Sunday, May 04, 2008

My Bombay Kitchen: An Earnest Summation

As my loyal readers have figured out by now, I recently spent ten days cooking exclusively from Niloufer Ichaporia King's My Bombay Kitchen, which has been nominated for the James Beard Award for best Asian cookbook of 2007. Over that 10-day period, I prepared 42 recipes from the book, most good, a few magnificent, one absolutely vile. Here's how I would assess the dishes I made:

Flat-out bad: 1
So-so: 10
Good: 18
Great: 11
Worth the price of the book: 2

Having never assessed a cookbook this way before, I can't say if this is an outstanding score, or merely good. Amazingly, I made the best recipe in the book -- a heavenly cardamom cake -- the first night of this project. Justine, Isabel, and I sat at the dining room table and blissfully ate slice after slice, picked at crumbs, and looked at each other in wonder. I think I fell in love with the book right then, and expected more such experiences.

They didn't really come. I made some pretty terrific meals from My Bombay Kitchen, but none that could match the delirious high of the first night.

Does this matter? Is this a shortcoming of the book? Absolutely not, especially when you're talking about a volume that is as personal and soulful as this one. My Bombay Kitchen is about so much more than dazzling us with the recipes. Just as my cherished memory of eating cardamom cake with my sister and daughter is about so much more than cake.