February 28, 2020
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Mmm, Smells Good

Shoba Narayan's refreshing honesty gives this aromatic bouquet garni an aroma that is mouth-watering.

Mmm, Smells Good
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Monsoon Diary: A memoir With Recipes
By Shoba Narayan
Penguin Pages: 240; Rs 295
Aculinary map of the author’s life from her childhood among the leafy groves of Adayar in Chennai, as a student in Mount Holyoke and her life as a married woman in the US, this Rasam for the Soul is all about comfort food. So we have a multi-course vegetarian feast, for kitchen kathas, as we all know in India, are like ghost stories—each family has its own. Shoba Narayan’s refreshing honesty gives this aromatic bouquet garni an aroma that is mouth-watering. Yet, like a canny Tam-Brahm, she does know how to sell and position her book.

Enter the heavy hand of a course in creative writing at a US university and an editor who demands that customs and cooking styles be annotated for an American audience. This occasionally damages the freshness of her stories, turning them into something like a tin of canned memory. But there are some delightful ones—her thrifty family, horrified at the waste of mangoes, spend the Thanksgiving weekend in Florida (when the rest of the country is rolling out satisfied apres-turkey burps) in a frenzy of collecting and pickling the fruit. Her father’s special way of making coffee and her mother’s child-like delight at baking an eggless cake—for these alone, the book deserves to be read.

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