This delightful book, edited by Mita Kapur, founder and CEO of Siyahi, described as India’s leading literary consultancy sports the cheerful title of “Chillies and Porridge.” It is a must read for food lovers. It is not a collection of recipes, it is not a treatise on the history of food habits in the various parts of India but is a collection of anecdotes contributed by 23 well-known Indians. All of them have one theme in common : food is central to their stories. In them, they capture through their words the sights, sounds and tastes that they relished in the course of their lives, recounting their favourite stories about their favourite foods.
Mita Kapur has skillfully put together an extremely diverse collection of contributors. They range from the renowned author Anita Nair ( who writes so graphically about how much food means to her parents in Mundakotukkurussi in Kerala), to fashion designer Wendell Rodricks ( who makes you taste his Tia Rosa’s Christmas cake in Goa). You also read about how the friendship of Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma, now known famously as “Rocky & Mayur” dates back to their childhood, cemented over the years by their common love for food. All the stories were good but which of them stayed in my mind? I can readily recall “Walks With Lyla” by Niloufer Ichaporia King ,which fills you, especially if you know your Bombay/Mumbai, with a huge dose of nostalgia, and “The Bengali Bonti” by Chitrita Banerji, a lovely description of how a humble kitchen utility played a major role in furthering family bonding, with the women folk cutting across generations wielding it with dexterity as they cooked for large Bengali families.
I shall not write of all the other stories because you should read them for yourselves. All I can say is this collection of stories is a gourmet’s delight. It will warm the hearts of anyone who loves India and by extension, Indian food.
The hallmark of the writing is the wealth of detail in each of the stories. The food and settings are described so vividly with such elaborate attention to the minutiae that you the reader feel as if you are physically present there, enjoying the aroma of the food and almost tasting the delicacies savoured by the writers.
Overall, a wonderful read. Thank you, Ms. Kapur for giving us such a treat and whetting our appetite for some more.