Offering much more than a bunch of unusual recipes, journalist Samar Halarnkar’s The Married Man’s Guide to Creative Cooking is a treat all by itself
This isn’t the kind of cookbook you’ll want to head straight to kitchen with, and that, we’d say is a good thing. For once, there’s a cookbook that appeals not just to the kitchen enthusiast or the foodie in each one of us but the booklover too. And Samar Halarnkar’s The Married Man’s Guide to Creative Cooking and Other Dubious Adventures does this without taking away from the core of the genre, the recipe guide.
Halarnkar is the former managing editor of the Hindustan Times and author of a book about India’s internet revolution, Nirvana Under the Rain Tree. His latest book though, is a guided tour through his culinary experiments, but in language that is kitchen-friendly as opposed to connoisseur-ish. The names are familiar and, the methods welldescribed and the ingredients the kind you won’t have to bend over backwards to procure in your neighbourhood.
The recipes are creatively named, and are simple enough to put at ease even a beginner in the pots and pans department. You could choose between Chicken With No Name, Mushy Chicken or Twice-As- Nice Spiced Rice, all of which are accompanied by illustrations that add a dash of humour as take on the task of cooking them head on. While a chicken leg and mushroom are caught in embrace on the Mushy Chicken recipe page, you’ll find a cow trapped in a jar in the section on beef pickle. The recipes aren’t region-specific and coastal favourites come alongside the likes of Bengali doi maach (fish in curd sauce). The vegetarian section is considerably smaller when compared to the non-vegetarian one, but the cover photograph and the author’s confession to meat addiction in the early pages ought to be fair warning.
This book though is best left untouched by purists, as this creative cook doesn’t shy away from occasionally relying on packaged Thai paste or tossing in a ‘Maggi’ chicken stock cube into his preparations. A scribe by profession, it’s not surprising that Halarnkar’s recipes are liberal with the use of alcohol in cooking; there’s Old Monk Pork Chops, Flamed Chicken being topped with beer sauce and cognac used in plenty to flavour fish.
But, it isn’t the highly adaptable recipes that set this cookbook apart in the crowd of similar ones in the genre. It is the introduction to each of the sections where Halarnkar professes food theories, talks about his predisposition to meat eating and offers exercise tips too, laced with humour that make you laugh out loud. In one such chapter he dwells on what he’s labeled the ‘the raja-beta-syndrome’ that “manifests itself in doting mothers who indulgently serve their sons and adoringly watch them eat” and which handicaps Indian men in the culinary department.
In some picture-filled centre pages are stories of the author’s culinary travels, in snapshots of course. Family pictures come printed with doodles intact. The personal touch of the passionate foodie is what makes this book a must-read if not a must-do.