Cookbook explores recipes from India's working class

The Indecisive Chicken cookbookYou may not recognize the name Dharavi, but you might be familiar with a movie made about this multi-ethnic and multicultural settlement - Slumdog Millionaire. Over 1 million migrants live in the teeming slum, which is also home to thousands of cottage industries. Most of those industries are run by men, whose wives remain at home to manage the household and feed their families. 

Art historian Prajna Desai visited with many of these women to learn about their daily lives and collect the recipes for the foods they make every day. Desai has compiled the recipes in a new cookbook, The Indecisive Chicken: Stories And Recipes From Eight Dharavi Cooks. The cookbook "showcases cuisine from women of India's working class. A monograph on each contributor transports the reader into her world and gives a peek into the contemporary history of Dharavi, which is really a microcosm of India."

The idea for the project was inspired by a joint initiative between a Mumbai charity that works to improve women's health, and a U.K.-based philanthropic group dedicated to improving global health. The goal "was to both discuss health issues with the residents of the slum - and to acknowledge their somewhat underestimated contribution to the city's economic and cultural life."

One of the contributors is Kavita Kawalkar, who has roots in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. She provided a recipe for ambadi pulao, a rice dish that contains carrots and moringa, a tropical plant containing nutritious leaves and pods that is a staple of the region. This recipe and 34 others, from 8 different contributors, highlight the foods the women of Dharavi regularly cook at home and which are unique to their region of origin.

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