Title: Ginger and Ganesh: Adventures in Indian Cooking, Culture, and Love
Author: Nani Power
Release Date: May 17, 2011
Genre: Memoir, Cultural (South Asian), Foodie
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Nani Power has always loved Indian food, and she decides that she wants to learn it secrets. She puts out an ad on Craigslist looking for someone to teach her how to make authentic Indian food. Power receives many responses and begins going to the homes of different women to learn about the food and culture.
Ginger and Ganesh has a very intriguing premise: one woman, entering the homes of various Indian women, in order to learn and share in the art of making Indian food. From the beginning, the author seems determined and passionate. It’s clear that this isn’t some whim; Power connects with Indian food and culture on an almost spiritual level and has a deep yearning to learn it, to make it her own. The food, coupled with the different people she meets and telling their stories, seems like a lovely foodie memoir, with bits of culture sprinkled in for good measure.
Unfortunately, though, Ginger and Ganesh didn’t quite measure up as well as one would hope. While it is to be expected that a book such as this would be more a series of tightly connected essays about Power’s different experiences rather than a front-to-back memoir, the book feels very disparate. The author seems to jump around from topic to topic, and at times, it loses that overarching thread.
Additionally, Power spends much of the book lamenting about her divorce and focusing on her affair with an Indian man about half her age. While any memoir is going to have personal touches from the author, these storylines took away from the unifying narrative. It would have been much more intriguing if Power had delved into the lives of the women she meets, providing their stories as a background to the recipes they share with her.
The recipes are definitely interesting, and though I haven’t made any of them, they seem more authentic than what you can find in many “Indian” cookbooks. They have some editing issues, so I wouldn’t tackle them if you’re a beginner cook, but if you’re used to going with your instincts, you could probably make some great dishes out of the recipes Power provides. I’ll certainly be trying a few myself.
In the end, Ginger and Ganesh is in desperate need of some heavy-handed editing. It comes across as a jumbled mess, rather than a clean portrait of Power’s experiences in Indian kitchens. The premise of the memoir is wonderful, and Power’s passion is absolutely real, so it’s disappointing that the book didn’t quite live up to its promise. If you’re interested in the recipes, this is a book worth picking up, but if you just want the memoir portion, I’d look elsewhere.