Dwelling on Cuisine Cultures – Shiv Sethi


Title:  History on My Plate
Author: Lily Swarn
Publication: Authors Press
Price: Rs. 395/
Pages 195/

History  On My Plate’ by Lily Swaran is an inimitable book of a distinct genre. It consummately unravels the origins of a vast gamut of dishes and cuisines all across the world. The preface to the book succinctly sheds a flood of light on the background of this venture. Adding flavors and setting the tone right for this delectable work, the writer introduces the culinary escapades of her grandmother, mother, and son.

What pushes a reader away from the conventional cookery books is the fact that they usually do not contain any riveting and engaging story. The reader is often presented with a list of mere ingredients and condiments and the methods to blend them with meticulous care. However, food is not always merely seen as the stuff to quell the hunger pangs. It is the reflection and symbolic representation of a distinctive culture and is so intricately woven with the day to day lives of people and their diversely rich heritage. Demolishing the old fossilized pattern of cookbooks ‘History On My Plate’ carries forty-six chapters with remarkable historical insights into several dishes. The author’s plate is filled with Indian, Continental – Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian dishes.

The first chapter artistically introduces the readers with Naan, a form of Roti which has a pride of place in our subcontinent. What makes it extraordinarily charming is the aesthetic manner in which the author throws light on the origin of wheat , the material utilized in its preparation. A globe-trotting author Swarn’s close connect with the various parts of the world is her forte which bewitchingly lends us a thorough glimpse of her comprehensive knowledge about the multiple cuisines. Naan has been described with the grandeur it deserves.  Its origin is traced back to Iraq. In addition to this, the author informs that bread loaves that were created In Egypt 5000 years ago can still be seen in the British museums. The kinds of Naan like the Kashmiri Naan & the Peshawari Naan have been duly mentioned with great panache. The scintillating description of famous Amritsari Kulcha can even whet the appetite of a person suffering from anorexia nervosa ( a psychological condition where one strictly avoids eating).

The another informative chapter on Rasgulla is a real sumptuous treatise on this very common but highly delicious variety from the family of sweets. The antiquity of its origin is established from the fact that it is still offered as Prasad during Sri Jagannath Yatra, a religious procession that dates back to twelfth century AD.

The ubiquitous Samosa too has foreign origin , or so we are told. Currently, it is a common street food and a far likable snack in our country. Although its stuffing and filling may vary from state to state yet it rules the hearts in every nook and cranny.

The chapter on Halva again radiates spiritual piety and sacredness as it is offered in  Gurdwaras as Prasad. Several temples to follow the identical practice. However ‘kadah’ stands apart. The Turkish origin of Halva adds to the knowledge of the readers.

South Indian dishes like Idli & Dosa, have been given their due space. These are the personal favorites of many health-conscious people too, being light-weight and low-calorie snacks. Kashmiris are famous for the varieties prepared with the meat of a slaughtered goat. So, no astonishment that Gushtaba finds a chapter dedicated to the dish and is discussed in exquisite detail.

The discussion on Patraani Machhi & Machher Paturi will go down well with our Bengali and Parsee friends who specialize in these dishes.Noodles in each Veg & Non-Veg versions find favour with all who need a change from the usual routine dishes. Momos , relatively the late entrants have also carved their niche in every food market.

Dwelling on the health benifits of Saladas, days of prosperity and well-being are metaphorically remarked as salad days. Chaat, with a tangy style, is additionally a favourite street food, loved by many and catering to several palates. There is Pakori Chhat, Papri Chhat, Fruit Chaat all peppered with the indispensable ingredient of Chaat masala. A chapter that leaves everyone salivating.

In a nutshell, the boredom which is usually associated with cookery books dare not touch the readers when the ‘History On My plate’ is in their hands. The style is in perfect synchronization with the subject matter. The choice of the words and phrases is so evocative that it leaves a unique taste on every palate. The book is a commendable attempt to dig deep into the mystery of cultures and the History of edibles with spoons filled with aromatic delicacies. It is indeed an unputdownable work which will appeal not only food connoisseurs but all the segments of readers.

About the contributor: Prof Shiv Sethi is the Head Department of English Language and FullSizeRenderLinguistics at Dev Samaj College For Women, Ferozepur city. He is a freelancer columnist with the Newspapers and magazines like The Tribune, The Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The New Indian Express, The Hitavada, The Free press Journal, The Deccan Herald , The Daily Post, The Himalayan Times ( Nepapal) The Milli Gazette,The Book Review India Magazine, Contemporary Literary Journal and the Ignite Minds Journal. His area of interest is Modern Indian Writting In English and He has more than 200 articles/ book reviews to his credit.

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