Saturday, January 16, 2010


Food for thought is a blog created by the wonderfully creative and talented Jain, of Once in a Blue Moon. It combines reading and food. The general idea is to read a book, cook a dish mentioned in the book, take photographs and write a review of the book. And finally post it and link.
So when Jain invited me to join in it was the highlight of my day. I could never imagine saying no to such an exciting and enthralling idea! So here I am with my first contribution to Food For Thought!

To find out more about Food For Thought just click here.

*** and a half

I would probably never undergo the trials and tribulations of being a new immigrant nor would I ever suffer the pain of despising the sound of my own name. On those two counts I've been blessed. And I hope my children feel as blessed as I do. Unfortunately this was not the case for Gogol Ganguli.

Like many children of immigrant parents, Gogol straddled two cultures painfully, petulantly and reluctantly; the one pulling him back in and the other cajoling. Add to that a strange sounding name that he detests Gogol struggles both in his search for an identity and in coming to terms with his own name.

The novel follows Gogol through his experiences, his frustrations, his love affairs, his marriage and finally the understanding and acceptance of his name. 

It also follows the lives of Ashoke and Ashima as immigrant parents, their heartaches and concern for their childrens' apathy for their Bengali culture and traditions.

This is The Namesake, a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, author of the highly acclaimed Interpreter of Maladies, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

The picture below shows Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The namesake. 

Although the theme appealed to me and I always love novels that deal with internal conflicts I did however feel that this book fell a little short of my expectations.

It didn't draw me in emotionally as I hoped it would so that I pained with them, so that they touched the very core of my nerves. But in spite of that I found it very readable. It kept me going because I did want to know how the story would end. 

But when it did The Namesake did not leave me with that lingering, meaningful and profound sensation or at the least a satisfied sigh. I guess it didn't quite do it for me.

But Lahiri writes beautifully, her prose fluid and her potrayal of emotions and details sharp and distinct. But many a time I wished that Lahiri would show rather than tell. And certain incidents in the story I found to be somewhat superficial.

I believe too that even in the most conflicting of moments life has its humour. In the Namesake there was none. How I would have loved to have laughed just a little.

To those who did love this book ~ please don't hit me.

For from each and every book that I have read, brilliant, good or mediocre, I have always either learnt something new or been reassured of a belief. 

I was reassured that nothing could be more precious or appreciated than the sincere love of a parent for a child. Regardless of challenges faced. And now I also know what a corbel is.

On the whole I would say that The Namesake is readable.

There is no lack of food vignettes in this book; or in the varieties of Indian food which I love. In fact the book starts the very first page with a recipe. 

My eyes widened in pleasant surprise and it was one of the reasons I decided to settle on this book as a first contribution to Food For Thought.

I had dog eared so many pages where the characters had either prepared food or ate them that I thought that I was going to go insanely indecisive again. However 'I did it'. I picked one.

Finally I chose a dish for it's simplicity and the occasion for its significance. It is a rice pudding or payesh.

It occurs early in the book and the occasion was Gogol's annaprasam or rice ceremony at the age of six months. 

This is the recipe that I have re-created for the rice pudding that Ashima had prepared......

1/2 cup basmati rice, washed and rinsed at least 5 times
1 1/2 cups of water
2-3 cups full cream milk
1/2 sugar or more
1 tsp saffron, soaked in 1 T warm milk

4 cardomom pods, shelled and seeds crushed a little
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 cinnamon stick
some crushed pistachios for garnish
cinnamon powder for garnish

Boil rice in water until it is cooked and is soft and fluffy. Add milk, sugar, cardomom seeds, cinnamon stick, chopped almonds and saffron and simmer for another 20- 30 minutes. You may add more water or milk if necessary.

Cook and reduce until the pudding is thick and pudding like. Serve in a bowl sprinkled with cinnamon powder and chopped pistachios, warm or cold.


Quinn said...

Zu, love the rice pudding but really gotta disagree with the review of the book. I've read it and love every bits of it. I think it depends on when and why you read it. Have you read 'Do they hear you when you cry' and 'Eat, Pray, Love'? They are pretty good too. I do agree thought there's not much of humour in the book!

Zurin said...

Quinn, I suppose I expected too much considering the award she got for the Interpreter of Maladies wh I have nt read but m going to.

I love her writing style though it was just the way she presented the story that did not appeal to me very much. But all in all very readable! :))

La Table De Nana said...

Your post is so elegant Zurin..I have come to know your posts because of that trademark.Thank you.Jain will be most proud :)
Well done!!

a quiet life said...

zurin, i just drank your post in... i knew you would be outrageous for food with thought, your passion for reading, writing, photography, cooking, beauty, to see it all in one neat little package, oh my... absolutely beautiful.

you have set the bar very high, i see i need to step up my game! i loved reading your review, i have debated about her books often, it wonderful to read your thoughts. have you read unaccustomed earth, perhaps i should start with that first since this one fell a little short?

your food and presentation are stellar as always, what a treat to combine my passions in one post, and executed by such a creative pro, in the kitchen, and with her camera! thank you SO much for kicking off the first food for thought, i can't wait to see what else you are reading!

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

I am in awe. You express your thoughts in the most elegant, gentle and eloquent manner. I totally forgot about the rice pudding! I was just so enchanted by your beautiful words! Like Mari, I drank your post in, like sweet nectar. You're one classy, talented, accomplished lady. What can't you do?

Shirley @ Kokken69 said...

Zurin, from your blog, I already gather that you love books and is a well read lady. I,too love my books but have been tardy about finishing my readings for the last few months. I have, on hand 3 half read books which I am still willing myself to complete. I think Jain's idea is brilliant and it makes blogging so much more challenging and interesting. Salute to you for your first entry, you have risen to the task more than brilliantly.

Sarah said...

I'm thrilled to find your site and have added myself as a follower. Your review was a visual treat, and I much appreciate your honest review. Like you, I need a bit of joy and humor in the books I read. I've not read this author, but will look at her work. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to more of your reviews. ~ Sarah

Mary Bergfeld said...

This was a wonderful review! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about the book with us.

Kate at Serendipity said...

This rice pudding sounds amazing. I love cardamom, I love cinnamon, I love saffron. I also happen to have all the ingredients on hand. And tomorrow's Sunday, with plenty of time to cook...

I don't have ready access to English language books except through Amazon, but the shipping and customs charges are sky high! I really appreciate honest reviews that help me decide how to spend my scarce book Euros. Thanks!

Pierre said...

hi zurin I love rice pudding very famous also and popular in france !cheers from Paris Pierre

Anonymous said...

I remember reading this book when I was in school (which sounds so long ago but it isn't! I promise). Love a good rice pudding especially when there's a story behind it! :)

Linda said...

Zu...I am so happy you chose this book not only did I really like it but the movie is also wonderful, and in this case perhaps even better than the book( which is unusual)...with Kal Penn as Gogol and Irrfan Khan as of my very favorite movies...I have seen it many is a tear jerker for me!
Absolutely fabulous post!
Love it!

Zurin said...

Monique, tq so much .youre very very kind :)

Jain, tq youre so very very generous...I feel my head getting a little bigger...but ill keep it in check :)

Ju, as always you say the sweetest things..tq :)

Shirley. tq too ur all so very kind :)

Sarah, u remind me of a friend with the same name..for a moment I thought it was her when I saw the little pic and th ename..and tq I love ur blog.:)

Mary, ur welcome n tq for coming by :)

Kate, yes its very xpensive ordering frm amazon wh is why I never do. :)

Pierre, tq for coming by :)

Vicky, tq for coming over :) i hop over to urs :)

Zurin said...

Linda, glad u like d it ...i heard bout the movie too :)

pam said...

Great review and great recipe!

Anonymous said...

haven't seen the book before!
but the rice pudding looks interesting.
looks like something awesome to eat on a cold morning!

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

Lovely post and nice rice pudding!

red | hongyi said...

zurin, are you a book editor in hiding bc you review very well. hav u read 'eat, pray, love'? i enjoyed it when i read it last year bc i was going thru some emotional search myself but the last few chapters were very disappointing, like it was ending on a good note for a movie ending.

def will love to read more such posts. and again, ur photos are beautiful.

terri@adailyobsession said...

opps tt was me above comment, terri

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I absolutely loved The Namesake! Such a beautiful book and film. Great choice, rice pudding is such a comforting food! :D

Pei-Lin said...

Oh, this is such a great, great idea!! It reminds me so much of the Chinese literature classic "Dream of the Red Chamber" as people have been trying to replicate the dishes mentioned in the book! Some restaurants in China are established solely to sell them!

Your work is fantastic!! You've never ceased amazing me! Keep it up, Zurin!


Anonymous said...

Zu, nice post. I haven't read this book but will try to do it soon. I can get a rectangular tart pan for you. email me if you like me to do so.

Nancy Jane said...

I really liked your review, and I think I will give this book a try.I too like to laugh, but if I learn something... Nancy
PS: Your photos are sumptuous!

Hélène (Cannes) said...

I didn't read the book so I won't hit you ! ;o)) But I love the idea of this blog mixing cooking and reading ... I love your rice pudding too... I always love rice pudding, anyway ! ;o)
Have a very good day

Kitchen Butterfly said...

What a lovely combination......I remember that I first saw a grean recipe for mushy peas in a book by Alice Walters (or some other black writer) which named the secret omph ingredients as butter and brown sugar and truly when I tried it worked!!!!!!! Fantastic

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog you got here. It would be great to read more about that topic. Thank you for posting this info.
Joan Stepsen
Gadget products

Zurin said...

Thank you everyone for your kind and generous comments. This blog would never be the same without all of you taking the time and trouble to let me know that you were here. I deeply appreciate it.



Federica Simoni said...

mi sembra di sentire il profumo di questo splendido riso!

Pam said...

The book does sound interesting but your rice pudding sounds more so! I have to try this. I love rice pudding and I find Indian recipes to be more flavorful than the traditional American ones.
Your pics are really lovely. I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for sharing!

chow and chatter said...

oh this is an awesome idea, love the rice pudding you would love Hindi movies we are watching Rocket Singh at present LOL Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Great and well-written review, but the rice pudding stole the show for me :)

Cathy said...

What a wonderful post, Zurin. Your rice pudding recipe looks so delicious and comforting and you've tied it to your review so beautifully.

Anonymous said...

Yum! I read Interpreter of Maladies once upon a time for a bookclub. We got together and had a potluck that fit the theme of each book. This Food for Thought reminds me a bit of that.

Through My Kitchen Window said...

Dear zurin. How you have touched so many people with this post. It is a credit to you and I wish you every continued success with your beautiful work. Btw - the rice pudding looks and sounds divine. Love from Mariana

Deana Sidney said...

Beautiful job on the book... wow!

Divina Pe said...

The rice pudding is rich and creamy, my kind of comfort food. It's really nice to have your own thoughts about the book you've read. You have a great way with words which are very inspiring.


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