Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Stir it up by Ramin Ganeshram

This short novel is absolutely brilliant.  Anjali is a young girl living in New York.  Her family are from Trinidad and Anjali has a huge passion for cooking.  She helps out each evening in the family roti shop where she is allowed to experiment with her cooking ideas and occasionally even try these out on friendly regular customers. Anjali is a brilliant cook and she has a dream to one day host her own cooking show on television.

Anjali's parents, and especially her wonderful grandmother Deema, are happy to support this dream but they are also ambitious that their daughter attend a good school and to do this she needs to sit for a test to enter Stuyvesant High.  Deema takes Anjali to special cooking classes on Saturdays and one week she learns there will be a kids cooking show on television - think of Master Chef.  Anjali, with the help of a good friend,  makes a video and sends it into the competition.  She is asked to audition and this is a dream come true but there is a clash of dates with the High School test.  Naturally there is also a huge clash with her parents.

There are two kinds of recipes in this book.  Real ones for special food and recipes for life!  I read one review who thought kids would react badly to the food recipes because they contain ingredients that will be unfamiliar to many children but I loved this aspect of Stir it up.  We all need to expand our cultural horizons.  I knew nothing about food from Trinidad before reading this delicious book.  I may not cook the recipes but I can enjoy the experience of this spicy food through reading.

I am sure you can tell I loved Stir it up.  It is a quick and rewarding book and I especially enjoyed the realistic ending.  I won't spoil this but you might have guessed what happens.  I smiled all through this book because on my recent trip to New York city I visited the Chelsea Market where television cooking programs are filmed. (Anjali goes to Chelsea Market - can you guess why?)

The real recipes in this book include Red Bean Pudding, Aloo Pies, Deema's easy Curry Chicken and Jicama Watercress slaw.

Here is one of the life recipes :

Recipe for Ambition
4 parts desire
1 part hope
5 dashes moxie
3 cups plans, well laid
1. Pour the desire into a heavy pot placed over high heat.  Allow it to come to a hard boil and add the hope. Stir well and lower the heat to a simmer.
2. When the mixture begins to thicken, add the moxie and mix rapidly, using a whisk. Remove from the heat.
3. Allow the mixture to cool until it is no longer steaming but still hot to the touch.  Carefully fold in the well-laid plans until completely combined.
4. Pour into a heavy ceramic dish and allow to gel.

You can read a good review here and here.  If you enjoy this book you might also look for Thai-riffic.

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