Rosario Kareon

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At 90 years of age, when I reflect on life, some of my best memories include family gatherings around the dining table while enjoying a good meal together. I hope these recipes bring exactly that.

I grew up in Karwar, a small picturesque town on the western coast of India. My very early years were in a very large joint family where my father and his brothers and sisters all lived under the same roof of a big sprawling house. The largest room was the kitchen, always alive and bustling.

Several cooks, busy all day, ensured hot breakfasts, lunches and dinners were always readily available. Our family was so big we couldn’t all eat at the same time and instead we ate in shifts. The meals were elaborate productions and I was always curious, yet as a young child the kitchen was off-limits to me.

When I was a teenager, my father and our immediate family (eight of us) moved into our own house across the street. The kitchen continued to be off-limits as the cooks ran their own little kingdom. Yet, I would be the last to complain since I continued to enjoy delicious food every day. Eventually, I left Karwar to go to Dharwar for college, but even then I still did not cook my own meals as I lived in a hostel and focused on my studies.

My first introduction to cooking actually started at the age of 22 (about 68 years ago), soon after I got married. My mother tried to help me write down all these recipes before I left the house, but I was thrown into the deep end and I had to take the proverbial leap into the fire as I tried to cook for the first time and impress my husband. Ironically, he was fond of meat dishes and my recipe book was filled only with vegetarian dishes and very few fish recipes.

My mother-in-law, Ramabai, a very talented and excellent cook in her own right, came to my rescue and sent one of her relatives to stay with us in our early days in Calcutta to help me learn the ways of the kitchen. Fortunately for me, I was a quick learner and was able to pick up some of the recipes that my husband liked. Most of the recipes were traditional Konkan cooking from the Vengurla/Ratnagiri area, which is very different from the Konkan cooking of Karwar.

In the early 60s we lived in Madras, where two very dear friends – Taru Dhurandhar and Bollu Warriar, got me started in building my recipe book. We lived in Fir Haven, a small enclave where most of our neighbors were British expatriates. One day, my daughter Madhura, complained she did not want Indian snacks after-school, but cake like some of her British neighborhood friends. I had never even tried to bake, but luckily my friend Bollu was an excellent baker and she introduced me to the world of baking. Since that day, I have enjoyed baking and continue to expand my dessert and cake recipes to satisfy the sweet tooth of my family

We enjoyed a very hectic social life, filled with casual get togethers, dinner parties and formal events – always centered around friends, food, and drinks. My dearest friend Taru was a huge help in expanding my culinary skills. She would combine western dishes (casseroles, bakes, etc.) with an Indian twist and then serve them with a wide range of traditional Indian dishes. To my children’s delight, they now could enjoy a mutton roast or corn casserole or Greek moussaka) – all thanks to dear Taru.

After relocating to Bombay, in the 70s and 80s, I took a more active role in the kitchen instead of relying on a cook. It brought me lots of pleasure to not only feed my family, but also all their friends who would visit more often. I may have developed a reputation of overfeeding them, but it all came with a lot of love.

As my knowledge grew, I began collecting recipes whenever I enjoyed a dish. Having lived in Calcutta, Madras, Cochin and Bombay, and having friends and neighbors from different states in India, my recipes are influenced by all the various different cuisines of India.

In the late 80s and 90s, I would travel to the UK frequently to visit my daughter Medha. She would take me to the public library, where I would spend hours reading different Western recipe books and writing down those that looked interesting. Medha would encourage me to try them out, allowing me to expand my recipe book even further.

Now after all these years, it is up to my three children, Medha, Madhura and Milind, to continue their own tradition of cooking. Each of them have found their passion for cooking and feeding their family and friends – both with their own specialties and some of mine. I hope this website helps the generation after them – my grandsons Varun, Meyash, Jay and Ethan and my granddaughter Elena, who will become chefs of their own making. Whenever they cook something from here, I hope it reminds them of their Nani who will always love them so very much!

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