November 06, 2006 12:00 PM

By Madhur Jaffrey



An actress and cookbook author, intimate friend of the late Ismail Merchant and James Ivory and expert in all things sub-continental, Jaffrey, 73, is a compelling character. The product of British schools in Delhi, she was the next-youngest child of a genteel mother and cultured Hindu father who adored their six ambitious offspring. A sharp observer with a pleasing eye for sensual detail, Jaffrey weaves a richly textured story in which she effortlessly mingles quotidian dramas with historic events including the partition of India. Living in her grandfather’s Edenic compound, her extended family anchors itself by holding on to tradition (summering in the Himalayas; celebrating Holi, a raucous day of feasting and practical jokes) and to one another. Since Jaffrey’s is the sort of account that triggers a longing for a life one never lived, the family recipes that capture an indelible time and place are a particularly nice touch.

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