A book on Indian cuisine at a time when the western fast food chains are counting their profits all the way to the bank is flattering to the palate. And what a choice of cuisne! From the hundreds of ways of making fish across the country to the million ways of making the various vegetables. Variety that rules Indian culture, religious and social scene extends to food also. Even the very western foods like pizzas, pastas, burgers and hotdogs adapt to the desi ways and the fast food outlets dish out alu tikki burgers, the ?Navratra? specials and Jain specials!
Chitrita Banerji'sEating India Exploring a Nation'sCuisine does not touch all parts of India. Not possible for a single volume to do that. Instead, what she has done is to highlight some of the most definitely authentic foods of some regions, which serves the purpose ? of giving a peep into the large spread of the Indian cuisine. And she is most eloquent when it comes to Bengali food, understandably.
And if you want a bit of not too heavy history with your curry, then Chitrita Banerji gives that also. Paneer, that north Indians consume in tonnes is not Indian at all. Originally Hindus never deliberately split the milk, as it was considered sacred. The incorporation of potato into our meal is also fascinating.
From Bengal, the book moves to Goa, tracking the Portuguese trail and then Karnataka. The mutation of the south Indian spicy rasam as mulagutawny soup in the Anglo-Indian tables is humorous. Mulagu is chilly in Tamil and tawny is (thanni) meaning water.
Chitrita Banerji then travels to Amritsar and then to the Muslim food. The Muslim imperial food is a collection from Lucknow, Hyderabad and Delhi. Benaras is the next stop. Then on to Gujarat, Mumbai, Kerala, and the Jews there.
If there is one vegetable that gets cooked all over the country in all possible ways, it is the humble beingan, brinjal or the eggplant.
There are less of recipes and more of the name and taste of the dishes in the narration. So if you are looking for a cook book in the strict sense of ?how to cook? this is not it. But if you are a connoisseur of food and would love to venture in search then this could be a guide book. At least of some parts of India, especially Bengal.
(Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017.)