I "met" this cookbook in a recent issue of Saveur, a magazine which fluctuates from absolutely swell to, well, not so swell. Anyway, there was a recipe in that recent issue drawn from My Bombay Kitchen by Niloufer Ichaporia King and I made it the very night the Saveur arrived. It was a version of sauteed greens -- which turned out to be quite hot and lively. Tasty. Now I have recipes for other such greens -- one drawn from Madhur Jaffrey, another from a cookbook called Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet. And notions about other cultures' versions of sauteed greens. Yet, these greens drove me to buy the book when I saw it shortly thereafter in a bookstore. That, an uncontrollable impulse, and the fact that the cover uses colors similar to those from my blog. (Yes, this blog. Yes, the colors are sort of like spices. Or so I thought when I chose them.) Once I brought My Bombay Kitchen home, I discovered that this was the best sort of cookbook -- one that I would immediately cook from. One that I wanted to read. One that I learned from. Several recipes are about to become house favorites -- most crucially a version of devlied eggs and a watercress salad with cucumber, avocado and mango in a ginger vinagrette. Called "Italian Eggs," the deviled eggs are most definitely NOT italian in any sense I have ever experienced. And I live in Geneva, where Italian American is, I suspect, unrelated to Italian. In any case, these eggs are evidence for the author's argument that Parsi cooking is a sort of cooking which absorbs and transforms cultural encounters -- what she calls, I think, mosaic cuisine. King is an independent scholar and anthropologist who comes to food with an eye to culture -- and the impending disappearance of one she loves, her own. And that culture is Parsi, one associated with the history of Zoroastrianism. This is a religion of circa 140,000 to 150,000 members globally which long predates Christianity (and indeed likely influenced much of Christianity) -- and which is associated with the prophet Zoroaster (aka Zarathustra). Originating in Persia (later to be known to us all as Iran), these folks migrated to an island off of India a long long time ago and eventually to the mainland of India where they came to be known as Parsis. Their history in India has been both splendid and complicated -- including their connection with British imperialism. (Who knew, for example, that Homi K. Bhabha, the cultural theorist was Parsi? or Rohinton Mistry? I, for one, missed the fact that the film Earth which focuses on the partition of India is about neither Hindu nor Muslim, but Parsi. Great movie, by the way.)
So: a cookbook with "Italian Eggs" which involve chilis and coriander, Irish Stew which involves ginger, and salads which originate, well, perhaps in Southern California, where King lives and where she inspired the Parsi New Year's at Chez Panisse. A cookbook which has led this religious studies scholar on a search for books on Parsis and Zoroastrianism. A cookbook by someone who, via the web, becomes a new friend. A cookbook worth spending time with.
I am away from home for a month or more -- and I already miss home. The newest thing I miss is my copy of My Bombay Kitchen. The other things I miss -- well, you'll have to guess.