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LauraGransnet (GNHQ) Fri 07-Apr-17 11:31:55

Connecting generations: home cooking, food stories and wisdom

Has the wisdom of grandparents been disregarded or, worse, forgotten? Author and blogger Anneeka Ludhra talks about the role that Indian home cooking has played in cementing the close bond between her and her grandmothers - and how important shared experiences really are. Perhaps now more than ever it’s vital that we build on, and make a conscious effort to preserve, intergenerational relationships.

Anneeka Ludhra

Connecting generations

Posted on: Fri 07-Apr-17 11:31:55


Lead photo

"If you could share one piece of advice with your grandchildren, what would it be?"

Something I’ve learnt from my grandmothers is that they are extraordinary ‘ordinary’ women. Growing up, I would marvel at the magical quality of their cooking, especially before tucking into a fresh aloo paratha (flatbread stuffed with spiced potatoes). No frills or luxury - just hearty, wholesome food, cooked with love. Therein lies its beauty. My dadima (maternal grandmother) and nanima (paternal grandmother) cooked for their families as part of their daily routines, alongside working. Preparing food was, and still is, a defining part of their identities, but they are so much more than women in the kitchen.

Their food saw it all – the laughter at family gatherings, the tears of hardship and struggle, the days where nothing was going right and the pot of lentils took the brunt of it. They have achieved what they have in challenging circumstances. Most importantly, they are not the only ones. Cooking good food that connects generations is certainly not unique to my grandmothers – it’s a universal beauty which transcends cultures globally.

If you could share one piece of advice with your grandchildren, what would it be? This was a question that I asked grandmothers around the UK. The themes ranged from advice on love, respect, health, relationships and family, to home cooking and home-building. When learning to cook from my own grandmothers (and other elders in my family), food stories and life wisdom always went hand-in-hand with recipes. So I knew I needed to share that dimension of cooking with the world. As a 25-year-old granddaughter, I believe that I have gained a lot from listening to my grandmothers, and other grandmothers I have spent time with. Of course, the grandfathers deserve their due shout-out. During my research, I saw really supportive husbands behind the scenes, shy to be in the limelight but happy to help their wives.

Cooking good food that connects generations is certainly not unique to my grandmothers – it's a universal beauty which transcends cultures globally.

With the rise of certain ‘clean eating’ and dieting trends, I fear that the good quality home cooking of my grandparents’ generation will be overshadowed and forgotten. I am not shunning any diets (each to their own) but, rightly or wrongly, I was raised to enjoy everything in moderation. It’s been heart-warming to receive the local support of people who also believe that the wisdom of our grandparents needs a spotlight. It’s curious how even after travelling around the UK, it’s the support in Berkshire that means more to me than anything else.

I recently spoke about my writing journey at an International Women’s Day event organised by Thames Valley Police. What struck me was how quickly an intergenerational dialogue arose with the audience - complete strangers. Similarly, during one of my local cookery demos in Reading, I was touched when a young girl offered to assist with my cooking, and loved how her curiosity broke the ice for elder generations in the audience.

We can bounce off one another as different generations, be it wisdom, knowledge or a simple giggle. Now more than ever, thinking about the rise of loneliness (amongst both elders and youngsters) and the huge role grandparents play in childcare, sharing stories over cooking is just one way of nurturing personal relationships and, as a bonus, maybe even making a dent in wider social issues. So the next time you share some advice with your grandchildren, have hope that some of us really do appreciate those wise nuggets of real-life experience.

Raised in Berkshire, Anneeka connects the food of her Punjabi heritage with fond memories of her dadima's cooking and food stories. Her new cookbook, Dadima’s: Celebrating Grandmother’s Wisdom Through Indian Cooking, was born out of an interest to connect generations and preserve the wisdom of our elders, and she has also been blogging her writing journey. Since the release of her book, Anneeka has been promoting around the UK through live cookery demos, interviews on BBC radio, and guest speaking at local schools and events.

By Anneeka Ludhra

Twitter: @_dadimas

Swanny Fri 07-Apr-17 18:59:17

I don't live in the Berkshire area but hope you don't mind me commenting on this article. I am envious of those who were encouraged to learn cooking and baking by 'assisting' their mothers and/or other family members from an early age. Certainly up till I was about 10 my mother would do the week's baking on a Friday night, after I'd gone to bed and I think my dad had gone to the pub. I was always shoo-ed away when she was cooking meals so I didn't get in her way.

After that time my mother went out to work and didn't have much time to bake. Maybe an apple pie was done after the Sunday roast, and the occasional fruit or birthday cake, but I was never encouraged to help or even watch in any way. When I was first married my poor husband never knew what was going to turn up on his plate!

With the help of a Mrs Beeton cookbook, over the years I became quite proficient but my husband never let me forget the particular chicken I'd bought because it had a lot of breast on it - well I'd never eaten duck before so I didn't know what it looked like without it's head and feathers grin

dahlia08 Sat 15-Apr-17 11:12:49

I do lots of cooking. A mixture of curries, roast and roti(chapati). I do encourage my grandsons when I am making the roti. They are 6 and nearly 4. The only thing is I don't live with them. I visit them once a week when I cook the dinner for all of us. X