africa (and other parts of Africa) during colonialism, many as slaves or as indentured labourers. When racial tensions between Indians and Africans erupted during the unrest in Durban last year, Naidoo was reminded of the need to promote awareness of the historical ties between the two communities and how these divisions were created and historically nurtured, she says, “between workers of the sugar cane plantation era” as part of the “divide and conquer” tactic employed to ensure that people would not unite to resist their oppressors.

Food is one avenue in which these connections can be seen, such as the shared practice of eating with the hands or looking at Indian influence on East African and South African cuisine, as well as how African cuisine has influenced India. For example, how okra (an African vegetable) became common in Indian cuisine, the food traditions that South African Indians adopted, such as eating pap or amasi, or in historical dishes such as honeyed rice.

As Naidoo says, food is a unifying way to come together and find connection. “If you can hit someone’s taste buds, that’s also a joyous way to have the conversation.” Looking outward to each other seems to be at the heart of Naidoo’s project, and when it comes to finding connections between cultures, she wants to continue to promote knowledge and curiosity around food from all countries. of the South, rich in rich food cultures – not only because there are many similarities but also because there is so much to learn, together.

Find Parusha Naidoo on instagram where you can see his project 100 illustrations in 100 days. The reward for least effort is available on her websitewhere R50 from each copy sold is donated to FoodForward SA.

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