Thursday, January 02, 2014

Book Review : Monsoon Diary - A Memoir with Recipes

"Monsoon Diary - A Memoir with Recipes " by Shoba Narayan is a lovely reminiscence of growing up in Tamil Nadu a couple of decades ago. Shoba then takes her readers along with her on trips to her grandparents house and later on to the US where she goes to pursue further studies.

Each chapter deals with a phase in her life, from the first food she ever consumed to having relatives visit her house in the Us, once she is married. At the end of each chapter is a recipe which ties into the chapter.

The recipes are all Vegetarian and include : Channa Masala, Fruit Chaat, Ghee, Bajjis, Ginger Tamarind Pickle, Coconut Chutney,, Bhindi Curry, Panagam, Pav Bhaji, Poha, Pongal, Potato Masala, Puris, Rasam, Olan, Idlis, Thandai, Upma, Vatral Kozhambu, Vegetable Stew and Yoghurt Rice.

The recipes are clearly meant for her primary audience - people living in the US - so ingredient availability, substitutes and even ingredient names are Americanised. But don't let that put you off. It actually just helps people unfamiliar with Indian ingredients to locate them easily and cook with confidence.

I did empathise with most of Shoba's experiences, being female from a small town and heading off to the US on my own, but the one thing I couldn't reconcile with, is that if she was so good at cooking, what stopped her from cooking familiar meals once she reached Hollyoke. I used to cook spicy Indian food practically everyday, inspite of working full time and overtime on most days. she claims she didn't realise that she missed familiar food, but somehow I just can't echo that sentiment. This was the only part of the tale that didn't sit right for me.

My favourite story in the Monsoon Diary is of the Malayalee Cab Driver in New York. It was such a touching gesture and reminded me of the genorosity that humans are capable of, if they allow themselves.

I started reading the Monsoon Diary a month ago, because I knew that I wouldn't have time to read at a stretch. It was perfect for the purpose. You can break after every chapter without worrying about wanting to drop everything else and get back to reading.

The book is poignant, a lovely reminiscence and a pleasure to peruse.

I hope to try the idli recipe sometime soon.

Rating : 3.5 / 5

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