From earliest times and until India achieved its independence in 1947, many areas of the subcontinent existed as quasi-independent princely states; there were 565 of them at the time the British colonial presence came to its end. Most were quite small, others, such as Kashmir, Mysore, and Hyderabad were literally kingdoms, as large as many modern countries.
The rajas, maharajas, nizams and other rulers of these territories were noted for their luxurious life styles, sparing no expense on hiring the finest chefs for their palaces, acquiring the costliest ingredients, and setting some of the most elegant tables in the world.
Maharaja Shivaji Rao of the central Indian state of Indore, who adopted the post-Independence name of Richard Holkar, adjusted better than many to the changes of the time. Married at the time to an American woman, Sallie Budd, who was deeply interested in the food and history of these many princely domains, he began early to collect recipes and, with them, the stories of a number of the great palaces and their kitchens.
In 1975, the couple, she now named Shalini (Sally) Devi Holkar, wrote this cookbook, providing recipes, anecdotes, and history for nearly twenty principalities, offering lively accounts of their vanishing cultures. Published by Viking, it attracted favorable attention, but it was definitely a book before its time, and relatively few copies were ever printed or sold. Rediscovered in recent years, it is now considered very desirable and commands rather substantial prices. Holkar himself is now the owner of Ahilya Fort, a luxury resort hotel in Northern India.
This copy is a first printing in Near Fine condition, probably unused, with a Very Good dustjacket, now protected in a mylar sleeve. A substantial volume, it is liberally illustrated in black-and-white, which, with its historical photographs and handsome two-color design, strikes us as having been just the right choice.