Book Review: The Indian Pantry

Book Review: The Indian Pantry

Uncover everything in the culinary universe from food fads to myth busters through a curation of Vir Sanghvi’s newspaper columns in this book

Anjana Basu
February 14 , 2020
01 Min Read

When Vir Sanghvi began writing, the phrase ‘Rude Food’ was not as widely in existence as it is today. Nor had MasterChef and other cooking shows educated the Indian consumer in the worlds of cuisine. Today, being a foodie is trendy and everyone knows everything about where potatoes and chillies come from.

Sanghvi’s is a cheerful series of columns culled from the Hindustan Times and carefully curated into this book. The columns, quite obviously, deal with his own personal viewpoints regarding food. The Indian Pantry is both informed and opinionated and, given the period in which it was written, displays a great deal of foresight. Sanghvi plays the theme through veggies, dairy products, seafood and his pet-hate chicken. In a world where pork suddenly plays a very poor second fiddle to chicken, the Indian freezer is filled with chicken sausages, chicken ham and chicken salami. Sanghvi’s theory is that this is a conspiracy among chicken manufacturers to sell off the bits that no one wants to eat disguised in tasteless sausages, where the tastelessness is covered up by the addition of spices.

Food fads are something else that he tackles, like the trend towards turmeric, which suddenly hit the headlines with turmeric lattes and cookies. Sanghvi has a section of ‘myth busters’ just to put all this hype in its proper nutritious place; including quinoa and other supergrains, which have suddenly flashed into social media and cookbook spheres.

Those who sell frozen fish will certainly have a bone to pick with him since he affirms that fresh is best. Some Bengalis may also object to his polite condescension of the singara which, in any case, like the samosa is an import from the Middle East via Europe. Sanghvi also politely cocks a snook at those writers whom he feels have to find a Vedic link to all food.

Superlatives are the name of the game and one will have to accept that this collection contains the very best of Sanghvi’s columns, all personal favourites of his. However, the collection is undeniably entertaining, just as his columns were when they first made their appearance.

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