IFoodies take note. Lots of great easy to follow recipes included
I knew I wanted to read My Mother's Kitchen by Meera Ekkanath Klein as soon as I learned we shared a passion for the great Indian writer R. K. Narayan. (I urge everyone to read the guest post she kindly contributed to The Reading Life on him.). Narayan's work is largely set in the South Indian city he created Malguidi. There is a very strong sense and love of place in the work of Narayan and I find that same love in My Mother's Kitchen.
My Mother's Kitchen, her debut novel, is very family centered. The heart of the home is the kitchen and the heart of a family is the mother. The author has done just a wonderful job of creating a sense of the Family at the heart of this novel.
The most stage center characters are the mother and her teenage daughter. The locale is south India. After a prelude, the story, narrated by teenage Meena begins in 1955 Mahagiri in South India. Her family has about fifty or so milk cows, her father lives away sometimes on a plantation they own. I loved these lines from Meera, they just felt totally real to me:
"Our cows are my pets. I love everything about them from their graceful, swaying walk to their long tails that look so much like my mother’s hair in a braid. I like their wet noses and gentle eyes, and I particularly like spending time in the cowshed where it is always warm and cozy."
Every chapter is sort of a mini-story. Some begin with a story from ancient Hindu culture, most chapters end with a recipe for a dish the mother cooked in the chapter.
As the novel goes on you can see Meena grow up, all with daughters will love the relationships in the story line. We see the daughter mature. We learn a lot about the culture of the area. For example we see the ancient rituals associated with a girl's first mensaturation. We learn how the dairy business works. In one really exciting scene we are front row center when a pregnant cow needs to have her calf pulled out manually. I am very interested in gypsies, now called Roma, who originated in India, and was very excited to see what happened when a tribe of gypsies camped on a field owned by the family. I was interested in seeing how Gypsies were placed in the ancient caste system of India.
I loved it when Meena stood up for herself when her uncle tries to force her into an arranged marriage. We see the conflicts between "modern" and "traditional" India played out very dramatically.
In any family followed over a long period there will be tragedies and heartbreak and this family is no exception. This is a very heart warming book I greatly enjoyed reading. This book throughout and the ring of truth with no false notes.
The novel ends with an opened ended exciting development and I will be eager to see what happens next for Meena and her family. When the novel closes she is eighteen.
This is a very well crafted, plotted novel with characters you will love. As a bonus there are the marvelous all vegetarian recipes. I totally endorse this novel.
You can enter the serene world of Mahagiri in award-winning author Meera Ekkanath Klein’s debut novel, My Mother’s Kitchen: A novel with recipes. Find out more at: http://meeraklein.com/