Friday, December 20, 2013

Biting Through The Skin by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's HeartlandI was so excited to get approval on NetGalley to read this book! I have a love affair with all things Indian (except their music, can't quite wrap my ears around that) and I saw this book and just hoped against hope that the publisher would say yes to my request. They did! yay!

I'm one of those weird white "foodies" who haunt Asian markets and take home all kinds of exotic vegetables and spices and then hover over youtube clips to learn how to use them. I have a huge plastic tub of Indian spices that barely fits in my cupboard and more stacked behind that.

So as you can imagine, I was fascinated to read the author's story of growing up Indian in Kansas, USA; the only Indian family for hundreds of miles. How did she cope? How did she fit in? How did her mother prepare their beloved foods? And at the end of the day, how did she view herself? American or Bengali?

The author has a wonderful way with words and her stories of visits back to India and food celebrations just made my mouth water. Other descriptions equally fascinated me. Let me give you one example of Indian architecture:

"With time, mold and moss would creep over the pale pinks and butter yellows of the plaster walls until, grayish and mottled, the walls blended the space between the soil and the sky, as if a charcoal artist had just smudged their edges".

Love it!

There is also a poignant tale at the beginning of the book where the author tosses a banana outside a train window to a boy who was watching her eat, cupping his hands, hungry. She reminisced how he caught the banana and immediately devoured it, skin and all. She was only about 6 years old at the time but she never forgot it.

As the book progresses she grows up, the final few chapters she is in the Peace Corp with her husband in Tunisia learning more food culture there. All through the book are recipes which I have bookmarked, eager to try.

So if I loved it so much, why 4 stars?

Pictures! I want pictures!!
That's the long and short of it.
I did, however, enjoy the snapshots of her 6 recipe card recipe book she left home with. There is nothing quite so intimate as one's recipe book.


Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me a digital copy of this book for review.

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