Geetha Bhascker Dhaassyam demystifies cooking when she says, “It is simple when you think of it. Everything lies in the proportion of salt, sourness (tamarind) and spices (chillies).” The Hyderabad-based art educator and actor recently penned down her memories of food and some of her recipes in the book, My Habits My Recipes (available on Amazon). What began as a diary of anecdotes and recipes for her son, actor and director Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam, took the form of a full-fledged book over the last year.
The many facets of Geetha Bhascker
Geetha Bhascker, 65, debuted as an actor in director Sekhar Kammula’s 2017 film Fidaa as Sai Pallavi’s mother. Since then, she has featured in supporting parts in several Telugu films such as Ee Nagaraniki Emaindi, Sita Ramam and HIT: The Second Case.
She liaises with several schools in Hyderabad to conduct a visual art course designed by INDFLAME (India Fine Arts and Media Education). The art course designed by her is supported by the Department of Language and Culture, Government of Telangana.
“I did not set out to write a book,” she says, talking about the natural progression from documenting her recipes on her iPad, as notes on her phone and in three blank notebooks gifted to her by Tharun. On a weekend afternoon, seated in her living room overlooking a cosy garden, she recalls how her son would call her at odd hours asking for recipes. “He would be at a friend’s recording studio or in his office and would want to cook. He would call and ask for my recipes for mutton biryani or prawn curry. At times there would be queries to salvage a dish that had turned out salty or spicy. So I began writing down recipes as notes on my phone, so that I could easily share them with him.”
The book has a collection of traditional recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with savoury snacks and sweets. “It comes from a time-tested, old-fashioned method. My son keeps falling in and out of diets. I believe that if we stick to the basic concept of three meals a day and slightly alter our portions, we will be doing just fine,” she says, recalling her struggles with weight issues in her younger days. She would reduce the number of idlis she served herself and instead, have a generous helping of sambar with more vegetables.
Since she grew up in Chennai and later moved to Hyderabad, her cooking has a mix of Tamil recipes such as Pidi kozhukattai, puttu, idiyappam and Telugu staples such as Pachi pulusu, pesarattu (pancakes with green gram) and palakura pappu (palak dal).
The book refrains from using stylised photographs of dishes, like those specifically made for Instagram, and goes for a candid approach. Peppered through the book are images of traditional utensils from Geetha Bhascker’s kitchen, select images of family members dining and of her staff sorting out the vegetables and pounding the masala powders. She considers an interest in food and the art of cooking as essential for everyone. “Food keeps us all together.”