First things first.
Pamela Timms is a friend, we are in 2 book clubs together in Delhi, and over the last few years, I have heard much about this book over the course of many happy book club evenings.
We even went on one evening ramble in Old Delhi together, a couple of years ago, where I somehow managed to garland myself instead of the local politician we met in the street. But that’s another story, and definitely not one of my finest moments. (Hey, someone in the street gave me a garland, but didn’t tell me the bloke hanging around expectantly was a politician…)
Also, let me state for the record, that I am the polar opposite of Pamela. Can’t bake or cook to save my life, and am not hugely “into” food, at all to be honest. And yet I devoured this book in one greedy sitting. Seriously, I started this lovely book in the morning, hardly broke for lunch, and finished it mid-afternoon, as the heavens opened over Delhi, and the blessed monsoon rain poured down.
And I loved every second of the book.
The content, the writing, the descriptions – everything is just perfect.
“Khorma Kheer and Kismet” is way way more than “just” a book about Old Delhi street food. It is a celebration of India, of living in Delhi (the good bits as well as the not so good bits) and it is written with exquisitely beautiful nuanced prose.
Pamela is not just a lover of all things culinary in Old Delhi, she is also a lover of Old Delhi in its entirety, of the sights, the sounds and the people, all of which she brings to life without ever once falling into cliché-dom. She is also very practical and realistic about her favourite part of India:
Pamela writes well, wearing her obvious scholarship lightly, as she leads us through her own journey to India, to her despair at the ex-pat bubble she is condemned to inhabit, and how she breaks through into the gritty, grimy, dirty, spicey world of Old Delhi. She leads us on a picaresque journey through the cramped and oh-so-hot lanes and by-lanes of the old city, as she tries out new dishes, meets people, tries to winkle their recipes out of them, makes friends, and ends up spending many, many happy hours as far away from the south Delhi ex-pat scene as it is possible to get.
Read this delightful book to get a flavour of Old Delhi street food – literally and metaphorically, since she includes recipes at the end of each chapter – and also to let yourself be transported to a world of sensory overload and crowded lanes and generous hospitality.
If I have one teensy complaint, it would be that the black and white photos do no justice whatsoever to the richness of the writing. I would rather have had simple drawings than indifferent photos. But that is really a very small quibble.
The book has just been published, in hardback, by Aleph and costs Rs 395.
If, after reading this review, you would like to order the book online, nothing could be simpler. Just click on one of the links below.
Totally and enthusiastically recommended.