India on My Platter by Saransh Goila is the journey of a young chef across length and breadth of India. Primarily with an aim to discover the diversity of culinary traditions. I had no idea who the author is till I picked up the book to read but then discovered that Saransh Goila is quite a celebrity in the Food world – and quite an achiever at a young age of 28. Hope the quest he has taken continues. And he travels around the world to find culinary delights for us, though I also believe that India is a- world in itself, you cannot explore it in one lifetime.
The book India on My Platter is based on a Show that the author did by the name ‘ Roti, Rasta aur India’ for a Food channel. Run by famous chef Sanjeev Kapoor. In a way, Saransh Goila is a protégé of Kapoor. Sanjeev Kapoor has also written a foreword for the book. The author went on a 100-day journey across India and sampled food from various parts of the country while also cooking for the hosts who fed him and taught him some marquee and traditional recipes. Now, to do that kind of travel at 25 is an incredible thing. The way it would open up one’s mind to the immense potential of the country and the universe is irreversible.
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Saransh only scratched the surface, as far as content is concerned. He took things on the face-value or was driven by the PR agenda at times. As someone who has traveled to almost all the places he covers, there were still a few new eateries and delicacies that I discovered through this book. Being a vegetarian, I cannot comment on the non-vegetarian dishes. But have tasted almost all vegetarian dishes and much more. I must say in a given time constraint, the author, and his producers did a fantastic job of covering India. Even though some parts of Tamil Nadu and NE states get left out and so do the islands like Andamans. Being a non-cook, I skipped most recipes, though the names of recipes sounded good and I am sure it is something all those who love to cook would like to pick up.
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The author comes across an affable boy next door, who, a la Bollywood hero who misses his mother and the rest of the family at every step and cannot wait to eat ‘Ma Ka Khana’. He touches everyone’s feet and seeks their blessings, almost following a script to etch an image. Even when you know he was not really traveling alone and had all the support system to make him travel comfortably. He had all his appointments fixed for him and even all the stuff arranged for his cooking. He makes you feel as if he has been traveling alone on his own. I liked the naivety that comes across in the simple narrative. I never forgot he is a young man who is a chef first, a traveler next, and after that a writer. Having said that, his writing is better than many professional writers of this age.
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There are some editorial mistakes and some data mistakes. For example, the author mentions the long journey between Kullu & Manali – really? The same is true for distances mentioned in Goa. Saransh Goila has written the book in the first person, but at places, the third person creeps in. There are spelling mistakes but I would give it a miss as they are a given these days.
India on My Platter is a very easy-to-read book, almost like Food 101 in India. I enjoyed the first part and after a while, it kind of gets predictable and repetitive. Must say I had a tinge of envy for the kind of travel Saransh got to do. I know it would have been extremely taxing but then when do experiences come without a cost?
Pick this food cum travel book for a breezy tour of India. And to learn a mix of authentic and experimental recipes.