This book makes me cook: January

The book this month: Climbing the Mango Tree by Madhur Jaffrey.

The book, which I thought would be a memoir of her life, turned out to a memoir of her food-related memories.  Life from before she was born to till her early twenties is all she speaks about.

The language and the pace takes getting used to as it feels like reading someone’s hastily scribbled diary. It’s patchy and the top notes before every chapter kind of give an indication of how it is going to go.

The memories (and chapters) end abruptly and I was a little fuddled when I turned onto the first page of recipes. I felt I was cheated out of pages or missed out on some of the story.  So I stood on that page .. wondering why she wasn’t comfortable talking more about herself. Maybe it wasn’t a project she wasn’t completely excited about? Because I have other cookbooks by her and her excitment and enthusiasm for food and encouragement for people to cook comes right through.

But her food-related writing? It was extremely evocative in nature. Her numerous childhood memories, especially of picnics and long familyl unches reminded me a lot of Enid Blyton. Similar warmth, similar familial bonds and similar mouth-watering descriptions. Albeit, poori, a fried bread was a description that appeared in almost every chapter. Which was a little strange (but that’s the sub-editor in me talking.

I tried out her palak gosht. I tweaked it slightly by adding some dal to make it more sarbareet, as I would say in Marathi. It wasn’t a curry but was a decidely wet dish. It could use more spice but the meat cooked neatly and well off the bone (her recipe calls for boneless meat but Iwanted the bones as it brings an interesting fullness to the entire dish).

Her recipes have many traditional recipes so it’s a book I will definitely revisit. The kadhi recipe looks promising and perhaps will endear the dish to me.

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8 thoughts on “This book makes me cook: January

  1. I staretd the book pretty sure i wouldnt like it..but i did , surprisingly. I guess i enjoyed reading about her ‘golden spoon’ in the mouth life…..

  2. I too will revisit the book. Its also strange that the description appears after every chapter ! . Love the way you added the lentil.And it requires more spicing than mentioned.See you next time as well.

  3. Janaki, I too thought the book ended rather abruptly till I looked at the cover which says it is a memoir of her childhood. 🙂
    I think her recipes are geared more towards the non-Indian people wanting to cook Indian food, which maybe the reason why the spices are not enough for our pallettes. I think adding dal was a nice touch to the palak gosht. The word sarbareet bougt a smile to my lips. As a Mahashtrian, married to a Konkani guy who speaks Gujrati, I haven’t heard that word in ages. 🙂

  4. Jaya: Yes I figured the childhood bit. Maybe she left the avenue open for another book? And yes, agree about the non-Indian target audience. Explains the constant explanation of a poori.

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