Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau
I loved this book!* I could not stop reading it, and couldn’t wait to see what happened next in her story. It is a cross-genre memoir that is part biography, part travel journal, with equal measures of culinary and cultural background and recipes. The book tells the author’s story with an emphasis on how she relates the food, cooked first by her mother and later by herself, and her Bengali Indian background into life in a small Kansas town. As a first-generation immigrant, it is interesting to see the world through her eyes, as she struggles to discover the part of herself embedded deep within her culture, though she had a tendency to hide it away from mainstream Americans for fear of being labeled “different”. I liked how she talks about the recipes her mother got from her family in Bengal when she first got married, and how these were the same recipes that the author used when she joined the Peace Corps and was living in Northern Africa with her new husband. I also enjoyed the link she made between food and language, and how much the two are linked. It made me want to do an anthropological study on the topic. Then there are the recipes, which are at the end of each chapter and explain the author’s story almost better than anything else. Can’t wait to try the Carrot Halwa, Ginger Mashed Potatoes with Savory Filling, Minced Meat Curry, and Yogurt Fish. This book reminded me of another excellent culinary memoir entitled Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen.
There were a lot of excellent quotes in it, especially the ones relating to food, such as “Food was my tether to heritage; it revealed my world and transformed me into someone willing to share that story with others,” and “Food holds memory. It holds story. It can represent who we are.” For another more-detailed review on the book, check out this blog post . For the blog of the author, which includes her wonderful writing, recipes and a list of her publications, check that site out.
*I received this book as an Advanced Reader’s Copy from Netgalley. It did not affect how I viewed and reviewed the book.