Shoba Narayan’s Monsoon Diary weaves a fascinating food narrative that combines delectable Indian recipes with tales from her life, stories of her delightfully eccentric family, and musings about Indian culture.
Narayan recounts her childhood in South India, her college days in America, her arranged marriage, and visits from her parents and in-laws to her home in New York City. Monsoon Diary is populated with characters like Raju, the milkman who named his cows after his wives; the iron-man who daily set up shop in Narayan’s front yard, picking up red-hot coals with his bare hands; her mercurial grandparents and inventive parents. Narayan illumines Indian customs while commenting on American culture from the vantage point of the sympathetic outsider. Her characters, like Narayan herself, have a thing or two to say about cooking and about life.
In this creative and intimate work, Narayan’s considerable vegetarian cooking talents are matched by stories as varied as Indian spices—at times pungent, mellow, piquant, and sweet. Tantalizing recipes for potato masala, dosa, and coconut chutney, among others, emerge from Narayan’s absorbing tales about food and the solemn and quirky customs that surround it.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: Monsoon Diary|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House Publishing Group|
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|Parent title||Monsoon Diary|
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The first foods that I ate were rice and ghee. I know this because my mother told me so. I was six months old, and as was traditional, my parents conducted a formal choru-unnal ceremony at the famous Guruvayur temple in Kerala.
Choru-unnal literally means "rice-eating," and the ceremony marks the first meal of a child. Typically, this is done in the presence of a priest who recites Sanskrit mantras while the parents, grandparents, and relatives tease morsels of mashed rice into the child's mouth. Few Indians speak Sanskrit anymore, and most don't understand what the mantras mean. Since the mantras are considered sacred, it is presumed that they will nudge the baby into a lifetime of healthful eating. This particular presumption must be wrong, for I know of no Indian child with good eating habits.
Indian mothers are obsessed with feeding their children, and perhaps as a result Indian kids don't eat well. When I attend parties with American families, mealtimes seem so civilized and quiet. The mothers cut up a piece of meat or a pizza into small pieces, and the kids obligingly fork it in.
Compare that with an Indian party. Mothers follow their kids around, hands outstretched with food, entreating them to eat. Fathers balance plates of food in one hand and, with the other, try to grasp crawling babies intent on escaping. Clearly, the sacred mantras have not made one iota of difference in the children's attitude toward food. Still, having a chanting priest at any Hindu rite of passage is de rigueur, and my family, traditional as it was, complied.
My parents had chosen the Krishna temple at Guruvayur for reasons both practica