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Tsundoku: 2018 in food books

I couldn't think of a more apt title for this post.

So many books this year. And so little reading done.

From Wikipedia:

Tsundoku is the phrase for acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them. "Tsundoku" originated in the Meiji era (1868-1912) as Japanese slang. (積ん読) "Tsun-doku" came from (積んでおく)"tsunde-oku" (to pile things up ready for later and leave) and (読書) "dokusho" (reading books). It is also used to refer to books ready for reading later when they are on a bookshelf. As currently written, the word combines the characters for "pile up" (積) and the character for "read" (読).

I've realized how so much of all my productivity depends on my state of mind. There have been weeks and months where I've been a star at work, read more than ever before, cooked my heart out, squeezed in a travel plan and still not gotten tired. 2017 has been quite the opposite. Zero work. Zero learning. A fair bit of cooking, yes. Lots of days that seemed so difficult, even when there was nothing to accomplish.

I remember January 2017 being a great month for reading. I read 5 books, which is way more than my average reading pace. February, I was down to 2 books. March, half. The rest of the year, I was STILL trying to finish that half book. Come November, I tried to read again. It's been slow. That hasn't stopped me from buying more books or anybody else from gifting me more books. So I'm guessing 2018 will have to be the year where I pull my socks up, get those books out and DO something. Or so I hope.

Oishinbo is great great series! I don't know when exactly I discovered these. But they've been on my wishlist since. A friend was visiting home from USA in November and asked me if I'd like anything. I said no, but asked if he'd be happy to carry back a dozen or so books for me. He was nice about it. That's how Oishinbo, two books on edible histories (that I've written about later on in this post) and a cricket book made their way to Pune. The cricket book was lost at the Chennai airport. And the edible history books were finished the weekend they arrived (they're anniversary gifts to my husband and saying he's a voracious reader is an understatement). The seven volumes of Oishinbo I now own are, in fact, thematic compilations and jump back and forth in continuity, when compared with the original series.

Oishinbo is for me, my first manga read. I know friends (mostly men) who're manga fans and I never really got what the deal was about. Oishinbo, according to Wikipedia, is a portmanteau of the Japanese word for delicious, oishii, and the word for someone who loves to eat, kuishinbo. Sounds just like the stuff I love, right? Given that this was my first time reading, I was thrilled that the books read back to front and right to left! The first in the series is "Japanese Cuisine", followed by "Sake" and "Ramen & Gyoza", all the way ending with "Izakaya." The one thing that's been consistent with me all through this otherwise awful year is Japanese cuisine. I've experimented with ramen, pored over Rice Noodle Fish several times over (remember March through October?), taken Japanese lessons on Duolingo (I'm still nowhere close to completion), sent my first newsletter out in August and made it all about Japan (pity I never went past two issues, I'm hoping to change that soon). I'm done with the first part and have begun reading the second. The first was extremely interesting, in that it had slicing techniques, recipes and lots of cultural tidbits thrown in, along with the story. And I'm pretty sure all the other books are going to be a bunch of fun.

This set of books you see below are mostly unread, and mostly stuff that Suraj bought me this year. I did read Start Up Your Restaurant earlier this year and I'm also almost done reading Will Write for Food. Both books are very informative. The former is co-written by a food writer and an MBA grad turned restaurant entrepreneur. The book states a few simple and valid ways to make a restaurant work. It re-iterates these through the book so that they stick. It also outlines budget constraints and considerations for restaurants of different types - a food truck, a homely cafe, QSR, a high-end fine-dine setup... While I have no plans of opening a restaurant any time soon, the thought of doing so has occurred to me several times since 2015. What I hoped to achieve out of reading this book was some real-world perspective and some numbers that would help me gauge whether it is the right thing for me to do at this point in life. As it turns out, it's not. Though it's definitely a book you should consider picking up if you DO want to open a restaurant of your own.

Will Write for Food is another book I bought to understand the world of food writing better. I've often complained about the quality of food writing I've seen coming from Indians or people of Indian origin. I haven't had any success with people approving pitches I send them and therefore it seemed a little unfair on my part to complain. So then, I thought I'd read up on what food writing entails. A lot of important tips and tricks came out of reading the book. I've been making notes and doing some writing exercises as I go along and a lot of my opinions about the aforementioned food writing remain unchanged. Whether or not I can do anything to change that opinion or contribute in a way that others change any similar opinion that they might have is a goal for 2018. The book was first published in 2005, so some of the content seems a little dated in 2017 (despite edits and reprints as recent as 2015). But overall, I've learned a lot from what the book has to offer.

Food Swings is a self-published book by Yasra Khoker where she describes her 10 day holiday across three Indian cities. I'd have loved for the book to have short essays along with the water colours and sketches. Turns out, I'm currently working on a collection of regional recipes and including some essays, old photographs and sketches in it. Maybe I'll do a blog post on it by the end of the year or early next year, and take some feedback on my work so far.

I started reading Secret Ingredients sometime in October but didn't quite get beyond three articles and I've left it for another day (or year, perhaps).

The Flavour of Spice is next on my reading list, as soon as I'm done with Will Write for Food. It promises to be an interesting read.

K.T. Achaya's A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, Colleen Taylor Sen's Feasts and Fasts - A History of Food in India, Blood, Bones & Butter and The Devil in the Kitchen remain unread and I hope to get around to reading them in 2018, along with buying a few dozen new books, of course.

Will Write for Food mentions Blood, Bones & Butter a few times under fiction writing and I'm assuming it makes for some very good reading, so I'm quite excited about it. And I've been a Marco Pierre White fan for a few years now and The Devil in the Kitchen might very well end up being my new Kitchen Confidential.

I bought Gin and Whiskey for Suraj for our wedding anniversary. They're part of a much larger series of books called "A Global History." As it turns out, one of the other books in the series is Curry and it has been written by Colleen Taylor Sen, who, as you can see, has also written Feasts and Fasts. It almost makes me want to buy Curry now, but it might be a good idea to finish reading Feasts and Fasts before I do that.

Last in the set of books for 2017 are a couple of magazines and two cookbooks I missed in this post.

I wrote about The Bar Book and Gourmet Journeys in India in the post I've linked above. I've been flipping through pages of The Bar Book at bedtime these past couple of weeks, not quite reading it all in one go. It's very theoretical. And it's still quite enjoyable to read. This one's another one of the books that I'm putting on my to-read list for 2018. The sections of the book I've looked at remind me of my grandfather when he was fitter. He was a great connoisseur of cocktails and liqueurs and I seem to have been exposed to a lot of the good stuff as a kid (I wasn't allowed to drink any until I was 16).

The Landour Cookbook is a cute little book that a friend picked up for me from Mussourie. I haven't quite gotten around to reading the book just yet, but here's a little something that I've read about it (that gives me hope that it'll be a lovely little book). Plus, it's Ruskin Bond!

In the 1920s Mrs. Lucas, wife of the pastor of Kellogg Church in Landour joined Irene Parker, the wife of Allen Parker, principal of Woodstock School to form a reading club. They would meet every week at the new Community Centre (built in 1928) and soon created a cook book, sharing favourite recipes from the homes of the others living in the hillside.

Dill Magazine was a great buy! I asked a friend who was in USA on work to bring it for me. It is a collection of some heartfelt stories and some pretty amazing recipes around the noodle - how noodles vary across Asia in texture and thickness and how different cultures make them and cook with them differently. The same friend also brought Sushi - Making at Home for me. She picked it up from The Strand Bookstore for a dollar. The book contains some very beautiful pictures of sushi that one can make at home, but there is little to offer in terms of notes on technique that one might use to make sushi at home. As home chefs, we'd love a book that teaches us how to do it right, rather than just skip to Step 9 where we can make things looks pretty. Or that's what I think, at least. Anyway, for a dollar and the good thought that went into buying it, I really have no complaints.

And that's a wrap, I guess! Here's to a brighter 2018 filled with more books (read, and not just bought), lots of new learning in the kitchen, great food and back to getting my life back on track!

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