June 8

Book Review: Thirty Days of Daal

Rating: ♦♦♦♦◊ (Four Diamonds)

30 Days of Daal – Simple, Healthy Daal Recipes from India by Pragati Bidkar is a cook book, but not ordinary in any sense of the word.  The author clearly knows her stuff, and communicates it well for a non-Indian like myself.

I love Indian food, and dal is one of the staples.  (Yers, I spell it with one “a.”  As the author notes, it can be spelled wither way, or “dahl.” All can be considered correct, since the word is transliterated from Hindi.)  Yet for me, dal has been one of the most challenging dishes to make.  It never comes out quite right.  The texture tends to be mealy, and the flavor is never quite right.

“It’s easy!” my friend Gia told me years ago.  “You just [blah, blah, blah].”  Yeah, whatever.  Mine still doesn’t come out right.

30 Days of Daal  reveals the secrets of how to get that signature creamy texture, and discusses seasonings at length.  Then, as promised, it provides thirty different dal recipes, some of which are very different.  They include the classics, like Yellow Moong Daal, Palak Daal, Daal Makhani.  There are also some exciting new recipes that I’ve never seen before, like Daal Holhapuri (spicy Maratha-style dal) and Methi Daal (dal with fenugreek leaves).

More importantly, the author gives step-by-step instructions for each recipe.  She does presume some familiarity with Indian cooking, which I have but others may not.  There are also a few ingredients for which she doesn’t give English translations.  It’s possible that there are no English translations, though in my experience, the Brits named pretty much everything while they were there.  And there are occasional phrases that are unfamiliar to an American reader.  These shortcomings keep me from giving the book a five diamond rating.

Nevertheless, this is a great book for those with some familiarity with Indian cooking.  I enjoyed reading it, and I can’t wait to try every one of the recipes!

Best of all, at least at the moment, the book is available from Kindle FREE.  How much better could it get?

October 10

Let’s Start Talking

It’s time to start talking about the elephant in the living room.  I refer to our national mental health problem.  It’s not about mass shootings, though they are a symptom.  It’s not about the homeless, though they too are largely a symptom.  It’s about 1 in 4 Americans suffering from mental illness each year, and our inability to acknolwedge that there’s a problem.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson is a great place to begin the conversation.  In this series of essays and blog posts, Lawson explores her own mental illness, as well as society’s reaction to mental illness.  The book is hilarious, and also enlightening.  I’m listening to the audiobook, narrated by the author, and it is extremely listenable.  It’s also available on Kindle, although this is one of the few books in which the performance makes it hard to imagine “merely” reading it.

From the description:

Furiously Happy is about “taking those moments when things are fine and making them amazing, because those moments are what make us who we are, and they’re the same moments we take into battle with us when our brains declare war on our very existence. It’s the difference between “surviving life” and “living life”. It’s the difference between “taking a shower” and “teaching your monkey butler how to shampoo your hair.” It’s the difference between being “sane” and being “furiously happy.”

There’s plenty of mention that most of those who live with mental illness “suffer in darkness.”  There’s the note that cancer sufferers get recognized when they survive, but those with severe depression often get ostracized when they survive.

And there’s plenty of profanity, but get over it.  This book is worth a little discomfort, whether at the subject matter or her colorful language.