A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller by Frances Mayes

Not having read Mayes, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, I had no expectations from this book, apart from the fact that TGND loved it, which itself was good enough for me. I wanted to read ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ first, but am still on the waiting list, so decided to go with this one first.

Frances Mayes goes around the world, well, not exactly the whole world, Western Europe, to be more accurate. She and her husband Ed, travel to Spain, Portugal, France, South of Italy, took a cruise on the Aegean Sea, touched North Africa, visited England and Scotland, chronicling their journeys with vivid descriptions of the places, the people, and most importantly the cuisines.

Reading it was a wonderful experience. It took me a longer than usual time to finish this book, because I kept going back and re-reading passages. It made me yearn to go to all those places and live like they did. Rent a house, buy at the local supermarket – which incidently, I always wish for when I am on holiday. Somehow, I always feel like that – that grocery shopping in a place, makes you feel at home. Even in India, when on holiday, I wish I had a kitchen all to myself and could shop and cook- and this coming from someone who normally does not like to cook, is a big thing.

They got invited into kitchens of restaurants, got themselves cooking lessons, rented houses on the internet, only to be thoroughly disappointed when they got to see them- at times. And at other times, loved the accommodation to bits. I loved the way she picked up interesting things like vintage baby clothes for her grandson. I was especially chuffed to read about her visiting some of the places that I had been to and loved. Her descriptions of food, were just fabulous! I found myself wishing that I had it in me to try things out of my comfort zone.

While it was a wonderful book in many ways, I did feel that she was a trifle too judgemental about tourists, especially those on the free cruise that she went on, for instance. It was a little off-putting at times. Despite that, I would still re-read it. It is a very interesting and captivating read.

I would certainly recommend it to people who like to travel(and try local food), but it is a rather verbose book, so it might put off some.

Eating India and Monsoon Diary – Book Reviews

I chanced upon 2 books by Indian authors on food in India. What better combination, a book on food, especially for a foodie and avid reader like me.

Eating India : An Odyssey into the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices.

by Chitrita Banerji

The book had me hooked from the very beginning when the author starts to describe a Bengali wedding – something that was so much a part of my childhood, where we had Bengalis as neighbours, friends, family friends, dad’s colleagues.  The book is a fantastic journey into the cuisines of various parts of India, exploring the possible origins of dishes, the foreign influences that made what we eat today, so part of Indian cooking. So many ingredients that we take for granted today, was part of what we got from various parts of the world, like potatoes, onions, and even the Bengali Rossogolla, might have other origins, which the author tried really hard to track down in the book.

The author’s love and appreciation of food, irrespective of cuisine, comes through in her writing. Her descriptions so vivid, that she made some of the food, which I actually, don’t like, sound delicious. For me, it was a wonderful read and also made me want to try out the variety of cuisine that our wonderfully diverse country has.

Monsoon Diary : Reveries and Recipes from South India

by Shoba Narayan

I picked up this book on a whim. The cover looked good and so did the synopsis. I am happy to say that it did not disappoint.  The author takes us down the memory lane with her reminisces filled with food, along with the recipes. Starting from her initiation into eating adult food( Chor-unnal in Malayalam) to the time that she is married. Each memory associated with some sort of food. Be it the food that she shared with her school friends , her cousins or her roommates, while in college. The flavour  captured beautifully in her words. How food was so central in everything that she has done. Even the permission to go abroad for higher studies was based on the fact that she was able to churn out a wonderful traditional meal.  She talks about the time when she tried fusion food (international fusion at that) on her husband, much to his distress, all he wanted was an authentic South Indian meal.  It was a wonderful read, though I am too lazy to try out recipes, reading was soul satisfying enough for me.