The book you should curl up and read this weekend

Vogue, December 11, 2015

Mita Kapur’s ‘Chillies and Porridge: Writing Food’ paints a delectable tale with a beautiful collection of essays on food

“For the uninitiated, porridge is a dish of ground, crushed or chopped cereal, boiled in milk or water, usually served hot. Admittedly, not quite the stuff fine-dining dreams are made of. Porridge is as unexotic as, well, porridge. Yet as trends come and go, this humble one-bowl meal trudges on, quietly filling bellies around the world first thing in the morning.”….reads a line from the first chapter titled Porridge, penned by award-winning author Janice Pariat.

The essay stirs a story around the unpretentious dish, connecting it to various aspects of the author’s life; from her grandma’s unassuming style of cooking to the superstitions attached with literary references like Goldilocks and Brothers Grimm’s sweet porridge, going on to tell us how one dish can connect people across continents and time.

Just like the humble porridge, food in general has the power to bring together sustenance, cultures, mores, habits and history in the most intrinsic way. And that is exactly what Mita Kapur’s book aspires to do.

Bachi Karkaria’s Bongs, Bawas and Bigotry, a funny essay about a Parsi growing up in Kolkata, written in true Karkaria style had us rolling our eyes on several occasions. Especially when she compares a situation to ‘khichdi au gratin’. There is Niloufer Ichaporia King’s Walks with Lyla that made us nostalgic about long walks at various South Mumbai’s vegetable markets, always on the hunt for vibrant veggies. We join the author in feeling tremendously grateful about discovering the gem that is Bhuleshwar—a one-stop destination for all your kitchen, home and life needs.

“The idea came about in the most casual way. I was at the Harper Collins’ office and we were discussing another book when we realised that there are so many people with such wonderful food stories, how about I create an anthology,” says Kapur.

We cherished Nilanjana S Roy’s Unseen Food the most. Roy herself has edited A Matter of Taste, another food anthology in 2004. In Chillies and Porridge, her chapter talks about lesser-known recipes such as tsampa, tungtap, jadoh rice and others that the writer wishes will some day make up for a capacious, tasty history.

It is interesting to note that not every chapter is written in an essay format; Karthika Nair’s If Food Be the Food has several short poems. “I like something about every chapter. From the way Rocky and Mayur have handled childhood in The Food Wicket to Sumana, Jayaditya and Bikramjit’s A Table for Three that has three people write a memory,” shares Kapur.

A delectable mix of personal kitchen stories, love for street treats, coming of age with food and being a vegetarian in a carnivorous world among others, Chillies and Porridge makes up for an appetising read. Try this for Sunday brunch, I say.

Join contributors Bachi Karkaria, Chef Floyd Cardoz, Tara Deshpande and editor Mita Kapur as they reminisce on their food memories on Saturday, 12 December, 2015 at The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai, 4.30pm onwards.

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