Landour was once called the 'Little America of the Hills'. This small hill station in Uttarakhand, dotted with winding paths, pine trees and colourful birds, became a summer retreat for the British in the 1820s. The place at the altitude of 7,500 feet above the sea is uniquely cosmopolitan and, located in north India, has been home to various communities from around the world, as a result of which their food was an intermingling of European and American cuisines that gave it a distinct anglo-Indian aroma. The Muslim bakers of Landour soon began to gain recognition for their fudge, stick-jaw, marzipan and meringue.
However, the missionary expatriate housewives from United States, England and New Zealand, who made the hill their home in the 1920s, are those who left a century-long impact on the hill station's culinary history. They met at the community centre near Woodstock School and shared recipes that required ingredients readily available on the hills and also swapped housekeeping tips. Based on this, the first edition of a book, which chronicled the history of Landour's confectionery, was published in 1930 and then reprinted in 1938 by the Mussoorie Book Society.
In 2001, two residents of Landour-- Ganesh Saili and Ruskin Bond (yes, that Ruskin Bond) introduced The Landour Cookbook: Over Hundred Years of Hillside Cooking. The book featured recipes from these missionaries, confectionery such as puddings, pies, cookies, doughnuts and also plenty of savoury options. Most of the recipes were made with the altitude of Landour in mind and used specific methods only employed in the olden days. So, recreating Miss Drummond's Rhubarb Marmalade or Mrs. Davidson's homemade tomato sauce may be a difficult task for some at home.
But, a hundred-year old store in Landour proves that these traditional recipes have the power to reconnect people with their past -- every tourist in Landour, even our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, makes it a point to visit the quaint A Prakash and Co. The first shop in India to make the classic peanut butter available on a commercial level -- the taste of their blackberry, gooseberry, apricot and plum jams, their pickle relish and the soft peanut butter takes visitors and locals right back to a time when women cooked delicious sweets over firewood and Landour was the home of a world of cuisines and communities.
In the above podcast, we take you across the hill stations of India and introduce you to the rich tradition of sweet-making that they all preserve.
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