the guardian Sat 28 February 2009
Wondering what "authenticity" in Indian cuisine means today, Chitrita Banerji sets off to explore diversity. She starts in Bengal, merging accounts of freshwater fish and wedding ritual with childhood memories. Elsewhere, she eschews fancy restaurants for street stalls and family kitchens. She's sad to find road builders eating "ersatz Chinese" food; mourns the near disappearance of the community of Indian Jews and their culinary traditions; is impressed by the machinery which enables the Golden Temple of Amritsar to feed 30,000 people free each day. She tells of cultural tradition and exchange through anecdote and etymology (so Goa's "vindaloo" takes its name from the Portuguese for wine and garlic). In Benares she watches exiled Hindu widows, denied remarriage, enjoyment and a huge range of food. In defiance she heads for the city's "secular realm", where, in a backstreet: "I came across a preparation of cooked potatoes seasoned with hot, molten, clarified butter, a dollop of yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro and a dash of syrup. The taste was eclectic and delicious".