KARACHI: Pakistan and India have many things in common. From culture and traditions to food, there's a lot that draws us closer. Surprisingly though, the first cookbook which attempts to bridge the gap between the two countries wasn't published till last year.
"It's been more than 60 years since partition, and yet, the culture of Indian and Pakistani khana remains entwined", Kiran Aman, CEO of Markings -- publisher of the award winning book Zaiqay Frontier Kay -- said while speaking to The Express Tribune.
Written by the late Pushpa Kumari Bagai, this book is a collection of her special culinary traditions - 80 vegetarian cuisine recipes, each one reflecting the history and culture of the Hindu Pathan community of Dera Ismail Khan. It is the first of its kind, a Hindi-Urdu cookbook published in Pakistan.
It comes as no surprise that the book won the prestigious Gourmand Award, a competition to celebrate and honour global cookbooks, in China earlier this month. It scooped the award in the Cookbooks and Peace category and was also nominated for three other categories; Best Vegetarian Cookbook, Best Culinary History Cookbook and Best Local Cuisine Cookbook.
A remarkable achievement for the team of Markings to represent Pakistan on a global scale twice and bag awards both times - winning Best Pastry Sweets Cookbook Award for Deliciously Yours by Lal Majid last year.
"We were delighted to represent Pakistan on the global stage once again; this time promoting the message of cultural harmony and peace through food. Last year it was more about art direction and aesthetics but this year it was about the concept," Kiran said about the team's win and the true significance the book holds.
For some it may be just another cookbook but this collection, a cross-border and cross-cultural initiative, is full of nostalgia and history rooted deep in the recipes. "This cookbook is not a mere collection of recipes but rather a tribute to the shared cultural heritage of Pakistan and India," she added. "The family (of Pushpa) wanted to have the book published in the country their mother belonged to."
The Bagai Family receiving the Gourmand Award
"Few marriages of regional identities, both rural and urban, have lasted past such fierce political upheaval as ours. I don't know about peace but sharing a similar cuisine can definitely help bridge gaps. Just like music," Kiran said.
But it was no easy task. Since it's in Hindi as well as Urdu, it took two years to develop as opposed to other culinary art books published at Markings which usually take about three to four months. While it may seem that the book is geared towards a social cause, Kiran says that was never the motive behind publishing the book.
Atul Bagai and Kiran Aman with the Gourmand Award
"The intention to do Zaiqay Frontier Kay was never geared towards a social cause it was a labour of love at both the client's and our end," she said. "We agreed to publish this book in 2012 and launched it in Feb 2014 at that point we were unaware of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.
"We didn't know at the time that similar efforts in publishing had been made between Israel and Palestine and Greece and Turkey that also focused on food culture shared by two countries that had been separated historically by civil or international wars and that they too had been awarded a special jury award for Cookbooks for Peace," said Kiran.
"Cookbooks are considered art books across the world and are judged accordingly for awards. It's a wonderful feeling to have two awards in very different categories," she added.
Markings won the Best Pastry Sweets Cookbook Award in 2014 for Deliciously Yours by Lal Majid
A lucky woman who gets to try all the lovely cuisines, from Lal Majid's scrumptious desserts to late Pushpa's delicious vegetarian cuisine, Kiran is delighted to have achieved so many milestones in the last two years. We wish her the very best for all the years to come.