Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Delicious Read

Informative and educative. Two words that describe Chef Saransh Goila’s wonderful book ‘India On My Platter’. Coming from a popular TV show this book generated quite some buzz and rightly so. The journey of 20,000 kilometers that Saransh Goila took discovering India’s food is a commendable exercise. That he brings both recipes and information about both food and the places he visits makes the book an enjoyable read.

The book begins with the author describing in brief the backdrop of this long food journey. After which it is more of a diary where day and place make the chapter heading. Beginning from northern India he has headed to the west then the south and via east, central India, east and north-east India and back to his source, his home in Delhi, on a Diwali night.

India provides for much diversity and as the author has rightly pointed out that a visible change in culture, language, food habits is seen ‘every 100 kilometers’. For me the book works because it provides for interesting details. It is not just a travelogue or a recipe book but the best of both. 

If one wishes to make a journey by road, one can use Saransh Goila’s book as a travel guide. Few information there comes in handy like how the likelihood of getting stuck in traffic on way to Leh is high and thus the ‘Maggi’ shop (wondering what the shop serves after Maggi ban; quite a few Maggi mentions in the book too) at the beginning provides succour. The routes and distances mentioned is minor but very necessary pieces of information. A bit more on pricing/cost would have further helped the readers.

Recipes are provided in couple of ways in the book. On one hand there is detailed recipe, as we are used to seeing and reading them, of what the Chef made in is journey and on the other hand few of them can be found in the descriptive part of the book, like the ‘aate ka halwa’ in a gurudwara. 

The interest of those who are keen on historical aspect of a place is also catered to in the book. However the veracity of a few appeared questionable an example of which is where he describes that a white thread is an uniform for cooks at Krishna Math in Udupi whereas fact is only Brahmins cook the food and the thread is not an attire but a part of them. One miss that I personally did not like was lack of food mention about my home state Odisha despite the author going to Bhubaneswar and mentioning about the dance Odissi.

History of food as described is very educative; like the fundamental difference between a Hyderabadi and Lucknowi biriyani or how elaborate a Kashmiri platter and mannerism is or how spices are kept to a minimum in north-east. For a true foodie, these are information to be cherished. 

Apart then these information the vignettes on shopping comes in handy. There can be observed a hint of spirituality, coming of age feeling in certain parts of the book and that helps connect. On a downside the editing could have been crisper; the narration style is not uniform. ‘Talk to the reader’ approach works for most part if not all. 

Overall, India On My Platter is a wonderful read, for the sheer variety that this lovely country offers and which Saransh Goila has captured beautifully. For the sheer arduous task that he has undertaken, which finds its place in record books now, he needs to be commended. Easy reading, doubling up as travel guide along with a recipe book, handy vignettes, makes the it a delightful and tasteful read.

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