Tag Archives: India

Fantastic Voyage India

Like my colleague Melissa, I too recently purchased a house and have been spending my current vacation packing, mending, gardening, painting, and fist-shaking. I need a vacation from my vacation. Luckily, before leaving the library last Sunday I had the foresight to check out a few DVDs to watch during needed packing breaks. In anticipation of the new Wes Anderson movie coming out soon, I decided to re-watch his 2007 film The Darjeeling Limited. Then after reading the short essay accompanying the disc I decided to check out Mr. Anderson’s inspirations for the film: The River by Jean Renoir, Kanchanjangha by Satyajit Ray, and the documentaries Phantom India & Calcutta by Louis Malle.

The Darjeeling Limited was not one Anderson’s best reviewed films, but along with the short film Hotel Chevalier that precedes it (side note: it’s probably the only film in which I’ve ever liked Natalie Portman), it is full of charming sets and lovely music. Like his other films, delight can be found in the details, such as a carefully laminated trip itinerary, a can of pepper spray, a matching set of animal print suitcases, an escaped tiger, and Owen Wilson’s face covered in bandages for the entire film. It is definitely worth a viewing–or re-viewing, if you’re like me.

The River is also worth checking out, if for no other reason than the striking Technicolor visuals. Filmed entirely in India in the late 1940s and released in America in 1951, it was a highly unusual movie for its time. Not only was it shot entirely on location using a mostly nonprofessional cast and crew, but it also had a nontraditional plot for its time. The India in this film is not full of action & adventure, or tigers & elephants. Instead it tells an almost mystical tale of love, death, and rebirth, and meanders from here to there in much the same way as the river of its title. The acting from the nonprofessional actors is a little odd and stilted, but there are some lovely scenes in the film, my favorite being a fantasy sequence that tells the story of Krishna:

I still have four days of vacation left, and plan to continue my travels through India with the films of Satyajit Ray and Louis Malle, and one of my favorite radio programs, Music From India.  How about you? What foreign countries do you like to visit through film?

Packing and unpacking,


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Winter Retreat

I set the professional achievement bar way too high for myself most of the time, and then I get extra-wacky during the holiday season trying to create the perfect Christmas while simultaneously trying to be the perfect librarian.  This is why I save a chunk of my vacation time for December and spend the greater portion of a week in my pajamas, selfishly ignoring everybody’s needs but my own.  At some point I’m considering experimenting with this “moderation” concept I’ve heard about, but today will not be that day.  Tomorrow’s not looking good either.

On the bright side, I took the suggestion many commenters offered on a previous post and ordered myself a copy of Shantaram. Reading this novel has been like falling into the deep blue sea; I find myself swimming around Lin’s world, agog with wonder at the sights and smells of India, rejoicing and sorrowing with the hero as he walks the fine line between sunshine and shadow. A man with a past, trying to forgive himself and build a future, is the perfect kind of hero for the darkest nights of the year; experiencing Lin’s journey makes my own seem easier, even though my own is decidedly plebeian, by comparison.

So I hope you’ll pardon me if, just this one time, I don’t answer your comments in a timely fashion.  I’m going to spend some time alone, absorbed in a good book, lowering my holiday expectations, and soaking up the lessons long nights of darkness can teach. May your own journey back to balance and wholeness be as quiet and calm.

–Leigh Anne

who wishes you the happiest of whatever holidays you celebrate


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A Taste of India

On Saturday, December 12, from 2:00-3:15 PM, the Library will “Celebrate India” with a program featuring information and entertainment about the food and culture of this diverse country. In preparation for this event, library staff from various departments have been preparing booklists (and video and music lists) to showcase Indian materials owned by the library. What follows is one of those lists, Indian cookbook recommendations prepared for the occasion.

The Bollywood CookbookThe Bollywood Cookbook by Bulbul Mankani
The hottest stars from the Bollywood scene share their favorites dishes. Each chapter includes a short biographical sketch of the actor. An essentials section covers recipes for basic ingredients such as ginger paste, ghee, roti, and garam masala.
The Calcutta KitchenThe Calcutta Kitchen by Simon Parkes
This exquisite book covers the subject of Bengali cuisine, which is rarely found unless you are invited to dine at a private home. Chapters cover cosmopolitan Calcutta, sweets, vegetarian dishes, as well as rituals and celebrations.
Complete Book of Indian CookingComplete Book of Indian Cooking: 350 Recipes from the Regions of India by Suneeta Vaswani
If you are looking to truly understand and cook Indian cuisine, this book will prove to be indispensible.  It begins with common ingredients, spices & herbs (including spice blends), basic techniques, hints and tips. Each chapter covers one area of food—appetizers, fish, salads, meats, and sweets—and then is further broken down into regions—north, south, east, and west.
India's Vegetarian CookeryIndia’s Vegetarian Cookery by Monisha Bharadwaj
Vegetarianism is a way of life for most of those who live in India.  The variety and depth of vegetarian cuisine in each region of India is covered in this comprehensive book which shows that eating without meat is healthy, interesting, and exciting.

Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian CookingMadhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey
You can’t have a booklist on Indian food without including Madhur Jaffrey. For many, she was the first to introduce the home cook to the idea of making Indian fare. This is one of her latest and includes over 70 recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less.  This book also contains a suggested list for a well-stocked pantry as well as menus for both family meals and entertaining.
Meena Pathak Celebrates Indian CookingMeena Pathak Celebrates Indian Cooking by Meena Pathak
No long, drawn out, hard to prepare recipes in this book. Ms. Pathak covers traditional Indian recipes along with more innovative fusion dishes to introduce readers to the wonders of her native cuisine.

My Bombay KitchenMy Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking by Niloufer Ichaporia King
Part recipes and part memoir, this cookbook is as much fun to read as it is to use for food preparation and contains over 165 recipes. Also the first book on Parsi cooking published in the United States written by a Parsi.


Six SpicesSix Spices: A Simple Concept of Indian Cooking by Neeta Saluja
One of the most daunting aspects of making Indian food for the first time is working with the spices and other unfamiliar ingredients that form the basics of the cuisine.  This book attempts to break through that barrier by presenting several of these techniques and devoting a chapter to each, such as cooking with powdered spices, seasoning with ghee, and cooking with curry paste. Each chapter includes at least a dozen recipes so you can try out and hone your newfound skills.

Please check the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh web site in the next week or so for more information about this upcoming celebration of India.


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