Top critical review
Gongura pachadi indeed!
on 26 November 2017
This book has just been delivered to me. My usual practice with such books is to go straight to the sections that I am already familiar with, the assumption being that if these sections stand up to what I know for a fact, the authenticity of the rest of the book can be taken for granted. So I quickly went to the section on Andhra Pradesh (p. 262-3) and found (i) over-generalisations and simplifications (reading the section, a Martian can be forgiven for coming away with the impression that the Andhra people survived on eating gongura alone! To say that gongura is an ‘essential’ ingredient in Andhra cuisine is about as valid as saying that the Russians lived on caviar), (ii) casualness of colonial proportions in getting the Telugu names right: ‘koraivikaram’ should be ‘korivikaram’ and it does not translate as ‘flaming stick’ (a close approximation may be 'a chilly concoction as hot as a burning stick’) and avikkai’ should be ‘avakai’ and (iii) worse, plainly wrong information: ‘koraivikaram’, as the author spells it, is not the ‘hottest chilli’ as she would have it, but a pickle made of red hot chillies; statements like ‘A typical meal among the poor is gongura with boiled rice...’ or that avakai is 'so hot that it has sent unsuspecting visitors to hospital’ seem frivolous.
I hope the author does a better job of getting her facts right in the rest of the book, but I am afraid I won't be able to know: reading just those two paragraphs has unfortunately put me off the book for good. To quote a gastronomic proverb that the Andhra people use frequently, "You don’t need to taste the whole pot of rice to check whether it is cooked well; a couple of grains will do!"