Monday, July 22, 2019


Lily swarn
Publishers :Authorspress, New Delhi
ISBN 978-93-89110-39-5
Pp:        195
Price:   Rs 395/-
This is fourth book in quick succession  by Lily Swarn, 2016 Rouel Poetry Prize winner .Her first  book ‘A Trellis of Ecstasy’ which is a poetry collection;  second, a book of essays  called ‘Lilies of the Valley’;  third , ‘The Gipsy Trail ‘ an account of her memoirs and experiences as an Army wife , were well received .Primarily a poet in English, she loves to dabble in Hindi , Urdu  & Punjabi  poetry . She is an established  poet and author  and needs no introduction , having been  awarded and  honoured by many literary bodies.
HISTORY ON MY PLATE  , her present work is of a different genre and traces the origins of various dishes and food preparations  across the Globe. The beautiful  Preface states the background of this venture .It sets the tone, the author making personal  references to her grandmother , mother and her son regarding cooking  and preparations . 
Food perhaps  has been  the first and the   basic need of all life on this planet , shelter coming next. Clothing , peculiar only to the human beings comes  after these two. There are 46 chapters in the book listing as many dishes , Indian, as well as  Continental -  Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian both .
The first chapter is on Naan , a kind of roti popular in the subcontinent . The author feels it necessary to mention the origin of wheat ,the material used in the preparation . This shows us the first glimpse of her in depth study. Naan has  discussed  in detail, its origin being traced to Iran.She also tells that bread loaves that were   made In Egypt  5000 years ago  can be seen in the British Museum .The varieties of Naan like the Kashmiri Naan & the Peshawari  Naan are discussed in detail . Not surprisingly, the famous Amritsari Kulcha  also finds mention.
The chapter on Rasgulla  comes with the   hitherto unknown thesis that it originated in Odisha  and is as ancient as the  Sri Jagannath Yatra that started in the 12th century AD  and is offered as Prasad even today . Hereto before we have been believing that  Rasgulla or Roshogulla as Bengalis pronounce it is a Bengali  speciality having originated there .
 The very common Samosa too has foreign origin , so we are told. Now it is most common  and a much liked snack in the subcontinent , though stuffing and filling  may  differ  , half boiled potatoes with peas  &  meat , pandering to the  different palates. It is also a Pan Indian snack now available in all parts of the country.The common potato version has been my hot   favourite though can’t savour  it more often now,  being a comparatively heavier stuff .
 The chapter on Halva  has a good start  on a personal note , the Halva being offered in a Gurdwara as  a Prasad   and accepted with cupped hands . Many temples too follow the same practice but  kadah  stands  apart . The Turkish origin of Halva  is  knowledge to me. 
South Indian dishes like Idli & Dosa, are nicely discussed. These are my personal favourites too, being light on stomach .
Kashmiris are known for sparing little of the meat of a slaughtered  goat  and prepare   various dishes . No doubt  Gushtaba   finds a chapter devoted to the dish also  and is discussed in detail.
The discussion on Patraani Machhi  &  Machher Paturi  may go down well with our  Bengali and Parsi    friends who specialize in  these dishes.
Noodles  in both Veg  & Non Veg  versions  find favour  with all  who want a change from the other routine dishes. The chopped  vegetables  and the  sauces  immensely  add to the taste .
Momos , comparatively  late entrants  have gained popularity all over as being prepared on steam . Considered good by the health conscious people  who  want to avoid oil .
Salads form a necessary part of  a full fledged wholesome lunch or dinner and are discussed nicely. Salads come  with simple ingredients like raw onion, cucumber, radish in common parlance , but may may be an elaborate fare with many other things added, as the author tells us. Unfortunately we see little of salad leaves , the light green hued leaves resembling Palak Patta in texture, from where the term is derived. Metaphorically, days of prosperity and  well being are referred to as salad days. 
Chaat, with a tangy taste   is also a favourite street food , catering to many palates . There is Pakori Chhat , Papri Chhat , Fruit Chaat  though the necessary ingredient   is the Chaat  masala. A chapter that  leaves one salivating .
Dal Makhani is almost a staple with the  Vegetarian persons like me while  choosing to dine out . Nicely discussed too.
The uncommon belief that wine is  good for health  and may reduce many ailments  may come as a shocker to many. But arguments placed in its favour are irrefutable. Only one should know how to use it  properly .
Many other dishes or beverages or preparations  have been discussed in detail  tracing history,  origin, and changes that have  occurred and transformation that has taken place over the ages.
To cap it all, recipes have been added wherever felt necessary , for the interested readers to try at home.
I may be excused for being partial to the  Vegetarian dishes. A
Though named   ‘HISTORY ON MY PLATE’  , the  work is much more than that . Apart from being  History, it is also  Geography  sans  coordinates, a study of comparative  cultures, and a reference book and guide as to where to find what . As mentioned by me  earlier  and  by many others , the author has a way with the written word.  Already established as multilingual poet, she has also become an  acclaimed prose writer .  If she  pours out her heart  in Poetry , she also puts her heart and soul in whatever she writes in  prose. The book is rightly  dedicated to her daughter and  son in law, both living in the  States , whose role the author has acknowledged  sincerely.
The comments and endorsements put in by the celebrities from various fields are well deserved . 
This book is a  Gourmet’s  delight  surely !

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