A cookbook/food memoir, emphasis on the former, about the cuisine and associated folkways and traditions of the Syrian Christians of Kerala.

George’s family lived in Mumbai (then Bombay), but visited Kerala often, and her mother made an effort to cook in the Syrian Christian style. This gives George an unusual insider/outsider perspective. The short essays which bookend the recipe sections are evocative, well-written, and atmospheric, sometimes explaining traditions like the baths and oil massages given to new mothers by means of an account of her own pampering after the birth of her daughter, sometimes telling stories about her childhood and family.

If you like Madhur Jaffrey, you will probably like this, though George comes from a completely different food tradition. If you’re already familiar with non-Christian Kerala cuisine, the Syrian Christian version has a lot of overlap; if you’re only familiar with other Indian traditions, the food and culture depicted will be nearly completely unfamiliar. I’ve been to Kerala once, and was bowled over by the beauty of the landscape and the deliciousness of the food. Reading this book, I longed to return.

The book was published in the USA, and the recipes suggest where to find ingredients there, as well as local substitutions for ingredients that can’t be found. I didn’t try any of the recipes, but some of them look fairly easy and many of them look absolutely delicious. It’s also very enjoyable to read for pure food porn.

The Kerala Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections from the Syrian Christians of South India (Hippocrene Cookbooks)
I discovered while on vacation at my parents’ place that they have some Amar Chitra Katha comics that I’ve either never read, or forgotten about. Hours of fun!

This one retells, in a somewhat scattered and hectic manner, the story of Rana Kumbha, the Rajput ruler of Mewar in the mid 1400s.

It begins with three treacherous officers plotting the assassination of Kubha’s father.

Traitor # 1: “The Rana has insulted us. Some time ago, in the presence of all the chiefs, he pointed to a tree and asked me what it was called.”

Traitor # 2: “He wanted to remind us that our grandfather was a carpenter.”

In the next 18 pages, traitors attack, Kumbha’s step-mother grabs a sword and fights to the death, his father is also killed, he escapes, there is a thrilling horseback chase, another king flings his turban on the ground and vows to wear only a simple head-dress “till this foul deed is avenged” (I could not for the life of me see a difference between the turban (pugri) and head-dress (phenta) as drawn), a lioness attacks, a sneak attack on a fort is nearly foiled when the drummer trips and drops his drum, a traitor is killed in his tent (“Yes! I am here to avenge the murder of Rana Mokal.” “Aargh!”), another traitor disguises himself as a woman to escape and then leaps from a very high cliff while riding a horse, and there’s a huge battle.

As I said… in 18 pages! If you have never read Amar Chitra Katha comics, you are really missing out. They are very easily and inexpensively available from their website.

The rest of the story, despite several more battles is a bit anti-climactic. Especially when after multiple dramatic vows to not rest until the final traitor is brought to justice, his fate is revealed in a footnote saying, “Years later, Mahpa sought and obtained Kumbha’s pardon.” Also, Kumbha has no personality. But the very eventful first half makes it all worthwhile.

Script by Jagjit Uppal. Art by H. S. Chavan & Dilip Kadam
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