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Customer reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
12
Ginger and Ganesh: Adventures in Indian Cooking, Culture, and Love
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on July 26, 2010
Nani Power's concept is smart and simple. Place an ad on Craigslist for Indians interested in teaching this middle aged, divorced mother of two how to cook proper Indian meals. But right from the beginning, it's clear the book is struggling for compelling content and the author is grasping at straws to deliver enough storyline to fill a hardcover printing.

The first 19 pages are a jumbled mess of ideas from Ms Power's long interest in cooking & longing for new foods to relationships, love, Feminism, spices and the Indian God Ganesh. Readers are repeatedly reminded how she is struggling to make ends meet on her writer salary all the while telling herself she is content at being alone (yet speaks about love and relationships incessantly). Add in the simple fact the author has not traveled to India, and it's hard to keep an unbiased opinion throughout the pages.

The recounting of her shared cooking experiences, the crux of the book, comes off as lightweight fodder. More detail into the lives of each teacher is lacking, a shame given the chance to learn so much more than just a recipe. As a writer, you would think Ms Power would be delving into a laundry list of conversation starters with her hosts, but she backs away stating her concern for Indian etiquette and customs.

Half way into the book an odd love story-arc is introduced. Clearly designed to keep female readers interested, the gist of her love for Indian food has now translated into an interest in Indian men. And as much as the 48 year old Ms Power professes countless times not to be a cougar, her relationship with a 20 something Indian college student appears to be nothing short of a codependent train wreck that both parties can't walk away from. The retelling of their nights of fighting, yelling, and unending phone calls proves to be as interesting as watching water boil.

Each teacher flits in and out of the author's life quicker than Uncle Ben's instant rice is finished. Although she writes as if it is the Indian women who move on or create obstacles to keep up the lessons, Ms Power's self mentioned past bares some weight in the failing of these relationships.

While a great idea, Ginger and Ganesh would have been better off as a brilliantly written magazine article or Sunday newspaper cover story. Instead, the bloated storyline is distracted with too much talk of not wanting to bring women back into the kitchen even as she admits it would be beneficial to the household on many levels. Oddly lost are her kids who are only briefly mentioned as guinea pigs during her Indian culinary crusade. Ms Power ultimately discovers that life with a young Indian man, however dysfunctional, is better than no relationship. And Ganesh, well he's just there as a symbol she seeks throughout the cooking lessons as a sign of comfort. It makes for a catchy title.

Ginger and Ganesh is a basket full of crazy which left me feeling sorry for the families who endured their time with the author. Skip this title if for nothing else, the bargain bin 1000 Greatest Indian Recipes found at nearly every corner bookshop.

© 2010 FullStopIndia.com India Travel Blog

A Better Read: Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes
9 helpful votes
10 helpful votes
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on August 13, 2013
An absolutely lovely book. As a memoir, it makes us aware of the author's life and made me respect her journey. And the recipes and explanations were wonderful. My husband and are thrilled with the techniques I learned from her. My favorite book on cooking!
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on July 28, 2014
Great Experience!
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on August 14, 2010
Is this a book about Indian cooking, or a Tammy Wynette dirge? This book never resolves its identity crisis, or pulls together harmoniously.

While we began approaching this book with keen interest and excitement, we unfortunately found ourselves beaten over the head over and over again with an ungainly admixture of the author's anguished, desperate, unsuccessful quest for personal meaning and fulfillment. How many times is it actually necessary in a single book, ostensibly on the subject of cooking, to groan about one's divorced status? At our house, we'd actually begun referring to the book as "the divorce book". Reading it, one feels uncomfortably like an invisible spectator during the author's therapy sessions.

And this is a real shame, because the proposition for the book is actually intriguing; and the author seems to have taken the project quite seriously and gained a good deal of experience and good information on the actual cooking.

All in all, we found it an uncomfortable book to read. While the project had a lot of potential, it seems the vision and editing necessary to make the book something really nice was missing.
11 helpful votes
12 helpful votes
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on August 24, 2010
I was very intrigued about this book. What a great idea....so much potential! Unfortunately the author ultimately failed to interest me. Both her writing style and the themes she choose to return to did not make a connection with me. I'm hoping that the recipes themselves are worth the price of this book. What an opportunity squandered! I would have loved to know more about the women themselves, about the details of the meals, how she felt when she cooked and ate them, more details about the main topic please! By the third chapter I found myself laughing out loud at the silliness and often child like wording the 'author' used. I was hoping this would be a bit more like "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg, which was lovely, unfortunately this fell way short of the mark.
3 helpful votes
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on January 28, 2011
As a memoir, this is a terrible book. The author is the last person whose life is of any interest to me, and, I suspect, lots of other people. Her lust for the 20 year old Indian student, which she interprets as great and meaningful, is, to the reader, embarrassing at best.
On the other hand, the recipes are really good, far better than those in the obscure Indian cookbooks we find on Amazon with all the fake 5 star customer reviews. The recipes are, however, in the spirit of the rest of the book, atrociously edited.
Bottom line: if you are an experienced cook who can interpret badly written recipes and would like a nice collection of tasty Indian vegetarian recipes, this is a good book. Just skip the filler prose.
8 helpful votes
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on September 12, 2012
This could have been a great book, but was weakened by it's terrible editing. The first few chapters keep repeating themselves over and over, and then just as you think it's going to get into the meat of the story, i.e. the kitchens of Indian housewives, we are once again reminded that the author is single, divorced, two kids, etc. etc. Disappointing, as it's a great concept, and all the bones are there, but it just was not put together well.
1 helpful vote
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on May 11, 2011
I picked this book up at a library because the premise sounded really good. The author wants to learn about true traditional Indian cooking and places an ad on Craigslist offering money for lessons. Unfortunately, the book was just a mishmosh of her life struggles. What I wanted from the book was what she learned from those she encountered. At best, we are given fleeting descriptions (not much on culture), some great recipes, and way too much about her divorce status, her affair and struggles with an Indian college student, all while bemoaning the fact that no one cooks anymore. While I certainly want to know about her, I really wanted to know more about the Indian culture through their stories and her eyes. I got neither so I give the book two stars, not for the content of the book, but for the quality of the recipes.
3 helpful votes
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on January 22, 2012
I have been getting into Indian food of late, and found this a fun read. Granted, it does contain things that I don't normally read (touch of drama and pluralism), I found the story surrounding the food entertaining. Plus, there a lot to take away from Indian culture which a cookbook would never get into. Chaat for street food, rice for this part, breads to that, vegetarian for another; fresh spices vs store bought, and so on. I guess, I was expecting a cookbook, and got a bit of a story to support a cookbook.

I have never read through a whole "cookbook" before this. Kinda want to read another like it.
1 helpful vote
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on February 3, 2012
Absolutely delicious. I gave this to my friend for Christmas and within one month she invited me to a banquet of pakoras, Palak paneer, shashi, naan and mango lassi. Fabulous. She can also make dal. Sorry if my spelling is bad, but my eating is perfect. She will now teach me to make these dishes and I will never have to read the book. Epic win. My friend loved the prose, or at least the prose was eclipsed by the mad, new skills.
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