Chillies and Porridge book review: Appetising fare

The Financial Express, December 13, 2015

Chillies and Porridge
Edited by Mita Kapur
Pp 273

Chillies and Porridge, at first glance, seems like just another book on food, albeit one with an attractive cover. But once you start flipping though it, you come across familiar names—writers, chefs, TV show hosts, journalists and many more. Chef Floyd Cardoz’s name beckons first, and the piece written by him is engrossing, pressing upon the idea of ‘fresh and local’. The next article by chef Manu Chandra proves to be a heart-warming read, where he reminisces about his grandparents and, of course, food. Personal yes, but immensely readable. By this time, you have warmed up to the book.

If the quest for chillies in distant lands makes you chuckle, especially the daylight robbery of a chilli plucked from a lone, precious plant, Avtar Singh’s heart-tugging walk down memory lane—part memoir and part quest for identity—strangely leaves you with damp eyes.

A walk through Mumbai’s many bazaars makes them come alive, and you can almost smell the heady aromas of flowers, fried food, snacks and spices, as the writer takes you through each turn, corner and lane. The childhood camaraderie that TV hosts Rocky and Mayur recall seems to be reflected in their TV shows even today, as alive and vivacious.

However, one or two pieces get boring because of intensely personal tones, especially coming from writers in whose personal lives nobody is particularly interested in.

But the book ends with another heart-warming piece by Anita Nair, writing about how food is central to our lives and how ‘what’s for breakfast?’ is such a good way of saying ‘I love you’. Finally, a book you sceptically pick up is one you end up recommending to your other foodie friends as a must-read.

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