When my grandmother died a few years ago, friends and family gathered at her home in Clinton, Louisiana to reminisce over food and drinks. The number one question on everyone’s’ mind was, "Where the heck is the Lane Cake?" "Referring to Mama Lula's signature cake, made with a luscious butter cake, roasted pecans, bourbon soaked raisins and that ever famous seven minute frosting. Luckily, the recipe survived because my mother grabbed a little pile of papers and keepsakes that stored Mama Lula’s culinary masterpieces. My mom, sister and I often thought about putting those little treasures into a family cookbook to be passed down from mother to daughter, grands and great-grands.
Recently, I had the honor of watching a Master at work. A former student and dear friend invited me over to her home to make Rotis. Sujata is from southern India and she is one of the most gifted vegetarian cooks in all North Carolina. Recently during an impromptu Roti lesson we got to chatting about writing a Family Cookbook and she shared with me that she would love to do that since recently losing her mother; the woman who fostered her culinary skills. She said she often reminds her fourteen year old daughter that she needs to learn to make the traditional homemade foods that are so dear to the family, but like most fourteen year olds she has little interest in cooking and keeping family traditions alive. You know the old adage “mom’ll do it!”
Roti or Phulka is traditional bread in Pakistan and India, normally eaten with curries or cooked vegetables, it can be called a carrier for curries or cooked vegetables. It is made most often from (Indian) wheat flour, cooked on a flat or slightly concave iron griddle called a tawa. It is similar to a tortilla in appearance. Like breads around the world, roti is a staple accompaniment to other foods, maybe spread with ghee (clarified butter).
Since learning to make Roti, a favorite of my daughter, who now at twenty eight, wants to learn to cook and bake everything she can; (no longer home with mom) I have come to appreciate even more not only my own food traditions but those of the people who cross my path. I just started writing my family cookbook and will document the recipes so near and dear to my family, you know (Danish pastry, Paczki, buttermilk bread, gumbo, jambalaya and that all time favorite Lane cake) until I can no only peck across this keyboard. And just think I have a new recipe to add to the mix…Roti. Do you preserve the culinary heirloom recipes that were made famous by the great cooks in your family or have they disappeared like snow in a furnace?
The roti in the photo is traditionally served with dal.