cover image Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity

Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity

Priya Basil. Knopf, $20 (144p) ISBN 978-0-525-65785-9

Novelist Basil (Strangers on the 16:02) draws on memoir, storytelling, religion, politics, and philosophy in this delightful and ruminative culinary cultural study. A British-Indian writer raised in Kenya and now living in Berlin, Basil playfully begins this series of observations with the most primal guest-host relationship: “Mothers... host us as no one else can—in their bodies. A nine-month gestation. Guest-ation?” Her own constant hunger for food as a child illustrates “the consumption epidemic ravaging our capitalist societies.... Our appetites must keep increasing to propel the economy.” She explores food as power and writes of women cooking for “the affections of the family,” in addition to reflecting on colonial India, where British administrators in 1876 ordered “a week-long feast for 68,000 officials” while “an estimated 100,000 Indians starved to death.” Growing up Sikh in a Kenyan-Indian community, Basil struggled to “work out our place in the world,” understood “the edge of the plate is like a border,” and saw how the religious tradition of Langar, a post-worship communal meal, fostered “equality between all human beings and service to the community.” Later, as she explains, those experiences guided her work with refugee advocacy groups in Germany. Basil’s powerful intellectual curiosity is sure to intrigue readers. (Apr.)