Book Review: Feast - With a Taste of Amir Khusro by Bisma Tirmizi


ISBN:  978-8129149015

Genre: Fiction 

Publishers: Rupa Publications

Price: Rs. 295/-  ( I got the book for review from the publisher)
Behind the Book

‘Stories and food remain the same, only faces change and those too only vaguely. The same faces keep coming back every few generations to eat the same food and live out the same stories.’

Ayesha realizes that her relationship with food has made her obese and this realization takes her on a journey of self-discovery where she learns to fall in love with food not through gluttony, but by understanding its sensuous journey and evolution. In her life, feast runs parallel to the tales of people and sometimes becomes the cerebral voice relating its journey over time and regions, telling stories of the people to whom it provides nourishment and nurturing.

Travelling in time, Ayesha and Feast present scenarios of hospitality, generosity and warmth of the people of the subcontinent; through seasons, traditions and celebrations. Soon Ayesha comes to appreciate how food brings with it interesting stories, tying various emotions together—celebratory, jubilant, sorrowful and the ordinary. The history of regional cuisine, the multitude of tastes and flavours and the passions they evoke, have a deep impact on Ayesha. She eventually comes to understand that her primary relationship is with food and until that is not healthy, nothing else will be.

Away from Ayesha’s voice, Tirmizi’s account is often omniscient, telling tales of a different time, stepping into another past and then jumping to the present, voicing the evolution of food and its impact on Ayesha and the relationships she has with others.

Additionally, mouth-watering recipes of traditional dishes from the subcontinent make for a delightful read. In Tirmizi’s deft hands, Feast is as a feast should be: endearing and unputdownable.

Evocative, engaging and a feast in itself, this book traces the importance of our regional cuisines and ties them with memory, emotion and familial bonds. Bisma’s narrative presents painstakingly collated recipes of our favourite food items but takes us beyond the culinary senses into more complex territories of self-discovery, time travel and search for fulfillment. Above all, it is also a testament to how food connects and remains an unappreciated binding force in a region bruised by never-ending conflict.—Raza Rumi, author, journalist and Editor, Daily Times

A love story goes to the heart. Good food tickles the palate. Combined, they touch the soul. Peppered with recipes and stories of how they evolved, the delicacy that emerges is a ‘culinary romance’ that is irresistible. Bisma Tirmizi is outstanding here!—Zubeida Mustafa, Winner of Lifetime Achievement Award, International Women Media Foundation, Former Assistant Editor, Dawn

You need to be a dedicated Biryani-foodie to go through this imaginative chronicle.—Bapsi Sidhwa, author

A fascinating account of life and cuisine in the subcontinent, Bisma’s first book is a welcome diversion from the dark times we live in.—Ayesha Azfar, Assistant Editor, Dawn

About the Author
Bisma Tirmizi has been a storyteller for twenty-seven years, first as an employee at The Herald Group of Publications for over six years in the capacity of a sub-editor and then as a freelance journalist. She has penned over five hundred articles and has been published in Dawn, The News, The Express Tribune and Buzzfeed, among many others. Her musings over a cup of tea almost always find their way to be the written word, either in the form of an article, story, commentary and now a book.

Tirmizi has been writing ‘Food Stories’ for for over four years and has been enjoying food forever. This is her debut novel, sketching an elemental love story between us and our unique, nurturing and, at times, obsessive relationship with food and the social relationships surrounding it.

She lives in Las Vegas, United States.

Reading this book has been a walk down the memory lane for me. There were so many places where I couldn't stop my tears remembering memories associated with it. I have lost count of the number of calls I made to my family whilst going through this book. Each and every occasion is replete with some dish associated with a certain loved one and then its an avalanche of memories. This book is a heart warming read that reminds you how food binds us together for generations.

Written in a part memoir form, part diary style narrative this book comes across like that old diary running in the family which holds all the secret recipes and also the different traditions to be followed on each occasion. My mother has one, where apart from her secret recipes she would scribble important dates like birthday, anniversary etc and also mention their favourite dishes next to it. Just in case they drop in any time, their favourite food is always there to welcome them. I also faintly remember how she also noted allergies or prohibitions due to health. She always wanted family times to be filled with lip-smacking dishes, one that does only good to both the heart and body. This book for me was reminiscent of such times.

The language in this book is "delicious" if I can say so, because it makes the people, the food, the place and those times come alive before your eyes. I think this book should have carried a small note "Don't read on empty stomach." Gosh! The number of times I have succumbed to midnight snacking while reading the book! On a serious note, the book makes you feel like you are part of an inner circle where the family secrets have been shared with you, along with some beautiful moments of their lives. Some of them can be called life altering narratives, where there is difference of opinion, arguments but in the end it is all good, with yummy food around. Isn't that what a family is all about? We argue, we fight but we stay together because of the love we have for each other and celebrate that love with food.

This is a soul-stirring read. The pages take you to childhood spent in grandparents' house where all that you wanted was cooked for you every day, to that day when your birthday was synonymous with gajar ka halwa, when gulab jamun meant some distant cousin has cleared their exam with flying colours. From tracing the origin of biryani to today's times when the type of biryanis have grown manifold, the author has done a wonderful job at bringing it all together with the magic of her words. Days after having finished the book, the various recipes mentioned therein are still floating in my head and I am trying them all out one by one. This book will have a special place on my bookshelf.

Strongly recommended to all foodies and all those souls like me for who me food is a feeling, an emotion. This book isn't just another book on food, it is an emotion, an amalgamation of all those feelings we associate with food. Don't miss this one!

P.S: I have already made a list of people whom I going to gift this one, more as a keepsake and a token of love in memory of all the good times!
Foodie Verdict
This is one book where I feel my foodie verdict fails. This book is beyond this verdict to be honest but as is the ritual I will still go ahead.

This book is like Moz Ka meetha (mashed bananas cooked in sugar syrup and garnished with mixed nuts) - Melts in the mouth and warms your heart, soul and tummy!

Source: Outlook Traveller