Zahra Azad’s recipe for gulgulay contains precise instructions for cooking, but also for serving the sweet. Made by frying balls of sweetened flour in oil, it is “Perfect for entertaining children and pacifying adults with a sweet tooth,” Azad writes in her cookbook, Indo-Pakistani Cuisine. Gulgulay evokes the cocoon of childhood memories; the warmth that comes with round, deep fried desserts. Azad’s cookbook is aptly titled, since it contains recipes eaten by families in the Indian subcontinent before partition divided identities and families, attributing national weight to household foods.
Indo-Pakistani Cuisine is one of many cookbooks included in the Indian Community Cookbook Project, a digitized archive that contains written recipes and community cookbooks written by many authors. Despite the name, though, not all the recipes come from printed books. “Many of India’s recipes live within oral cultures,” says Ananya Pujary, one of the founders of the project. “We wanted to address those. To document cultures at the risk of disappearing, on the brink of forgetting.”