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Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  674 ratings  ·  98 reviews
Shoba Narayan's Monsoon Diary weaves a fascinating food narrative that combines delectable Indian recipes with tales from her life, stories of her delightfully eccentric family, and musings about Indian culture.

Narayan recounts her childhood in South India, her college days in America, her arranged marriage, and visits from her parents and in-laws to her home in New York C
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Random House Trade (first published April 15th 2003)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  674 ratings  ·  98 reviews

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N.N. Light
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I had a hard time getting into this book. It took four different times for me to get through it. I don't think it was the writing per se but the subject matter. I wasn't the right reader for this one.

My Rating: 3 stars
May 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
A really personal look at growing up in India and what it means to be an outsider living and studying in the United Sates, this book gives its readers a comic but movingly accurate version of things we can all relate to and choices we all have to make. Narayan gives us mouth-watering glimpses of Indian food (and how to make it) as she tells her tale, imprinted so deeply with the spices, smells, textures, and tastes of Indian cooking. With each recipe, Narayan provides a myth that relates to and/ ...more
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, food
It was a scrumptious feast. I gobbled up the book from cover to cover. It deals with the South Indian food culture of 70's and 80's. I could connect with most of the facts mentioned in the book as the author describes her South Indian Tamil Brahmin heritage well. The book starts with early childhood memories when she was in the care of her maternal grandparents in Coimbatore, then it moves on to her parents' place in Madras, with a few forays into her father's ancenstral house in Kerala. Later o ...more
Aug 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
A sweetly hilarious account of cross-cultural cuisine and tradition as narrated by an upper-middle class Indian woman. While I enjoyed the cultural high lights, I couldn't help but notice the absolute lack of criticism regarding certain customs, right down to her author's refusal to even acknowledge the limitations of them. A quick, entertaining read-- it's really more 3.5. ...more
Sudha Srivalsan
Dec 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started browsing the book like any other recipe books. But found myself carried over by the simple style and narrative details. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Set in a South Indian family, I could relate to every bit of information Shoba had mentioned. Interesting read - Nostalgic:)
Apr 20, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Ruth Reichl lovers
Basically a love story between author and her privileged upbringing.

Recipes at the end of each chapter.
Jul 25, 2021 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the first part of this book about the author growing up in India, her quirky extended family and her time at Mount Holeyoke college. The recipes are fun to read and easy to follow. But the book kind of declined in quality once she begins narrating about her married life. I am not questioning her life choices but I could sense she was privileged to be able to decline a graduate degree, return to India and marry a US based finance professional from a high-ranking Indian family. I ...more
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
2020 bk 19. This book is a series of flashbacks to important times and places in the author's early life. The time period spans the 1970's - 1980's, the years of her childhood through grad school. Interspersed are some of her favorite foods that play an important role in the flashbacks. If you want a travel guide to India, this is not it. If you want a span of 60-80 years of life time, this is not it. What it is, is a delightful look back at the innocence of youth, the memories of home (no matte ...more
Sindhuja Ravichandran
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Savored every page of this book. A memoir paying an ode to spices and everyday dishes whipped up in a South Indian's kitchen. ...more
Jul 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a narrative memoir of Shoba Narayan’s nostalgic reminiscence of her childhood to adulthood. She writes the recipes of foods described in her book relating them to various stages of her life. She starts with the first meal of a six month old infant, her early childhood at her maternal grandparents’ house in a small town where her grandmother made vatrals and vadams with the help of her maid, Maariamma; the pets at her home and the effect of diet on the nature of an animal. She explai ...more
Jul 11, 2008 rated it liked it
This is not the type of book I would normally pick up to read. However, I noticed a friend liked it and thought I'd try something different. I'm glad I did. I identify with the author in that many of my own memories are tied to food. The book made me want to try to make some of my grandma's recipes that we rely on her to make for holidays. That being said, I don't have great inspiration to try the recipes in the book but that's OK. The book wasn't so much about the recipes as how the food can br ...more
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shoba writes a charming memoir of growing up in a multi-generational family life in Southern India and her closeness to nature that imbued her with an appreciation for the fruits and foods of her native land. In transplanting herself to America, via her food prowess Shoba carries the enthusiasm she saw in her parents approach to life and learning and you cannot but help to applaud her willingness to embrace a new culture. The beautifully described food preparation passages made my mouth wa
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
I suppose this one can be read as the story of a person with immense potential who got bogged down by the traditions ruling her life. Readable in the voyeuristic sense of glimpsing into someone's life. ...more
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes to eat
This lovely memoir/cookbook is a wonderful read-aloud book, full of the sensations, sounds and flavours of Narayan's memories of growing up in southern India. Each chapter ends with a recipe inspired by the memory.

Before reading the book, we had completely forgotten about flattened rice until reading Shoba Narayan's recipe for poha. As I read about the dish, there were sudden cries of, "Chura!! I love chura!!"

It turns out that poha is simply yet another name for flattened rice (aka pressed rice
Sandra de Helen
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Last year I read The Milk Lady of Bangalore and it turned out to be one of my favorite books of 2018. Naturally, I wanted to read more of Narayan’s writings, and I started with her first book, this memoir with recipes. In it, she describes her growing up in India (she is Tamil), including all her favorite foods, going away to the US for college, and cooking here. She planned to be a journalist, but studied art along the way, returning to India after completing her work for her master’s degree, w ...more
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the Monsoon Diary immensely. We all have our stories of food- of how we made a particular dish- who ate it - and what was our emotional journey on it. It is like coming of age stories, and I enjoyed reading about her story as a south Indian woman - her closeness to her family - her journey to the USA and trying to prove herself. I loved her story on upma- how she worked hard on making so many different dishes for a fundraiser, and when she failed, she quickly cooked upma- that was hot, ...more
Rob Landerman
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I was a big fan of Milk Lady of Bangalore, so I just bought this in paperback. I love Shoba's writing. It is engrossing and fun. I enjoy getting to learn about parts of another culture I know nothing about and to get recipes in context that I can enjoy and appreciate even more. It's an easy read, and each story is beautiful in its own way. I've already cooked a few of the recipes, and this is the Indian food I've longed for, not the British stuff passed off as Indian food in r ...more
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book drew me in. Part memoir, part cookbook, a fascinating read. Narayan shares stories of her childhood in India, about moving to the US for college (and the struggle it took her to get there), her journey in the US. Just a fantastic read and made me miss India dearly, and understand a bit more about her journey. Great read.
Sreejit Narayan
Nov 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superlative read! Being a malayali myself, it was a nostalgic trip down memory lane with every sentence evoking strong memories of years gone by. Life during 80's and 90's were exactly how it's being written in the book. Thank you Ms. Shoba for giving us this gem of a book to read. ...more
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable memoir. The interspersed recipes were fun, and I may try a few out.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
A lovely but short memoir of growing up in India. Great recipes and stories included.
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Nice read. I like how the recipes came after they were explained in her life. I'm looking forward to making the recipes in this, most of which I'm unfamiliar with, even though I am Indian. ...more
Jan Norton
Nov 21, 2019 rated it liked it
It was interesting to read of life in another coulture and the adjustments to the American culture.
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Lovely descriptions of a woman's grown-up in a very different culture. Loved the recipes and food slant! ...more
Jen Shapiro
Dec 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I could not stop reading this book. Every scene and story was so vivid in my mind’s eye. A great memoir.
Mar 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
I love books with recipes.
Hannah Im
Aug 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Read it before the book hit the shelves (got to meet the author at an event). Read it in one sitting. Remember it as very sweet and sweetly satisfying.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Only three stars because, while a good read as far as the "memoir" goes, the recipes are a bit disappointing. First, the authoress foolishly assumes that everyone has access to an Indian grocery that sells everything from concentrated tamarind to fresh curry leaves. As an expat herself, she really ought to know better--and offer some suggestions for substitutions or methods to make one's own chaat mixes etc. Yes I know there are other sources for such things, and it's a good thing I do know it. ...more
Tom M.
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Monsoon Diary is a somewhat strange book in that it tries to be a great many things without necessarily succeeding at any of them all that well. Part memoir of growing up in southern India, part journey to America, part life as a college artist, part arranged marriage, part foodie porn, part recipe, Shoba Narayan gives the reader glimpses of the many aspects of her life, but there is a lack of depth to each that made Monsoon Diary a bit of a disappointment to me.

At the same time, however, I enj
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