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South Asian author explores why and how women cook

Archana Pidathala's latest book uncovers deeply personal stories and rare recipes

An assortment of dishes from Archana Pidathala's cookbook "Why Cook," which she describes as "a 315-page ode with raw candid images, heartwarmingly personal stories and rare recipes." (All photos courtesy of Archana Pidathala)

Many of our memories revolve around food. Family meals, meeting friends, midnight hostel parties. The food is incidental; it is the peg on which the memory hangs. The COVID-19 pandemic brought such memory-making to a screeching halt. But it propelled people toward food, prompting Indian cookbook author Archana Pidathala to ponder a more fundamental issue: Why cook?

The result is her book "Why Cook" (without the interrogative punctuation -- an aspect that has driven grammar sticklers bonkers). "There's a reason there is no question mark," Pidathala told me. "It was a conscious choice to drop it because I don't think I was seeking answers. It was more like tender meditations. Sometimes we want to ask questions and they don't necessarily lead to an answer. This was something I wanted to mull over rather than find concrete answers."

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