Category Archives: Lotus Roli Books

Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine by Sonal Ved

TiffinTitle: Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine
Author: Sonal Ved
Publisher: Roli Books
ISBN: 978-8193704967
Genre: Food Writing, Recipes
Pages: 496
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 stars

Okay, I have to say this right at the onset: This is book that should be owned by everyone who loves food – eating, cooking, or talking about it. Tiffin is the kind of book that may not seem unique at first glance. Sure, you have seen this format several times. Dishes from every part of India, and so on and so forth. Tiffin encompasses all states and union territories. Sonal’s research is spot-on and every recipe isn’t just a recipe, but a footnote of sorts to the world she opens up for the reader/chef/cook.

Tiffin 1

I have always wondered how does one review a book about food. Does one cook the recipes and talk about it? Does one just read and imagine the taste? Does one get it cooked through someone else and then talk about it, after tasting it of course? It could be done anyhow I suppose but taste you must and that’s what I did. I also then came to the conclusion that the styling of food in those pictures in books is way better than what you or I could at our homes. That being said, the taste is what matters. Isn’t it?

Tiffin 2

Tiffin ensures flavour in every bite. Sonal has chosen the recipes carefully – after having interacted with local cooks, chefs, and people who cook at home day in and day out. Of course the most obvious thing which I loved about the book is the depth of research done. The book of course speaks of the most obvious dishes – the butter chicken, the dhansak, dum aloo, etc, but what it also does most beautifully is go beyond all of this to truly discover Indian food across regions.

Tiffin 3

The book is divided into 6 sections – North India, Central India, West India, South India, East India, and Northeast India. Furthermore, it is then divided into these for every section: Appetizers, Poultry and Eggs, Meat and Pork, Fish and Seafood, Vegetarian, Rice and Breads, and Desserts. So the arrangement is very easy to follow and refer. Moreover, if you even go by index at the end of the book, that has its own charm – almost feels like jumping from one region to another.

Tiffin 4

Tiffin is also the kind of book that while it may seem that it caters more to an audience out of the country, that is not the case. I personally think that it in fact lends more to the people living in India and what we can learn from it – right from basic recipes (a wonderful section at the beginning of the book) to the intense heavy-duty cooking. Might I also add that Sonal is an accomplished food writer and food editor at Vogue India (something which I got to know only after I read this book). All in all, Tiffin is the kind of book that you must own – even if you don’t cook, especially if you don’t cook, so it can inspire you to step into the kitchen and cook something entirely different – from any part of the country.

Book Review: Around India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh

Around India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh Title: Around India in 80 Trains
Author: Monisha Rajesh
Publisher: Lotus Roli Books
ISBN: 978-81-7436-913-0
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travelogue, Memoir
Pages: 243
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I had heard of Monisha Rajesh’s book “Around India in 80 Trains” at the Jaipur Literature Festival. This was last month. I was completely taken by it and had to read it. I had heard great things about it from friends, however was not willing to form my opinion before reading it. I have finally gotten around to reading it and the book and the writing left me speechless and sometimes with a strange smile on my face. When books do that to you, you know that you are with a great read. There is no other explanation and I am aware that it happens to most people. Writers who evoke these feelings need to be lauded – plenty of times if need be.

“Around India in 80 Trains” as the title suggests, is just that. Monisha decided one fine day to undertake these journeys. The thought occurred when she saw an ad/article on how some Indian airlines could now reach 80 cities. So she decided to explore the railroads of the country, through 80 trains with her co-passenger, whom she calls Passepartout (based on the characters in Jules Verne’s book, Around the World in Eighty Days). This book is about their journeys throughout the country.

One might wonder: So what is so unique about this book? There is nothing of significance. However, you are incorrect when you think that. Monisha’s ties with the country are unique and the reader only can come to know of this, if he or she wants to read the book (though she is born and brought up in the UK). It is these ties that make her sometimes question what she has come to love about the country and sometimes also change her beliefs to some extent.

The book is part-travelogue and part-memoir, which makes it even a better read, compared to the other travelogues. The descriptions are wry and sometimes hilariously alive. When she speaks of the people she meets, what she sees, what she breathes and what she eats, Monisha makes you a part of the scenery. You aren’t just a reader then. You get involved in the book. To me, that is the highlight of any writing. The writing is clear and not complex and worked for me superbly. She speaks of religion, of habits, of customs, the way people are and how they think of things. She makes you see your country through different eyes, and for once, I was amazed and ashamed of how little I knew and there is so much to see here. That thought is still germinating and eating me away somewhere.

“Around India in 80 Trains” also makes you see trains differently. The different kinds present in the country and how each of them is so different from the other. As residents of the country, we do not see the charm that they possess (no matter how little at times). In fact, I do not even know how many of us would be willing to undertake such a journey. I for one am so tempted to, sure, after reading the book. It almost feels like something that needs to be done, to experience life and the wonders and sometimes mishaps (as it happened with Monisha in the book) that it has to offer. This was my last read for this month and I am so happy that I ended with this one. It was the perfect icing on the reading cake.

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