The chocolate sauce, warm and dark, dripped all over her face but she could not taste it. She opened her mouth wide, stretched out her tongue and tried to lick it off her lips but all she could taste was Pond's lemon cold cream. Reshma spluttered, began to cough and awoke to find herself alone.This is an excerpt and the opening paragraph from the story titled 'Sweet Nothings'. It sets the tone for the pitiable character and her indulgences in food especially the sweet, rich, fattening variety as she battles against her weight problem and more importantly her husband's infidelity.
This collection of stories portrays the wonderful, pervading love of food that we Indians are renowned for and in a somewhat light-hearted manner makes good use of family relations to show how important food is to us. Each story tells of women and their status in life. There is Bala the poor relative who is passed on from family to family where she can be of some service and soon delights them with her cooking and so making herself indispensable. Then we have Sumitra, a widow, whose mother-in-law dictates to her and makes her fast for her dead husband even though all she does is crave for food.
She would eat very slowly, nibbling at the hot green chilli which always came with the cholay. She would not swallow quickly but allow only tiny morsels to go down her throat, bit by bit, so that the delicious, hot, spicy, sour, and salty flavour would linger.
Her attempt at eating on the sly is thwarted by her mother-in-law and she has the misery of watching the cholay being devoured by crows, knowing she would have devoured them much better herself.
All of these stories are followed by recipes, which make interesting reading, and even if you decide to try one out, I don't think you will have any regrets. May be Sharma will next delve into the realm of cookbooks. Each story is absorbing and satisfying to read almost like having finished feasting on a complete meal. Both men and women can easily enjoy this collection, as long as one has a snack in hand to stop the stomach from rumbling.
This review was first published in the Deccan Herald, Bangalore. Reproduced here with permission of the author.
Book Description: This work contains stories about women for whom food is an obsession, a passion, a gift of love, a source of power and even a means of revenge. Each of these tales is followed by a favorite recipe to read or, if you are particularly adventurous, to try out.
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