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The F-word

4 Jul

You know what you think is just an obsession is actually a legitimate fetish (if there ever was one!) when your friends and family begin to contribute to it. It used to be elephants and my hAAthi-obsession, not so long ago. I must have been am the easiest person to buy gifts for. It just needed needs to be something mildly-hAAthi-esque and it would have me has me beaming, in raptures. In the recent past though, things have changed mildly. Last year I was loaded with things in various forms of my beloved pachyderm. But this year, the birthday gift list included: a Microplane zester, an apple cutter and pineapple slicer, IKEA trivets, The Bread Bible, The Recipe Project and The F-Word. A definite has occurred. The husband who is sick of the multiple elephants in all shapes, sizes and forms that deck the corners of our home, is pleased. But before you jumo to any conclusions, I have to say that I also received silver hAAthi toe-rings and a kurta with the most adorable hAAthi print. That evens it out no?

The sister has always been big on gifts. Meticulous, thoughtful and precise she has never failed to pick the right gifts for me. Ever since she was like 5 or 6! I on the other hand am an abomination when it comes to gifts. Its like I’m missing the gene altogether. I invariably forget to buy people gifts, when I remember I struggle to think of the right thing, and then I am horrid with timing. The sister? She has a gift ready for every kind of occasion. Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, even! despite the fact that we dont really celebrate it. Heck she even comes stacked with gifts for me, the home or my kitchen whenever she visits me. Its how the walls of my home have turned out beautiful. Her art decks up a few nooks and corners and somehow they seem to get the most praise from visitors and friends alike.

This year, as usual, the sister had a plan. She gifted me The F-Word by Mita Kapur, a book that arrived after a misguided journey after being sent to the wrong “home”. But when it finally arrived, complete with a trademark sister-style, hand-drawn card and a completely honest greeting, it was hard to reign in the waves of nostalgia.

photo

As usual, she picked well. In fact she couldn’t have picked better. Because it brings together two of my biggest current preoccupations. Food and words. The F-Word is a food memoir and bravely steps into territory that I haven’t seen many Indians go into before. Cook books, research about Indian khana and cuisine, studies on ingredients and spices, I’ve seen aplenty. But stories from real kitchens, that are told well, mingled with simple recipes is a formula I’ve only the likes of Julia Child, Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz (to name only just a few) venture into. Apart from Vir Sanghvi and to some extent Madhur Jaffrey, I cant think of anyone else who has brought food stories alive and made them accessible. It could also be that the idea of a food memoir from an Indian kitchen has been brewing in my head for a while now, and this book seemed right up my alley.

The book is a light read, as most things about food should be I think. Simple, straight form the heart and honest. For me those ingredients are what bring the words and recipes to life. I raced through the book fairly quickly, stopping only to wipe a bit of dribble off the side of my face, especially when reading the chapters on meat and dessert. Mita Kapurs fauji (of the armed forces) background and typical North Indian sensibilities really shine through and imbue a special kind of warmth and hospitable vibe into her words. In parts, it felt like I was watching the proceedings of a desi kitchen pan out before me. The quintessential home in the fauji quarters, complete with several rooms, with children crawling around, the evening drink, followed by a meal that brings everyone together not just physically, but gastronomically too. A process that is not complete unless the women of the house worry themselves over the menu should consist of, in order to cover all the varied tastes and culinary needs of the motley crew that is the typical Indian joint family.

The stories flow easily, without too much fussy writing. Some may find the writing too simple. But its the kind of writing I expect in a food-book. Maybe only the foodies amongst us will really enjoy it because you have to be willing to let the food-based stories tickle you, make you smile, chuckle, shed a tear. It did all that and more for me, even to the point of having to shut the book and rush off the make this, because I couldn’t bear to just read about it, without a bowlful of halwa in my hand.

Added Indian touches like references to Grandma’s andaaz, or the innate sense of proportion and precision that most of our grand mothers and mothers are born with, the communal making of laddoos and sweets around festivities, the Indian obsession with keeping ones stomach happy and healthy, really left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling right through the book.

By the end I was convinced that if I ever write a book, a food book more specifically, this is the kind of book I would like it to be. Food has and always will be as much about the stories and memories they carry, rather than clinical recipes and precision and technique. If food, whether eaten or read about, manages to transport you to a time and place away form your own, either in the past, or a reverie about the future, that is more than half the job done.

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22 Responses to “The F-word”

  1. Meera Parameswaran July 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Like I say – Follow your heart while you cook, not any recipe (may just refer it a wee bit!) That card is so beautiful!! :)

  2. Sarvani (baker in disguise) July 4, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    aha! so that’s the story behind haathi… well.. you should have met my dad then… he used to have a collection of them too.. he had elephants made from all kinds of material.. from all over the world, from different cultures.. :))

    And I agree food is never just food.. it tells a million stories!!

    • hAAthi July 4, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

      So glad someone else thinks so. These days i am surrounded online and in life by so much mumbo jumbo surrounding food!

    • hAAthi July 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

      As for the haathi story. There is a post about it somewhere in this mammoth archive :)

  3. R July 4, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    Sisters :). That note and the card, both lovely! Write that food book, I say.

  4. vishalbheeroo July 5, 2013 at 1:30 am #

    I so love ur posts, the way to create the reasons to interest ur readers..such fluid writing and unique style..heard bout the book unfortunately not a very talented person on the kitchen front..i ran away from kitchen, in fact. nice reading bout haathi fixation.
    Cheerz

  5. paatiamma July 5, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    The card is simply lovely….Was it hand made??Great sis you have..

  6. anon July 5, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    That microplane zester is one of my favorite kitchen tools! I don’t have an apple cutter or a pineapple slicer, but I do have a cherry pitter :D I stopped buying specialized equipment coz I don’t have room in my cabinets any more!

    • hAAthi July 7, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

      Im not much of a hoarder of kitchen gadgets thankfully. Almost everything I own was gifted to me. But a cherry pitter is on my must buy list!

  7. arundati July 6, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    awww, what a beautiful thing to have someone who thinks out those perfect gifts man. i am hopeless, dont give gifts only due to the stress of choosing the right ones… that card is gorgeous man! is N’s artwork available for sale? where and how can i check? yeah you should totally write that book.

    • hAAthi July 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      Dude i sont believe you. You showed up in goa like santa claus with a bag full of gifts man!

      • Arundati July 18, 2013 at 7:36 am #

        Ask my bestie or hugsband how many times I gave them something appropriate. For a food blogger it is different. I shopped for all of that at the super market…we are low maintenance man.

        • hAAthi July 18, 2013 at 7:40 am #

          This is true. We are. And by we i mean you and me, not all the food bloggers i know.

  8. Meera July 9, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    Ahh, what a perfect present….It must satisfy so many senses at once :)

    • hAAthi July 9, 2013 at 9:14 am #

      Yes, she always manages to find the most apt gifts for that time in my life!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Halwa (whole wheat and sugar-free) | Hungry and Excited! - July 4, 2013

    […] One such recent read was The F-Word, (a food-memoir by an Indian author!) that was my sisters birthday gift to me. The book is the kind of book I think I might write some day. Simple, home-made stories, […]

  2. Life and foodblog updates all in one | hAAthi - July 12, 2013

    […] life without any dessert? It was one of many profusely rainy days some time ago, when I was reading F-Word curled up in bed, and I chanced upon this recipe for whole wheat […]

  3. Easy egg-free mini lemon tarts | Hungry And Excited Blog - October 9, 2013

    […] not mine. And for the first time she was here in Goa to celebrate with us. I have written before about how she is impeccable with gifts, and how I am anything but thoughtful when it comes to […]

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