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.