Sunday, October 31, 2021

Green Chili and Other Impostors


Green Chili and Other Impostors is a well written nonfiction book full of food lore, history, and trivia written and presented by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau. Due out 1st Nov 2021 from the University of Iowa Press, it's 240 pages and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. 

This is a fun and interesting book for foodies, complete with recipes. The book grew out of the author's working trip to Kolkata on a Fulbright study grant and contains reminiscences and history both of her own childhood and life (as an Indian American in Kansas) as well as the deeper, richer fusion of India's traditional cuisine from a blended and varied history as a cultural crossroads and melting pot from antiquity to the present day. 

The chapters are arranged whimsically and (somewhat) thematically: dairy, limes, grains, "imposters" (foods which are traditional but not indigenous such as chilies), potatoes, fusion cuisine, peas, British(ish) desserts, several less thematic chapters covering varied memories and reminiscences, Armenian/Indian with cultural anthropological ruminations, religious observance and temple food (with a discussion of the truly staggering logistics involved in feeding so many thousands of temple visitors, monks, and the gods themselves), and "curry" with all its geopolitical ramifications.

Recipes are written with a title and description followed by ingredients in a bullet list sidebar. Measurements are given in US standard only. Special tools and ingredients are also listed, along with yields and cooking directions. Nutritional info is not included. Many of the ingredients will be easily sourced at any moderately well stocked grocery store. The difficult to acquire ingredients are often listed with substitutions. I would imagine that larger metropolitan areas will have access to Asian/Indian/World Foods stores which will have the more esoteric (for the USA) ingredients available. The book also includes a short metric conversion chart. I noticed a few errors in the pre-release ARC given for review which will almost certainly be corrected in the final print release: for example, the conversion instructions for pounds to kilograms are to multiply by 453.6 (that should be grams, not kg).

The recipes are not photographed and there are no serving suggestions or presentations. The graphics are simple and contain a number of well rendered maps and monochrome facsimiles, but no food pictures. The recipes are varied and well developed, but it's the background cultural and historical thoughts which really shine in this collection.

Four stars. A good choice for food-and-culture-interested readers, public and school library acquisition, and gifting to food interested friends and family.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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