365 Books Worth Reading: #2 Raghavan Iyer's "660 Curries"

Sharon July 30th, 2009

I have a peeve about non-vegetarian ethnic cookbooks published in America.  Despite the fact that almost no culture on the planet eats as much meat as Americans, the format for ethnic cookbooks rarely varies, unless they are specifically vegetarian – the main course chapters procede through a largish collection of each kind of meat recipe, finally alighting on “vegetable and legume” dishes. 

What’s wrong with this is that it gives you a deeply false perception of other people’s cuisines – Americans don’t necessarily know that the 11 recipes for beef are pretty much all the mainstream recipes for beef in the entire culture, say, because beef  isn’t eaten that often, whereas the 11 recipes for vegetables and legumes barely touch the surface of the deep variety of vegetable and legume cooking.  But because we “know” that Americans don’t eat nearly as many main course vegetable dishes, we know that we only can include one chapter on vegetables.

Which brings me to why I love Raghavan Iyer’s _660 Curries_ – yes, it has plenty of recipes for high value foods and meats, but in a book with close to a thousand actual recipes (there are breads, desserts and sauces added in), the bulk of the book is everyday food – vegetables and legumes, and a real variety, not just two ways to cook broccoli.  Don’t get me wrong – I eat meat that is raised on my own farm, and I’m happy to have good Indian recipes to use with our meats.  But what I really need are more recipes for simple foods out of my garden and pantry, and this is it.  Morel Mushrooms (the one mushroom I forage regularly) with Green Peas are spectacular; Red Amaranth and Spinach with Coconut Chile Sauce will be a regular at our house and Red Lentils with caramelized onion sauce is a new obsession. The food is good and the perspective is useful.  What’s not to love?


2 Responses to “365 Books Worth Reading: #2 Raghavan Iyer's "660 Curries"”

  1. (: Sunshine :) says:

    I agree, most cookbooks have mostly meat recipes – and the recipes have SO MUCH meat! I look at the amount per serving & I think “Wow, that’s enough for four or five portions for me”.

    (I’m used to Asian cooking, where a single piece of chicken was good for four or five meals and a pound of hamburger was a lot for a BIG pot of soup.)

    I have my own bookstore (Yay Independent! :) ) of both new & secondhand books, and the only new cookbooks I bring in are vegetarian or vegan only.

    I do carry secondhand cookbooks of all kinds, and there is another bookstore a stone’s throw away that has a culinary section at least twelve times the size of mine – so customers certainly have lots of easy choices – but I do try to encourage people to try more vegetarian or vegan cooking, even for a few extra meals a week.

    And on a personal bright note, :) my CSA farmer has just hooked up w a local meat farmer who is raising his animals ethically and organically & is working toward his certification.

    But I now (finally!) have a couple of chicken breasts, a couple of sirloin steaks, and a couple of pounds of hamburger in my freezer! Hooray!

    I don’t eat a lot of meat (mostly environmental reasons), but I do eat some (& enjoy it!) & I don’t buy industrial meat … so I’ve been trying to stretch out any meat cravings w eggs. Now I gots LOTS! :)

    I’m very happy. :) Not sure what I’ll do with it all, but it’s nice to know it’s there. :)

    PS – Thanks for the book recommendations, Sharon! :)

  2. Sarah says:

    Red lentils with caramelized onions?


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