Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta is an occasional IFFian (Indian Food Freak) and a regular blogger. And she has gifted me a copy of her recently published book. It looks like a cookbook. So, I think, let me flip through it and checkout the recipes. Once I start reading it, it turns out to be an unputdownable page turner. Half way through the book I realize that I have not had so much fun reading a cook book ever…..or any book, in a long time.
In her own words, this book is “not a cookbook in the strict sense. It is a food narrative where food is around where the stories play out and there are recipes to boot.” The recipes are wonderful and simple to follow. But what I enjoy most is her turn of phrases like “….the kalonji danced around merrily, throwing a fit like a two-year-old on caffeine” or “…soft pav, pudgy and white like the palms of a baby fed on ghee and butter”. It is phrases like these that have me chuckling as I read the book which captures slices of our life in a charming, endearing manner. So much so that there are times when I don’t want a recipe to come between the flow of the book!
Sandeepa is a gifted writer and I know she will go far. I look forward to reading her fiction book that she may decide to write soon. I am giving below an extract of our conversation.
Aalok: Who is the audience for your blog?
Sandeepa: I don’t write the blog with an intended audience in mind and most of the posts are written thinking of myself. The recipes I might want to look up, the incidents I love remembering, the kids’ antics that I would want to re-remember one day.
Aalok: Who is the audience here?
Sandeepa: Similarly, for the book, I did not have a specific audience in mind. But in that case, there was at least a vague notion of intended readers. Readers who were like me, who would understand that food goes beyond mere sustenance and stirs up many memories. Readers who were busy doing umpteen things and yet wanting to get back to traditional cooking that could be simplified enough to fit their busy life. Readers who were familiar or unfamiliar to Bengali cuisine and would love to give it a try.
Sandeepa: Well, since I was not acquainted with the publishing world and did not have a clear clue as how to write a book proposal etc., my initial attempts of book proposals were a flop. I got polite rejections from couple of literary agents, at which point I was almost ready to give up. And then Harper Collins contacted me. My wonderful editor from Harper was actually a blog reader whom I did not know then. She has been a big driving force behind this book of mine.
Aalok: What is this book, in your own words?
Sandeepa: This book is not a cookbook in the strict sense. It is a food narrative where food is around where the stories play out and there are recipes to boot.
Aalok: Do you think cooking themed books can do well without photos, given that today all recipe books are becoming glossy coffee table books?
Sandeepa: In a traditional cookbook, I would definitely want photos. But there is this other genre of food narrative or food memoirs where the picture is drawn by words, and in those books, I don’t think photos are necessary. There, more than the mere recipe, it is the sentiment around food that draws the reader.
Aalok: Is there a second book coming?
Sandeepa: I would love to but nothing decided as of now.
Aalok: What’s your favourite dish?
Sandeepa: Depends. I love a good Biriyani and Thai Red Curry, as much as a Masoor Dal and Alu Posto.
Aalok: Any other genre of writing you would want to try your hand with?
Sandeepa: Pure Fiction
Aalok: When do you write?
Sandeepa: Mostly at night after the girls go to bed
Aalok: The newest world-best recipe you have discovered?
Sandeepa: This perfectly chocolaty chocolate cake that my 9 year old has been baking. My friends’ daughter found it and since then it has been a rage at all our birthday parties.
Bong Mom’s Cookbook; Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta (Author);
MRP: Rs 350. Available at Amazon.in