Food memories are a powerful thing.
About My Mother's Kitchen: A novel with recipes by Meera Ekkanath Klein: An enchanting place filled with promise, change and good food. If the weathered walls of this magical room could talk they would tell the story of Meena and her childhood life. Each chapter is a slice in her young life and depicts her spunk and youthful spirit. A visit to the local Fruit and Flower Show becomes an adventure as told by Meena. Her distress at finding out about her aunt's dark secret or her joy of making a new friend are all told in her naive, yet pure voice. Her mother is a central character in her life and it is no wonder that the kitchen is a special place of healing and rejuvenation, not only for Meena but for other characters like Kashi and Ayah.
My two centsI'm sure you have food memories: a specific dish whose mere aroma triggers memories of your childhood; a special food that reminds you of someone or an event in your life. This book is a homage to the food memory and the key source of them for the author, Meera Ekkanath Klein's mother.
In beautifully descriptive prose, you'll hear, smell, and almost taste the foods that are associated with different times of young Meena's rather ordinary life in India - if life in India could ever be considered "ordinary" by someone who hails from a less-exotic locale!
Food plays into many incidents and events in Meena's life. As I was introduced to our young, spunky heroine, I quickly came to the conclusion that her life is peopled with many loving family members and community members. This novel in life vignettes takes us into many private family moments, including sitting in the warm kitchen, finding out that she is about to become a sister and making preparations, learning the backstory of her much-esteemed mother, special Indian festivals and customs and traditions, among many others. It is a peek into a culture that is lesser known to me and for that very reason, I found this fascinating and a lovely vicarious learning experience.
Now, the food part was a huge draw for me. Throughout the book, there are recipes of so many Indian delights - which have been tested by our author and are her mother's recipes! There is some reference to them in the novel-vignettes and oftentimes their preparation (along with their mouthwatering descriptions of the tastes and smells!) are provided in such detail that you can almost taste them!
I kept reminding myself that this book is a novel and hence non-fiction. But the food descriptions, the recipes, and knowing that the author drew so much from her own childhood and memories of her mother and her mother's kitchen in India, make this oh-so-real to me. I had a constant desire to eat Indian food throughout its reading and even writing this review makes me want to eat some curry. Right now.
VerdictBeautifully descriptive, heartwarming, and family-oriented, while bringing the sights, sounds and smells of India, this novel highlights the forging of food memories ... with Indian recipes to try in our own kitchens to boot! Highly recommended.
I received a copy of this book from the author for honest review consideration.