Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking Indian
Monsoon Diary: A Memoir With Recipes
Published: April 15, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Narayan, who grew up in Chennai, India, writes in humorous, tender prose about her family and their love of food. Rituals surrounding food are central to every aspect of life, such as the choru-unnal ceremony of a child's first
meal of rice and ghee. When her mother is pregnant with her brother and the women gather to feed her and chew betel, Narayan writes, "As they chewed and their lips and tongue became stained red, their jokes became more risque, their gossip more personal,
their bodies more horizontal." Food is intimacy and comfort, and Narayan's book neatly transitions between descriptions of her family's life and the meals that punctuated it. Recipes for staples such as rasam (a bean and rice comfort food) a wonderful
recipe for upma (a semolina vegetable stew)-which she serves to a grumpy group of Americans-complement more festive recipes for snacks and meals such as inji curry (a pickle with ginger and tamarind). When Narayan comes to America for a year at Mount
Holyoke, she misses her native food but, in a hilarious sequence of events involving two dead goldfish, chances upon a taxi driver from Kerala whose wife feeds her olan, made with pumpkin, black-eyed peas and coconut milk. Narayan's sparkling, insightful
narrative makes for a delightful cultural and culinary read.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Shoba Narayan's Monsoon Diary weaves a fascinating food narrative that combines delectable Indian recipes with
tales from her life, stories of her delightfully eccentric family, and musings about Indian culture.
Narayan recounts her childhood in South India, her college days in America, her arranged marriage, and visits from her parents and in-laws to her
home in New York City. Monsoon Diary is populated with characters like Raju, the milkman who named his cows after his wives; the iron-man who daily set up shop in Narayan's front yard, picking up red-hot coals with his bare hands; her mercurial
grandparents and inventive parents. Narayan illumines Indian customs while commenting on American culture from the vantage point of the sympathetic outsider. Her characters, like Narayan herself, have a thing or two to say about cooking and about
In this creative and intimate work, Narayan's considerable vegetarian cooking talents are matched by stories as varied as Indian spices-at times pungent, mellow, piquant, and sweet. Tantalizing recipes for potato masala, dosa, and coconut
chutney, among others, emerge from Narayan's absorbing tales about food and the solemn and quirky customs that surround it.
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