India's 'pickle queen' preserves everything, including the past

Usha Prabakaran stringing Bengal currants in preparation for pickling at her home in Chennai.
Usha Prabakaran stringing Bengal currants in preparation for pickling at her home in Chennai. PHOTO: NYTIMES

CHENNAI (India) • Usha Prabakaran was at home, talking on the phone with a college friend, when she stopped making sense. Her speech scrambled. Her vision blurred. She dropped the receiver and fell to the floor.

It was 1998, and Prabakaran, a former lawyer living in Chennai, a major city on India's south-eastern coast, had just slogged through a decade of research and recipe testing for her comprehensive, single-subject cookbook, Usha's Pickle Digest. A party was scheduled for the following week.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2020, with the headline 'India's 'pickle queen' preserves everything, including the past'. Print Edition | Subscribe