So much of our cultures are expressed in food. How we celebrate, how we find comfort, what we consider to be special – a delicacy. When I think of home I think of the food there that I can’t get anywhere else. And when I meet people from other parts of the world, or learn about a new culture, their favorite foods is always one of my favorite things to learn about.
That is what makes A Feast of Serendib such a wonderful cookbook. Author Mary Anne Mohanraj, goes out of her way to describe how Sri Lankan food differs from that of its neighbors.
There are of course some similarities to Indian cooking. Being from a similar region they use similar ingredients but there are some lovely differences to explore. The Sri Lankan version of Scotch Eggs is mouth watering. The Kozhi Kari (chicken curry) is simply great. There are so many other brilliant looking dishes I didn’t get a chance to make before the review. But everything I did, I enjoyed.
The book does a decent job of talking about how to reuse leftovers and what to look for when considering substitutions for ingredients. It also looks at some recipes and gives you the ‘slow cooked elegant’ way to do it and the ‘how to feed your family before you murder them out of hunger and exhaustion” method…my words not hers. Likewise she offers many vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free alternatives.
There was one aspect of this book that I loved and I am sure many will baulk at – the use of catsup as an ingredient. Several of the recipes here call for ketchup. Mohanraj’s mother used ketchup for the same reason I do in my curries, chili, and other stews or stir fry dishes: If something calls for vinegar, tomato paste, and sugar – you can substitute ketchup and no one will know. In fact, I have had several compliments on my chili recipes some of which use a metric $%&! ton of ketchup. But that is what makes this book great, it isn’t written from the perspective of the perfect homekeeper. This is the down in the trenches kind of cook book that doesn’t pretend you have all day and every ingredient under the sun at your disposal. Mohanraj is clearly some one who loves to cook and she provides a practical and lovely approach to her recipes.
One of the few downsides for me was the portion size for appetizers. I like to eat appetizers as a meal or as a side dish with my family. These recipes are more geared to small parties and gatherings. Which makes total sense, and I am clearly nit picking. But, I’d rather figure multiply a recipe than divide it.
This is an easy recommendation. Fun, tasty recipes to explore and wonderful things to learn. If you like Indian food and want a nice twist pick up A Feast of Serendib.
Author Bio –
Mary Anne Mohanraj is the author of Bodies in Motion (HarperCollins), The Stars Change (Circlet Press) and thirteen other titles. Bodies in Motion was a finalist for the Asian American Book Awards, a USA Today Notable Book, and has been translated into six languages. The Stars Change was a finalist for the Lambda, Rainbow, and Bisexual Book Awards.
Mohanraj founded the Hugo-nominated and World Fantasy Award-winning speculative literature magazine, Strange Horizons, and also founded Jaggery, a S. Asian & S. Asian diaspora literary journal (jaggerylit.com). She received a Breaking Barriers Award from the Chicago Foundation for Women for her work in Asian American arts organizing, won an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and was Guest of Honor at WisCon. She serves as Director of two literary organizations, DesiLit (www.desilit.org) and The Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org). She serves on the futurist boards of the XPrize and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.
Mohanraj is Clinical Associate Professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lives in a creaky old Victorian in Oak Park, just outside Chicago, with her husband, their two small children, and a sweet dog. Recent publications include stories for George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series, stories at Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Lightspeed, and an essay in Roxane Gay’s Unruly Bodies. 2017-2018 titles include Survivor (a SF/F anthology), Perennial, Invisible 3 (co-edited with Jim C. Hines), and Vegan Serendib. http://www.maryannemohanraj.com
Social Media Links –
Serendib Kitchen website: http://serendibkitchen.com