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Through the cooking glass

Food has always worked as the best adhesive when it comes to strengthening familial ties.

Food has always worked as the best adhesive when it comes to strengthening familial ties. This phenomenon,however,has never been described in so many words in India till Mita Kapur’s first book,The F-Word,reached the book stands recently. But then Kapur is gifted. She not only possesses an inbuilt passion for cooking,but also knows the art of storytelling. Her real strength,however,lies in her food-loving joint family.

Kapur’s large family and friends — with their constant yearning for good food — are the inexhaustible fount of anecdotes where food often enjoys prime importance. “The focus of the book has been food. So many memories are associated with my food-loving family. They make sure that there is something interesting happening around food at home all the time,” she says.

While sifting through the chapters of The F-Word,it becomes evident that the book is as much about food as about the Kapur household,which can easily be seen as the apt representative of the great Indian joint family. In this household,food is there for every reason and emotion. These reasons don’t happen to be birthdays or marriage anniversaries alone. Even when the daughter opens up about her childhood trauma,there is the comfort of food. And this is what places the book beyond a cook book despite the presence of nearly 150 recipes. Each of these recipes enjoys some special emotional attachment in the Kapur family and has a story behind it. Almost all of them are easy-to-cook recipes without demanding any “fancy” ingredients.

“Cooking is not a mundane activity — you move the soul and spirit of the people you feed. It is a sensuous communication,which should speak of love and caring,” says Kapur,the founder of Siyahi,a literary agency based in Jaipur. The livewire-like presence of this communication makes Kapur’s culinary-cum-personal diary almost a page-turner. The book goes back and forth in time. The author recalls how she burnt the cake when her then boyfreind who is now her husband was visiting her home for the first time. Dared by her friend,she fed him a big slice of that cake to test his sincerity. Now,his birthdays mean setting up an earthen stove in the garden and painstakingly preparing his favourite meat on slow fire. What livens up such tales are Prabha Mallya’s corresponding illustrations. Mallya has also designed the book’s colourful and attractive cover.

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Kapur has refrained from fictionalising the culinary accounts and related tales in the book. “I wanted the book to be a reportage of a joint family. With the kind of life we are presently leading,it is very important to bond with the family,” she says.

For those seeking truth in this statement can read the section where Kapur recalls making tennis ball-size gulab jamuns along with her sister-in-law much to the amusement of her mother-in-law.

By virtue of being based in Jaipur,most of Kapur’s culinary tales are from Jaipur,Delhi and other north Indian cities. She goes on a gastronome trail in Lucknow even as her two daughters complain of eating too much kebab. There is a whole list of her favourite places in Delhi with the kind of description that will tempt anyone to book a table at the earliest. Kapur,however,has also managed to weave in stories of several delicious outings abroad. She shares the joy of visiting a cocoa-making factory in Amsterdam. There is also a detailed account of the author pampering herself silly in Thailand by binging on seafood,apart from getting those special Thai massages.

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Kapur’s slender frame doesn’t go with the traditional image of a foodie. She,of course,has a secret formula for that. She restricts most her food trails to the time she is travelling. When at home,it’s time for healthy eating.

First published on: 09-01-2011 at 11:23:26 pm
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