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Mangoes and Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels through the Great Subcontinentby Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Synopses & Reviews
For this companion volume to the award-winning Hot Sour Salty Sweet, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid travel west from Southeast Asia to that vast landmass the colonial British called the Indian Subcontinent. It includes not just India, but extends north to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal and as far south as Sri Lanka, the island nation so devastated by the recent tsunami. For people who love food and cooking, this vast region is a source of infinite variety and eye-opening flavors.
Home cooks discover the Tibetan-influenced food of Nepal, the Southeast Asian tastes of Sri Lanka, the central Asian grilled meats and clay-oven breads of the northwest frontier, the vegetarian cooking of the Hindus of southern India and of the Jain people of Gujarat. It was just twenty years ago that cooks began to understand the relationships between the multifaceted cuisines of the Mediterranean; now we can begin to do the same with the foods of the Subcontinent.
"With their most recent cookbook, Home Baking, the authors of Seductions of Rice and Hot Sour Salty Sweet strayed slightly from the kind of pungent Asian food that is their strength, but they're back on track with this paean to the subcontinent, which they've been visiting separately and together since the 1970s. The many dals, like soupy Easy Karnataka Chana with chickpeas and salads like Nepali Green Bean-Sesame Salad are simple and terrific. Entrees are often spicy and always authentic, like Goan Pork Vindaloo, made by rubbing a vinegar-spice paste into the meat. A chapter on street foods is full of promising tidbits, including the suggestion that readers make fried foods such as Mushroom Pakoras with Fresh Herb Chutney for guests (so long as they don't mind spending a whole lot of time in the kitchen). Reading Alford and Duguid's chatty text and headnotes is like receiving envy-inducing postcards from a college friend who never gave up backpacking — if you have the sort of friends who would be disposed to build a tandoor oven out of clay and manure or visit Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka based on a tip from a snake-bitten fellow traveler. This is a comprehensive book filled with compelling writing — a worthy addition to the couple's impressive body of work. Color and b&w photos. (On sale Nov. 20)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"What is it about the food of South Asia that grips the imagination of contemporary writers and scholars living in cities thousands of miles away? Is it the lore and exotica that accompany the centuries and distance of those traditions? Or the appeal of dishes stoked over open fires or nurtured in home kitchens by cooks who never saw the inside of a supermarket? Or could it be the... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) hunch that the food we eat in Indian restaurants in London, New York and Montreal might not be the real thing? Two recent books — one an armchair travel book with recipes and photographs, the other a scholarly examination of the origins and cultural contexts of the foods of the Indian subcontinent — bear witness to a fascination with the food. Each takes the approach that culinary traditions of that vast landmass that stretches from Jammu and Kashmir in the north, to Pakistan in the west, Burma in the east and the Indian Ocean in the south are continually evolving. Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, a married couple who live in Toronto, have been on the road since they met in Tibet in 1985 and began a career uniting travel memoirs with the food they recorded, researched and photographed along the way. Their earlier books, 'Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker's Atlas,' 'Seductions of Rice,' the highly praised 'Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet: A Culinary Journey through Southeast Asia' and 'Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World,' have generally focused on a specific food category or region. Their observations are historically informed yet personal, inviting the reader to share their journeys. 'Mangoes & Curry Leaves' has extended their exploratory approach to the street markets and homes of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and foods ranging from chutneys and salads to rice and bread, vegetables and lentils, fish, poultry and meat, and street foods, snacks and sweets. Their photographs evoke those faraway places, as do their recipes, which, although a little specialized for home cooks, are not difficult for the adventurous. Lizzie Collingham's more scholarly approach, specifically addressing curry, is an attempt to record the history of Indian food. As Collingham decodes curry — theoretically the best known food of the subcontinent — as well as its forebears and descendants, she convincingly demonstrates that the foods of a country or region are inextricably linked to the historical, cultural and economic forces that shaped it and the people who ruled it. Her research and personal ruminations take the reader on an intriguing, colorful journey, dispelling any notion that curry as we know it is fixed, immutable or, for that matter, completely Indian. Given the size of the country and variations in history and geography, how could it be? Collingham's earlier book, 'Imperial Bodies: The Physical Experience of the Raj,' surely propelled her interest in the subject. And the Raj did have an impact on the food, even beyond Westerners' experience of it. As she traces the evolution of Indian food, as well as its eventual manifestations in Britain and America, Collingham elaborates significant historical junctures. Among her intriguing observations: — The celebratory platters of seasoned rice and meat or poultry known as biryani didn't exist in India until the 15th century, when the Mughal rulers merged their meat-based traditions with spices and grains of Hindustan. (Another of their legacies: the word Hindu, which originally was a Persian name for people from Hindustan.) — Curry, as a dish (and designation) isn't even Indian. Instead, like the relatively recent marriage of pasta and tomato sauce that took place after explorers brought New World tomatoes back to Italy, curry is a johnny-come-lately concept. Portuguese colonists (who also introduced hot peppers to India) used the terms 'caril' or 'caree' to describe the local dishes that united spicy, buttery broths with rice. 'No Indian would have referred to his or her food as a curry,' she writes. 'Indians referred to their different dishes by specific names.' Instead, it was the British who imprinted the term on collective consciousness by applying it to a generalized rice with a spicy thick sauce or gravy that went well with the boiled or roasted meats that reminded them of home. — Tea is not an indigenous Indian drink at all. Instead, cultivating and marketing it was a series of smart business moves by the British-run Indian Tea Association toward the middle of the 19th century. — The first generation of Indian restaurants in Britain and North America isn't inherently Indian either. These restaurants are almost all owned and run by Bangladeshis. In the mid-19th century, a change in Indian shipping laws resulted in an increased demand for cheap labor, particularly in a corner of Northeast India that is now part of Bangladesh. But dangerous, often unendurable conditions in the engine rooms on the oceangoing steamships led to defections to the lure of work in international ports. Ex-sailors who stayed in England gravitated to London's East End where cafes catering to these seamen became a source of catering jobs and labor that resulted in the spread of Indian restaurants all across the country. In America, life was initially less welcoming for ship-jumpers. But many stayed, and the 1965 immigration act made it possible for their families to join them in a burgeoning restaurant community in New York, that decades later led to restaurants all across the country. In the spirit of a slew of current memoirs and even some novels and mysteries that come with recipes, Collingham has included some of her favorites. In one way or another, they illustrate specific points made in her book, from the chicken tikka masala familiar to habitues of Indian restaurants throughout Britain and America, to a recreation of the green mango sherbet favored by Jehangir, the third Mughal emperor, to kichari, a lentil and rice dish eaten all over the country, to nimbu pani, a kind of Indian limeade that works just as well on this continent as it did and still does on the subcontinent that inspired Collingham's book. Judith Weinraub, a reporter in the food section of The Washington Post, lived in India for two and a half years." Reviewed by Judith Weinraub, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
For people who love food and cooking, the Indian Subcontinent is a source of infinite variety and eye-opening flavors. Home cooks discover the Tibetan-influenced food of Nepal, the Southeast Asian tastes of Sri Lanka, the central Asian grilled meats, and the vegetarian cooking of the Hindus of southern India.
From the Tibetan-influenced foods of Nepal to the Southeast Asian tastes of Sri Lanka to the vegetarian cooking of the Hindus of Southern India and clay-oven breads of the northwest frontier, the award-winning authors of "Hot Sour Salty" present a variety of wonderful recipes filled with the eye-opening flavors of the colorful and mysterious Subcontinent.
About the Author
Jeffrey Alford is a photographer, writer, world traveler, and great cook. His first book, Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker's Atlas, won the 1996 James Beard Award for cookboook of the year and the IACP Julia Child Award for best first book. With Naomi Duguid, he is also the author of HomeBaking, Seductions of Rice, Hot Sour Salty Sweet, Mangoes and Curry Leaves, and Beyond the Great Wall. Alford's articles and photographs frequently appear in Food & Wine, Eating Well, and Gourmet magazines. He currently lives in Thailand when he is not on the road.Naomi Duguid is a photographer, writer, world traveler, and great cook. Her first book, Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker's Atlas, won the 1996 James Beard Award for cookbook of the year and the IACP Julia Child Award for best first book. With Jeffrey Alford, she is the author of five subsequent well-received cookbooks: HomeBaking, Seductions of Rice, Hot Sour Salty Sweet, and Mangoes and Curry Leaves. Duguid's articles and photographs frequently appear in Food & Wine, Eating Well, and Gourmet magazines. Her stock photo agency, Asia Access, is based in Toronto, where she lives with her husband and partner, Jeffrey Alford, and their sons, Dominic and Tashi, when they are not on the road.
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