Eating India, By Chitrita Banerji

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The Independent Culture

One chilly white morning in Boston, the food writer Chitrita Banerji receives an invitation to attend a family wedding in Calcutta, triggering potent memories of the dishes that she used to devour in her childhood, and of her particular delight in the dishes of her mother, "a culinary genius". Thereafter, the author embarks on a vividly conjured journey through Indian food – Bengali fish; thali in Karnataka; coconuts in Kerala – and an investigation of her own identity.

How much gastronomic "authenticity" can survive in the flux of modern India, and what indeed is "authenticity"? These are the issues that Banerji wishes to tackle. She shows her culinary prejudices being dissolved, and the belief that regional cuisine is the only authentic cuisine is challenged by the inevitable fusion of influences in contemporary India.

Overcooked clichés and florid prose pepper the book, but its more thoughtful, unforced passages engage. The author's depictions of geographical settings provide some evocative material. As Sybille Bedford notes, quoted in the book's epigraph, "Cooking is at once the most and least localised of the arts."

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