Anokha Nathan fries dosa, South Indian staple, with grandmother
April 5, 2023
Homey. It’s a feeling that comes to mind for senior Anokha Nathan as she stands beside her grandmother, measuring out a cup of batter. As she pours the gooey mixture into a hot pan with a sizzle, the bubbly circles fuse into crispiness, releasing an aroma which wafts throughout her kitchen, the smell of comfort.
Anokha’s making dosa, a traditional South Indian crêpe-like staple often dipped in curry, filled with potatoes or eaten as a side dish. To Anokha, making and eating her grandmother’s original dosa recipe is central to her South Indian identity and a sense of togetherness shared among herself and her family.
For me, the smell of Indian food is very comforting and I just know that smell — it smells like my house.
— Anokha Nathan
Since Anokha’s maternal grandparents live with her, food is an essential part of the household, and family meals are often cooked by her grandmother. On weekends, Anokha wakes up to the smell of her grandma frying dosas and cooking other Indian foods from scratch.
“That is what my grandma makes for breakfast a lot on the weekends,” she said. “It’s probably one of my favorite foods in the whole world –— that’s what I’m always looking forward to.”
Dosa is made with fermented rice batter. When heated at high temperatures, the batter fries into a thin but chewy pancake.
“We always have the batter, like, on hand — my grandma makes it in bulk,” Anokha said. “So if anyone like needs it — and sometimes it’s not even breakfast — sometimes I’ll wake up really late one day, and I’ll be like, ‘That’s all I want right now, and Grandma can make it super quick.’”
Anohka’s family uses recipes passed down through generations, and that originality gives their food authenticity and life. Anokha herself learned to make dosa under the careful eye of her grandmother.
“My mom and my grandma cook huge Indian feasts and things you could really only get in India, like stuff they’ve learned from experience, not from lessons or online. It’s all recipes that have been passed down,” she said. “I feel very fortunate to have them in my house every single day.”
For Anokha, making dosa is more than just a generational technique, it’s a personal experience that reminds her of home and allows her to connect with those she cherishes most. No matter what stereotypes are attributed to her Indian heritage, Anokha is proud of the food and culture her family makes.
“For me, the smell of Indian food is very comforting and I just know that smell — it smells like my house,” she said. “It’s interesting because even if you go to Indian restaurants and you smell the same food, it doesn’t smell like my grandma’s, and it doesn’t smell like my home.”