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Mathew Angus

How does the saying go?  You can take the Indian out of India, but you can’t take India out of the Indian?  But what if the Indian has never been to India because she was born in the UK – forced to study and hence missing the opportunity to be Mummyji’s understudy in the kitchen?  And God forbid, what if the good Indian girl finds she cannot cook those favourite recipes that her family (and more importantly her in-laws) will expect after marriage?  Well, not to worry, help is at hand.  Vicky Bhogal’s book Cooking Like Mummyji–Real British Asian Cooking, aims to solve these problems.            You may be asking yourself why someone called Matthew Angus (and I am not a Malayali Christian by the way) is reviewing a book like this.  How can a chap from the UK possibly know what Mummyji’s cooking tastes like?  Well the answer is simple.  I have a Mummyji (a Mummyji-in-law to be precise).  She is from India and her cooking is excellent.            Cooking Like Mummyji is no ordinary cookbook however; it is a cookbook with a social purpose. It encourages the non-resident Indian reader to use food as the method by which to find or re-establish her cultural roots.  It also helps readers familiarize themselves with British-Asian culture by inserting between the chapters some essays about how British-Asian culture and British-Asian food is misunderstood.  For example, at one point in the book, following the recipe for ‘Devilish Butter Chicken’ I find a short essay on arranged marriage. Bhogal correctly points out that arranged marriage does not always mean forced marriage; however, what she fails to mention is that the whole process can be far from perfect with sometimes disastrous consequences.  In view of the fact that Bhogal wrote the first-ever academic study of British Asian Youth Culture and Slang I would have expected a more balanced description.         While on the topic of social issues one thing that riles me is the fact that the book clearly frames girls and women as the cooks.  On a number of occasions Bhogal does not hide the fact that it is the girl’s duty to do the cooking and impress the family.  “[T]he main element missing in restaurant food is the female energy” states Bhogal.  She goes on, “The Kitchen is always the best place to be in an Indian or British-Asian ...

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