Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book review - "How the Banana goes to Heaven"

Today I shall be writing a book review. It is my first book review ever. I don't think I am qualified to do it. Not because I haven't read all that many books (I haven't) or that I don't have all that many brains (I don't) but because I am too emotional about the subject matter of the said book. Right, you guessed it. It's a book about food.

A little about my own history here. I breezed through some 40 years of my life without thinking much about comestibles, other than when I was hungry. I ate when I felt like eating, as much as I wanted and pretty much anything on the table. And then, when I turned 40, I got hauled off for a lipid profile test, a blood test designed to put the fear of dying into irresponsible middleaged people. An obscene number was observed against the legend "tri-glycerides" in the report and I was immediately carted off to various doctors, cardiologists and other busybodies. They collectively told me - and worse, the missus - that if I didn't knock off the calories, I would probably be the cause of the LIC reporting lower profits because of having paid out my life insurance. They observed that this would not be an entirely bad thing, because in virtually everyone's opinion, the LIC has far too much money and a little de-moneyfying would be great for their character but they (the doctors, cardiologists and other busybodies) would rather it not be a sterling chap like me. And at this point I realize I've been rambling. Sorry. You still with me? Good.

It's funny how one values things only when they've been snatched away from one. Post the tri-glycerides episode, I was basically put on a ration of gruel and water and the only way I could get any kind of nutrition was to sneak off into the kitchen when the missus wasn't looking and cook something. So I learned not only to cook really fast but also to wash and clean the pots and pans equally fast, dry them out and put them back in their places before the missus noticed. And that, dear reader, is the sole qualification in my otherwise unqualified self for writing this review.

And now on to business. The book - I loved the title - "How the Banana goes to Heaven" - is written is a breezy, cheerful style. It is organized into chapters, each chapter dealing with one ingredient of vegetarian cooking.

For instance, there is one on ragi, aka millet, which is a terrific food for anyone interested in living a long life. There is one on ghee which says such good things about it (the missus has sentiments towards ghee which make Arab-Jew relations seem like teen romance in comparison) that I became emotional. I love ghee, you see, and the missus is as likely to give me any as the US would be to give the Taliban a consignment of enriched Uranium.

The author gives a delightful, trivia-filled background for the item in question, and a summary of nutrition information which covers what current scientific opinion about it is, and a recipe or two using the said ingredient.

What I liked about the book was the engaging style and the consistently cheerful tone throughout the book. Makes it highly readable. The author, Ratna Rajaiah, is a popular blogger and columnist for The New Indian Express. She writes very well indeed. After reading I am equipped with dozens, if not hundreds, of little facts about food that will save my life when accosted by random aunties at parties as I so often tend to be.

There aren't many recipes in the book, just one at the end of every chapter, but then, it's not a cookery book, it's a book about food. The recipes look pretty nice though, and are fairly unusual. Which makes it interesting enough for me. I haven't tried many out but the few that I did, I liked. One, a preparation called Roasted Rice Dumplings, turned out really good. These dumplings went very well with beer. Though, as the missus would observe, if she knew about this, what doesn't.

Highly recommended for people who like reading about food. Also, suitable for random reads, since the chapters are little independent compartments. You can basically open it to any page and take a stab at it. The book is well produced. Lovely photographs throughout. The printing is very good and overall I think it is a great buy for anyone even slightly interested in the marvelous subject of food


Nihil said...

Sounds very much like a show on the Food Network (here in the US) called "Good Eats". The host - Alton John if I'm not mistaken - seems to be a veritable encyclopedia on all things edible and much more. Something tells me that you that it's your kind of show.

Sango said...

Superb writing about good food. What more could one ask for? (Rumble rumble)

theobserver said...

Dear Mr.Shenoy,
It is true we miss things once they have been taken away from us.
As a busybody in the making, I advise my patients to live their life to the max, before ugly numbers appear against triglycerides, LDL,HDl,blah blah. But make sure your blog has an author who is in a condition to write.
To your health.

Sid said...

Using Mr.N to demonetize anyone is against the Fed's QE policy. No that won't do considering the fragile geo-economic state this world is in and Mrs. N. is well aware of that. You are in safe hands I must say!

Maddy said...

all this hoopla about TG's, ldl and hdl may eventually turn out to be BS..I think it is better to wean off the kanji, Narendra..or you will become a bag-o-bones.

food channel and food books have to be good..know what I was hearing some great & latest theory from a scientist on the air. seems that craving for sweets is kind of like drug addiction.and it is in the genes.

payoshni said...

despite of being an avid reader, i must confess i have really not being able to make myself buy a book on 'food' and read it through too ! Sad? i know !

But this review may finally push me to do it, as in buy the book & read it too :D

Thank you for the review and here is to your Healthy Health ;) !

relativelytruthful said...

you must be the reviewer all authors wish for. :D

le embrouille blogueur said...

Love food and everything else around it. As I see my waist line gradually do a negative Sheela ki Jawaani it is rather pleasing to know a fellow high triglyce - rider. y doctor went to the extent of theatrically calling me a walking time bomb. And about ghee. Reminds me of one of Big B's dialogues. "Hum inki kya taarif karein. yet to sar se pao tak taarif hi taarif hain". Bravo Naren. Will need to check out the book

Sharatchandra Bhargav said...

First of all right off the bat, thank you for enriching my vocabulary. I knew edible, eatable and combustible but had to look up "comestible" at merriam webster.You are rapidly approaching Wodehousian status in my eyes, with the humor and the occasionally challenging vocabulary. Great job!

Considering that I always seem to stumble upon your blog at lunch time, this review has really whetted my appetite for reading the book. I have some strong viewpoints myself on the subject of Ghee. According to Ayurveda it is said to be invaluable for a. Lubricating the joints and b. For increasing the efficacy of the grey matter in the brain. Of course the key to remember here is "moderation" :)

So all in all, keep writing, and keep eating Ghee. After all as they say in Sanskrit "Runam Krutva Ghrutam Piba" (translated loosely to - drink Ghee even if you have to take incur debt to get it) :)

Giribala said...

Enjoyed reading! You get accosted by aunties... lol! Keep revising the book lest you forget the facts and turn 'khichdi' into 'kha-chidi' :-)

Nirwa Mehta said...

there is no more genuine love than the love for food.. and i strongly believe in it. i love food, and i love to read about food! though, as a food lover, one thing i would suggest you never do is - take photographs, they break your heart that the food in picture is already on its way to arabian sea! :p

this book seems like a fun read, wish i had read the review earlier today before i went to landmark, would've checked it out! :) next time.. :D