The Saskatoon Family’s South Indian Cookbook Donates Proceeds to Vision Loss Charity

A mother-son duo from Saskatchewan has published a South Indian vegetarian cookbook with all proceeds going to a national non-profit that advocates for people with sight loss.

Prema Ranganathan and her son, Prasanna Ranganathan, have composed a book of over 300 vegetarian recipes that share their culture and family stories from a publishing house run by famous poet Rupi Kaur. It’s called Made with Prema.

Prema, 74, taught cooking classes in Regina and Saskatoon and said her love of cooking came from her mother, who cooked constantly as a child.

“I never even boiled water 50 years ago when I got married and moved here I didn’t even know how to cook a pot of rice,” she said. told Leisha Grebinski, host of CBC’s Saskatoon Morning.

Prema Ranganathan, 74, lives in Saskatoon and has taught cooking classes in the city as well as in Regina and Ottawa. (Don Somers/CBC News)

Then she developed a passion for cooking that led her to constantly cook new dishes, with her own personal touch.

Prasanna, 41, said her mother’s meals were always the highlight of the day, often becoming a history lesson about her “family heritage, stories [and] on the elements of South India.”

Culture is something he says he wasn’t exposed to in Saskatchewan in the 1980s as often as he would have liked.

“Mom made sure food was the vehicle through which she shared our own family’s stories and shared South Indian culture in Regina and Saskatoon,” Prasanna said.

Prasanna Ranganathan and her mother, Prema. He said she nurtured his love for cooking. (Submitted by Prasanna Ranganathan)

One of their favorite dishes, which Prasanna says will take North American comfort food chicken noodle soup “in town,” is called rasam.

“It’s the only food I will refuse to make because it doesn’t taste like mom’s,” he said.

Like Prema, Prasanna nurtured her mother’s love of cooking. At first he was forced to learn after returning from law school in Victoria, British Columbia, skinnier than when he left, having lost weight rather than gaining the infamous “student freshman 15”.

Then he couldn’t stop cooking.

9:33Authors of new cookbook say love is the special ingredient

When Prema Ranganathan of Saskatoon was a young girl, her mother gave her a love of cooking. Prema has passed on her passion to her son, Prasanna, who says meals at home have always been a history lesson. The duo talk to host Leisha Grebinski about turning the joys of cooking into a cookbook. 9:33

Make a cookbook

Prema said her friends convinced her to create a cookbook to document all her recipes. At first she modestly declined, but after some more cajoling she started in April 2020.

Her eyesight isn’t very good, she says, which doesn’t affect her ability to cook but makes it difficult to write down recipes.

Her Chamundi friend Eswari Selvaraj helped her transcribe recipes for nine months, with another year spent in the publishing process. In her chat with CBC, she credited her friend and his son with putting in more work than her.

Prema Ranganathan and her friend Chamundi Eswari Selvaraj who contributed to the cookbook by transcribing recipes. (Baljit Singh)

When asked what it was like working with her mother on the book, Prasanna’s voice began to crack.

“I can’t think of a better gift,” he said.

“Nothing brings me more joy than working on this with my mom…and I think for so long she’s impacted so many people and I’m really excited for the rest of the world to to have some of that Prema that we’ve been so blessed to have in our family and in Saskatchewan.”

In response, her mother said, “Without her love and support, I couldn’t have done this.”

Like Prema, Prasanna also has vision problems and was declared legally blind in 2005. Every year the situation gets worse for Prasanna.

Prasanna said that when Prema was working on the manuscript, she told him she wanted the book to do more than “share our culture and stories with the world, but I would like it to have an impact as well.”

He said the Canadian National Institute for the Blind helped him when he began to suffer from vision loss, leading the family to donate all proceeds to CNIB.

“I don’t think I need anything in my life, it’s time to give.”

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