Tag Archives: food

Book Review: Confessions of a Serial Dieter by Kalli Purie

Title: Confessions of a Serial Dieter
Author: Kalli Purie
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN: 978-93-5029-184-9
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 225
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

This book is not meant for all. I read it, however the question remains: Was I its target audience? Yes I am a little overweight, but I certainly don’t think the need to diet (sometimes I do, but those times are rare). So clearly, I read the book and it seemed fine to me. May be actually taught me something as well, which I have to start implementing soon.

Confessions of a Serial Dieter is a weight loss memoir – technically as the book cover states, secrets from 43 diets and workouts that took the author from 100 to 60. The book is a funny take on the author’s (Kalli Purie) journey from when she was four (and did not know about dieting) to when she realized what it mean to be fat or thin and how it impacts how others view us.

The diets in themselves are funnily named – from The Champagne Diet to The Cabbage Soup Diet to The Wedding Diet, each chapter gives the reader something to mentally chew on and what it takes to shatter myths and emotional issues related to weight loss. It is not all superfluous. It also takes into account the fallacies and truths related to the “Dieting Industry” as it has become today.

Kalli Purie knows the craft of writing and how to use it aptly to her audience. Her writing is simple and accessible to all. The personal touch in this book is what makes it so endearing at most times. There are also select recipes in the book with the calorie count and all (like every other book) and some weight wisdom (unlike every other book). The book is detailed with therapies, exercises (some worth it and some not) and all of this has been written with a funny bone. I would recommend this book as a one-time read and also as something you can keep going back to in bits and spurts for the necessary dietary information.

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Book Review: Hot Tea Across India by Rishad Saam Mehta

Title: Hot Tea Across India
Author: Rishad Saam Mehta
Publisher: Tranquebar Press
ISBN: 978-93-81626-10-8
Genre: Travelogue, Non-Fiction
Pages: 191
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

A travelogue according to me is the most difficult to write. How can one capture images, beauty, and memories in a book? How much would it take to conjure every detail on the trips that you have made and the people you have met? I always marvel at the skill of writers who accomplish writing a travelogue to the smallest details. I started reading, “Hot Tea across India” on a cold night in December and it was a great experience.

I have always been wary of travelogues written by Indian writers, not for anything else, but for the fact that I feel the details are missing most of the time. So I started this one with trepidation, however all my fears were laid to rest.

Hot Tea across India is a book about tea all over the lay of the country. It is about the author’s obsession with travelling on his Bullet and otherwise and exploring lands, and while doing so drinking tea as he and his friends go along journeys over periods of time. Tea is something which is available anywhere in India. It is almost the staple or national drink of the sub-continent and it is around this that the author weaves his travelogue. Tea as tasted across his journeys. From Manali to Rajasthan to Delhi to Mumbai. The experiences are varied and brilliantly accounted for in this book.

Rishad Saam Mehta was working with Autocar India and it is through them that he took to writing and photography. The pieces are well-written, though not all talk about tea and that’s what one will expect, given the title. At the same time, the writing is very good, especially when Mehta describes scenery and breathtaking Himalayan ranges as he is riding past them or setting camp. My favourite chapters in the book were about food – what is available on the highway roadside eateries to what can be cooked by strangers who become acquaintances and then friends.

Throughout the book, I wondered how good it would be if the book could be substantiated with pictures. That would be a reader’s delight. All in all Hot Tea across India was a good reading experience to start off the year.

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Book Review: The Restaurant of Love Regained by Ito Ogawa

Title: The Restaurant of Love Regained
Author: Ito Ogawa
Publisher: Alma Books, Penguin
ISBN: 978-1846881497
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 193
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

There is comfort food and there are comfort books. Books that literally warm the cockles of the heart and leave you with a feel good factor. Books that do not depress and sometimes I think we all need that comfort reading. I have always enjoyed reading books that talk about food or have some element of food in them. I remember reading “Like Water for Chocolate” in one sitting and after every chapter; I only wanted to eat what Tita was cooking. When I finished reading, “Eat Pray Love” (which I didn’t enjoy at all), I wanted to take the next flight to Italy and only eat. Forget the Praying and the Loving. Food does wonders and food in books does better wonders.

“The Restaurant of Love Regained” by Ito Ogawa is one such book. On reading the synopsis, one might think that it is the usual run of the mill story of a girl who loses it all and wants to regain it by coming back home. Well in parts it is that, and in parts it takes you completely by surprise. Let me try telling you what it is about without any spoiler.

Rinko returns from work one day and finds everything gone. Her Indian boyfriend has taken everything away and nothing is left behind, including the old Meiji mortar she inherited from her Grandmother and the Le Creuset casserole she bought with her first salary. So she goes back home to her mother and her native village, who she left fifteen years ago. There she decides to open a very special restaurant, the one that serves food for only one couple every day based on their palette and wishes. The name of the restaurant is, “The Snail” and the food that Rinko serves acts as healing potions and cures customers’ heartaches and helps them find love again.

Food as I suggested plays a major role in the book and not to forget Rinko’s culinary skills that add to the charm of the book. Having said that, I also felt at times that the translation could have been better in certain places. For instance, the part when Rinko conjures the idea of The Snail could have been translated keeping the original structuring in mind, which I felt was lost out on.

The highlight of the book for me was the letter written to Rinko by her mother. At times barring the food and restaurant concept, I was quite tempted to compare the book to The Joy Luck Club, but then that is where some of the similarities ended and did not take over the book.

All in all I quite enjoyed The Restaurant of Love Regained. The book may not be a brilliant read for sure, however it is quite a comfort read. Read it on a rainy day and let the book work some of its magic on you as well.

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Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery

Ms. Barbery’s second novel is hardly a novel in form. Much is similar to her prior triumph with which I was so taken, “Elegance of a Hedgehog”. We are in the same fine apartment building, but in a different room. This could go on forever. Right up front, I should say this work of literature is for those who are not bothered by the absence of plot, action or dialogue. No, it is not “experimental” or “avant-garde.” But it is beautiful writing; and the translator is the same excellent one as last time. But we go from the teen to the doddering, both of course obsessed with death. That apartment building must have something in the wall paper. And my previous favorite, the curmudgeonly old concierge put in a brief appearance. She is Barbery’s philosopher avatar.

The streets are real as are several other things Ms. Barbery uses them to geographically anchor her work. You can visit all these. If you know central Paris, you have walked here, probably. It makes sense to me that she locates places carefully as she is from Casablanca of the old days and values place. More about this later.

The protagonist is the greatest food critic in the world, now on his death bed. He sets the stage by spluttering stuff about his greatness. He would otherwise be craven enough to sport for the Guise (ok, I should say ‘guide’) Michelin. The careful writing that comes through in this translation even lets us appreciate that he fancies himself as the Sun King. “Le Etat ce Moi”. Or as an old boxer has said “I am the greatest”.

Turns out that, in his final hours, he is groping for his culinary equivalent of the lost chord. But early on you have the clues something is not quite right with his image as suffered by others or imagined by himself. He characterizes daube and pot au feu as extravagant. Huh? I think we are in for a ride.

The structure of the book is a series of monologues, short, by each character. This is a kind of “Spoon River Anthology”, where all the characters come to say their piece. It could be a radio play. Each circles back to the “Great Man”, every other chapter. Chapters are short, from less than two pages to perhaps five from the protagonist. I have never seen mayonnaise used as a device of foreshadowing.

In his tomato homage, he no sooner reflects on fresh ones honored by oil, than he reverses himself and proclaims the nobility of oil to be false. Something deeper at work here. Words are never wasted; Flaubert would smile. I had to run out to my kitchen and eat three right on the spot!

This book is not for foodies. There is remarkably little actual discussion of food, despite the title. But she does give her thanks in a final note to Pierre Gagnaire, who may be found on 6 Rue de Balzac {Balzac? no coincidence there). The bakery Lenotre can there be found there as well. But Ms. Barbery’s musical reference bears mentioning as well. Laure’s entry, late in the book, begins with a song from 1964 . You can find the North African version by Natasha Atlas (as in the African mountain chain) here on Amazon. This is the one Ms. Barbery is likely to have grown-up with, but you can search for a more euro version y Francoise Hardy. In any case it is a song about life fleeting from the point of view of a droplet of dew.

Even sans plot, there is an ending I shall not spoil. Having said that about gastronomy, it should be remarked that the underlying theme of this story is brilliantly expressed through recollections by different voices, alternating with that of Pierre Arthens as he lay dying. Who the reader will discover in Pierre Arthens is a heartless, self-absorbed, arrogant hedonist who represents selfishness, vulgarity and excess of the “elite”. The irony that as he finds himself dying, his final desire is for one more, elusive taste sensation ~ “the only truth to be told” of his life, is a powerful statement, one to truly reflect upon.

Ms. Barbury has achieved an elegant work of small literature. Her focus is on each voice, uninterrupted. More, please.

Gourmet Rhapsody; Barbery, Muriel; Europa Editions; $15.00