Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness and Leslie at Regular Rumination have put together the most amazing exploration of non-fiction for the month of November. This week they are focusing on being an expert and becoming an expert. I am an expert on very few topics, but one topic I excel at is food. More specifically Indian food.
I lived in India for almost two years and I am very picky about my Indian food. I am now living in the UK where curry is that national dish. But I like regional variations that you don’t always find at restaurants and in typical Indian food cookbooks. I’m also fascinated with stories about food and how it changes when it reaches new places. In the past couple of months I’ve found a number of books that combine narrative with recipes.
Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living by Mallika Basu. I loved this book. Basu is a young woman of Indian descent trying to make it on her own in London. She is also trying to cook food like her mom did back in India without messing up her manicure or overwhelming her neighbors with the smell of curry. Her adventures are funny and the recipes are simple because she does not have the time or energy to become a culinary goddess. She also gives great shortcuts to making really good Indian food. Being of Bengali extraction she includes a number of recipes from her home region and favorites from the South. And most importantly, she clears up many of the misconceptions Brits have about ‘curry’. Check out her website Quick Indian Cooking for a sample of her humor and great recipes for all occasions
In the same vein is Ivor Peters The Urban Rajah’s Curry Memoirs. Like Basu, Peters craved the good home cooking he had in India, but couldn’t find it in the many Curry Houses of the UK. I have not had enough time to really sit down with the book yet and try the recipes, but it looks like a great read. It is filled with pictures of Peters’ family from the 1970’s and 80’s that make it humorous if nothing else. The book is a memoir of growing up South Asian in England in that time period. And it is also filled with secret recipes that his family brought with them to the UK and adapted to their new surroundings. Again, check out his website, the Urban Rajah for a sense of what the book is like.
The Settler’s Cookbook by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown tells a more fraught story than the other two. It recounts the story of a family of Indian descent living in Uganda until their expulsion by Idi Amin in the early 1970’s and their relocation to England. It is a story of colonialism and its failings, oppression and immigration. For all that, however, it is not a dry or overly serious memoir. That is because the books is also filled with recipes brought from India to Uganda and adapted and then to England and adapted again.
Thanks for sharing your expertise! I love the food aspect, but I’m also intrigued by the immigrant experience in England.
These look like such interesting titles! I also enjoy reading about food and cooking–I posted a list of my Top 10 books in that area a little while back–there are two novels on there, but the rest is nonfiction. Here is the link if you’d like to take a look–
These sound amazing! The boyfriend loves Indian food, but I’m not a great cook and I haven’t really found any recipes that seem to work for me. I am definitely going to check these books out.
Miss Masala is a good place to start for easy recipes and lots of tips.
Good to know, thanks! I’m going to order that one the next time I am buying books.
I’m totally fascinated with this list! I did my post on foodie books, but I love the idea of food writing and India together!
I just kind of stumbled upon these books at the library one day. Totally random, but I loved them.
I love love love the topic of this post! My friend and I want to go to India next summer, so I’m trying to put as many India-related titles on my TBR pile as possible. Thanks for the recs!
Have a great trip. India is one of my favorite places! There is so much really good stuff written about India, you won’t have a problem reading up on it!
I haven’t read any books that include recipes but I love the idea! I also like memoirs, so I’m going to have to add this to the ever-growing list of good books I’ve found through this event 🙂
Watch out, the recipes make you hungry and I didn’t even mention the photos of food!
Such an interesting list! I have never heard of these, so of course I am going to investigate. All three sound great.
To be honest, I don’t know how widely available they are in the US. But go to their websites, Miss Masala keeps a blog as well and has some great recipes.
One of my favorites in this genre is Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Madhur Jaffrey.
I don’t know how that one slipped my mind! It has been on my to read list forever, but i still haven’t gotten to it. Thanks for mentioning it!
Ooh, intriguing list! I don’t know anything about Indian food but I think I need to start learning.
oh you need to read Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors, by Lizzie Collingham. it is the history of India from the perspective of food, with how different dishes brought by conquerors were integrated in the Indian cuisine. very much researched, excellent: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/04/05/curry-a-tale-of-cooks-and-conquerors/
Thanks so much for the recommendation. It is definitely a book i need to pick up.
I hadn’t heard of any of the books you listed before. Now I want to read all of them. 🙂