MONSOON DIARY: A Memoir with Recipes

Shoba Narayan, Author
Shoba Narayan, Author . Villard $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-375-50756-4
Reviewed on: 12/23/2002
Release date: 04/01/2003
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-307-43148-6
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-553-81635-8
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-8129-7107-1
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-00420-7
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4070-9552-3
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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 risqué, 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. (Apr.)

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