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Book Review: India On My Platter

Here I go again…

Being a journalism student is a pain in the ass. I don’t get time for anything else so that would explain the delay in posting this review too.

As soon as the book was out, you saw me hunting all over town for it and finally when I got my hands on it, no one dared to disturb me as I was fully into it.

So many experiences. So much of food and travel. The two things I love the most in life.

Enough said! Do read ahead now…

I remember at a tender age of 10, I told my mother that when I grow up I want to travel the world only to find the best food. She didn’t want to discourage me and so replied back saying ‘Work towards that dream, Ri!’

Today, it is still a dream. But to see a young, talented chef who I have always admired achieve this dream of mine- it only makes me push myself harder and believe that I can do it too.

Saransh Goila also known to many as India’s youngest celebrity chef has authored this travelogue cum food-memoir, ‘ India On My Platter’. He is the first Indian to have gone on the longest food journey where he travelled 20, 000 kms by road, covered 25 states in a 100 days without taking a day’s break.

We all dream now and then but how often are we lucky enough to actually live it? It is not very often that one gets the chance to travel all across the country to explore its vast culinary traditions and cultures and their symbiotic relationship.

Not only did he manage to discover the entire country through his travel but also has carefully documented all his experiences with the local folk and all that he has learnt from this journey.

I remember the first time I met this humble chef at The Good Food Show, I couldn’t believe it was the same guy who is in the Limca Book Of Records today. Through this book of his, you get to know more about the lovely personality he possesses.

The book starts off with Delhi which happens to be his hometown. It slowly moves to the west to places like Udaipur, Rann of Kutch and Surat. Then goes down south to Panjim,Coorg and Hyderabad. Next it takes you all the way to the East to Dehradun and Lucknow and then finally goes back to where it all began in Delhi.

It explores different states and cultures and takes us into the life of each place. It doesn’t just vaguely talk about the places he visited but also goes much into detail about the differences in food habits, preparation methods, various spices used in dishes and cooking practices of these cuisines.

The countless road journeys in 100 days are truly remarkable as most of us are unable to achieve it even in our entire life time. I loved how he included a few snapshots in the book as the vivid descriptions help one to actually relate to what he is trying to say and somehow it all feels real. My personal favourite is when he cooked a simple ‘archar ki dal’ with truck drivers on the Karnal Highway.

The book being a travelogue is written in the first person narrative and hence is extremely personal. You know that he is talking straight from his heart the minute you read the book as he says ‘I got to meet new people who shared my love for food. It was like my ticket to the chocolate factory.’

The chapters are short, crisp and very easy to follow. There are about 25 recipes that he has included which he had cooked from the places he visited. The descriptions of the dishes are quite elaborate and he managed to capture every little detail with a story behind it. This is what makes the book all the more interesting and you get the chance to gather knowledge about the local people of the place, the kind of food they eat and their lifestyle.

There are times when we get so carried away in wanting to travel the world and know more about other countries and in the bargain forget that our country has so much to offer. This book has helped to realize that and increase our knowledge about the number of cuisines that exist.

The author has tried to make the book accessible to everyone all over the world as Indian words have been carefully translated. For example, Kadhai(wok), Atta (wheat flour) and Aloo (potato).

It also gives us a number of secret tips and techniques to take back. When the author was in Leh and interacted with Neema’s grandmother, he tells us how she explained that cooking in a ‘handi’ made with brass not only gives a different taste, but also doesn’t get food spoilt that easily.

Since I am extremely passionate about food myself, it taught me so much that I hadn’t known or heard of before and that’s what I feel makes it a really good book. If there was nothing curious I found in it, then I wouldn’t want to read further.

It is amazing how he has managed to incorporate travel and recipe writing which is definitely not the easiest task one can do. The recipes seemed lovely and there are a few I would love to try out someday but it would have been great if it had pictures of the final dish. I would have also appreciated if the book had an index so that one could search for a particular recipe much easily than to hunt for it through the entire book.

Something I was really fascinated about and had no idea was during his time in Kashmir when he was going to eat the ‘wazwan’ .It is basically a meal that consists of 36 courses out of which 15-16 are made from meat. Now that would definitely make me feel like I’m in heaven!

He gives you an insight of what each place is famous for as he mentions that Jammu is famous for rajma while Pampur is known for its great saffron.

The Spaghetti Moilee was something that really caught my eye. I felt it to be very innovative and risky. It’s not something you would see on an everyday menu!

It is nice to see how he caters to the taste buds of every generation. He had mentioned in one of his recipes that the measurements given were for a regular version but if it is to be cooked for an elderly person, then it is advisable to reduce the spices.

The one thing that really put me off was the poor editing of the book. I did not seem to have an issue with the elementary school language but at least it could have been free from vocabulary and spelling errors, incorrect usage of tenses and long, complicated sentences. What was extremely disappointing was the fact that he had so many beautiful memories to talk about but none of them were brought out nicely thanks to the irresponsible editor. For example, ‘chilli’ is what you use in a dish and not ‘chilly’.

I can go on and on with the casual and editing of the book and after the 30th page or so, I actually started editing the book myself. Although it had a few glitches here and there, some parts of the book really stood out for me like the origin of the Tunday Kebab. Now that was something I wasn’t aware of before!

All in all, I believe it is a book with great potential only next time it would be advisable he found himself a better editor.

Even if I didn’t know Saransh, I would pick it up for the simple reason being that there is so much to learn from his experiences and satisfy all your curiousity.

So if you’re crazy about food and travel like me, don’t think twice, just bite into it!

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