Bengali food writer Banerji begins with the promise to investigate whether the foods she thinks are traditional really are of ancient origin, or whether they are more modern developments from the originals. This fascinating premise unfortunately soon falls by the wayside, and the book becomes a more conventional survey of Indian regional cuisine, with notes on its associated history and culture.

Some chapters have an emotional depth and intimacy that makes them rise above the level of a simple food narrative: the one where she visits and dines at the Golden Temple of the Sikhs, and later has dinner with her friend (and famous writer, and Sikh historian) Khushwant Singh; her comparison of the detailed rules and rituals concerning permissible food in Indian Judaism and the Brahmin kitchen of Banerji's childhood; and the early and joyously nostalgic chapters set in her native Bengal, which is famous for sweets, fish, and food in general.

The rest of the book is mostly an entertaining reference book on regional cuisine, nostalgic and charming if you're already familiar with Indian food but I would guess overly dense if you're not. The chapter on the food of India's indigenous tribes should have been omitted: it's the only one in which Banerji never tries the food herself, and it's written in a vaguely condescending manner familiar to me from writings on but not by Native Americans, in which they are a simple people filled with natural wisdom. It also could have used a bibliography,

Recommended if you're Indian, have lived in India or travel there a lot, or are otherwise already familiar with Indian regional cooking but would enjoy an in-depth survey of it.

If none of those apply but you'd like to begin exploring the subject, Madhur Jaffrey has a number of books covering similar ground but is less likely to toss fourteen different names of dishes at you on a single page. I also prefer Jaffrey's prose; plus, she has recipes. My favorite of Jaffrey's is A Taste of India, which I highly recommend to anyone, advanced, intermediate, or beginners.

Click here to purchase Banerji's Eating India from Amazon: Eating India: An Odyssey into the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices

Click here to purchase Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India: A Taste of India
Bengali food writer Banerji begins with the promise to investigate whether the foods she thinks are traditional really are of ancient origin, or whether they are more modern developments from the originals. This fascinating premise unfortunately soon falls by the wayside, and the book becomes a more conventional survey of Indian regional cuisine, with notes on its associated history and culture.

Some chapters have an emotional depth and intimacy that makes them rise above the level of a simple food narrative: the one where she visits and dines at the Golden Temple of the Sikhs, and later has dinner with her friend (and famous writer, and Sikh historian) Khushwant Singh; her comparison of the detailed rules and rituals concerning permissible food in Indian Judaism and the Brahmin kitchen of Banerji's childhood; and the early and joyously nostalgic chapters set in her native Bengal, which is famous for sweets, fish, and food in general.

The rest of the book is mostly an entertaining reference book on regional cuisine, nostalgic and charming if you're already familiar with Indian food but I would guess overly dense if you're not. The chapter on the food of India's indigenous tribes should have been omitted: it's the only one in which Banerji never tries the food herself, and it's written in a vaguely condescending manner familiar to me from writings on but not by Native Americans, in which they are a simple people filled with natural wisdom. It also could have used a bibliography,

Recommended if you're Indian, have lived in India or travel there a lot, or are otherwise already familiar with Indian regional cooking but would enjoy an in-depth survey of it.

If none of those apply but you'd like to begin exploring the subject, Madhur Jaffrey has a number of books covering similar ground but is less likely to toss fourteen different names of dishes at you on a single page. I also prefer Jaffrey's prose; plus, she has recipes. My favorite of Jaffrey's is A Taste of India, which I highly recommend to anyone, advanced, intermediate, or beginners.

Click here to purchase Banerji's Eating India from Amazon: Eating India: An Odyssey into the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices

Click here to purchase Madhur Jaffrey's A Taste of India: A Taste of India
rachelmanija: (Book Fix)
( Jan. 7th, 2009 05:11 pm)
The Borders at the Promenade had a 40% going out of business sale. People were rushing about with armfuls of books in a manner which made one think of predatory or carrion-eating life forms, like vultures and sharks.

I ran into an old friend and forced him to buy one of my very favorite books from last year (now out in paperback), Atul Gawande's Better, ostensibly an account of how excellence in medicine is achieved or not, but also a fascinating psychological and sociological analysis of how individuals and groups achieve success or failure. Unlike most works that supposedly provoke thought, this one actually does. I found it very inspirational, and also an extremely engaging read. Highly recommended.

For myself, I scavenged the manga shelves, sadly largely picked-over by the time I arrived, and got myself some volumes I'd been missing in series I'm already reading or have finished reading: Angel Sanctuary, Sand Chronicles, Afterschool Nightmare, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Hikaru no Go.

I also bought the first two volumes of High School Debut, which I have not yet read.

Remaining book purchases:

Sick Girl, by Amy Silverstein. Memoir of a woman who gets a heart transplant at the age of 24; this does not solve her health problems, but rather leaves her chronically and severely ill. Recced by [livejournal.com profile] branna. I read this last night. A defiantly non-inspirational illness memoir, well-written, informative, and refreshing in its lack of "I am so glad that I have a chronic illness because it taught me so much about life and brought me closer to my family."

Breathe My Name, by R. A. Nelson. A YA novel, apparently about a girl adopted after her mother went insane. I liked Nelson's previous novel Teach Me, which had somewhat cliched subject matter but a great voice.

The Caliph's House: a Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah. Travel nonfiction. A British family moves to Casablanca, into a house reputed to be inhabited by jinns.

Eating India: an odyssey into the food and culture of the land of spices, by Chitrita Banerji. Food/travel/history nonfiction. Looks both informative and fun.

Early India: From the origins to AD 1300, by Romila Thapar. Looks informative and not fun. But hopefully a good resource.

The Last Mughal: the fall of a dynasty, Delhi 1857, by William Dalrymple. I've read a lot about this period but not from this angle (focused on the last Mughal Emperor.) I like Dalrymple's writing style, especially in his other book, City of Djinns, that alternated a memoir of his life in modern Delhi with a history of the city.

Babur Nama. The journal of the Mughal emperor Babur, beginning when he inherited a kingdom at the age of twelve in 1494 and continuing through his rule in India. Random flip-throughs revealed poisoning attempts, a resolve to try wine for the first time, battles, and other fun stuff.
rachelmanija: (Book Fix)
( Jan. 7th, 2009 05:11 pm)
The Borders at the Promenade had a 40% going out of business sale. People were rushing about with armfuls of books in a manner which made one think of predatory or carrion-eating life forms, like vultures and sharks.

I ran into an old friend and forced him to buy one of my very favorite books from last year (now out in paperback), Atul Gawande's Better, ostensibly an account of how excellence in medicine is achieved or not, but also a fascinating psychological and sociological analysis of how individuals and groups achieve success or failure. Unlike most works that supposedly provoke thought, this one actually does. I found it very inspirational, and also an extremely engaging read. Highly recommended.

For myself, I scavenged the manga shelves, sadly largely picked-over by the time I arrived, and got myself some volumes I'd been missing in series I'm already reading or have finished reading: Angel Sanctuary, Sand Chronicles, Afterschool Nightmare, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Hikaru no Go.

I also bought the first two volumes of High School Debut, which I have not yet read.

Remaining book purchases:

Sick Girl, by Amy Silverstein. Memoir of a woman who gets a heart transplant at the age of 24; this does not solve her health problems, but rather leaves her chronically and severely ill. Recced by [livejournal.com profile] branna. I read this last night. A defiantly non-inspirational illness memoir, well-written, informative, and refreshing in its lack of "I am so glad that I have a chronic illness because it taught me so much about life and brought me closer to my family."

Breathe My Name, by R. A. Nelson. A YA novel, apparently about a girl adopted after her mother went insane. I liked Nelson's previous novel Teach Me, which had somewhat cliched subject matter but a great voice.

The Caliph's House: a Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah. Travel nonfiction. A British family moves to Casablanca, into a house reputed to be inhabited by jinns.

Eating India: an odyssey into the food and culture of the land of spices, by Chitrita Banerji. Food/travel/history nonfiction. Looks both informative and fun.

Early India: From the origins to AD 1300, by Romila Thapar. Looks informative and not fun. But hopefully a good resource.

The Last Mughal: the fall of a dynasty, Delhi 1857, by William Dalrymple. I've read a lot about this period but not from this angle (focused on the last Mughal Emperor.) I like Dalrymple's writing style, especially in his other book, City of Djinns, that alternated a memoir of his life in modern Delhi with a history of the city.

Babur Nama. The journal of the Mughal emperor Babur, beginning when he inherited a kingdom at the age of twelve in 1494 and continuing through his rule in India. Random flip-throughs revealed poisoning attempts, a resolve to try wine for the first time, battles, and other fun stuff.
.

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