This genius book by the writer duo and practicing surgeons Ishrat Syed and Kalpana Swaminathan explains why it's high time we take our home-cooked food seriously and make it healthy again while suggesting ways to achieve the same. But that's not it! It also takes you on a gastronomical journey explaining what happens to our bodies when we eat our food.
Reading Gastronama was initially worrisome and terrifying as it starts off with the dilemma of the pandemic and how badly it has affected our bodies, especially our immunity, and also gives strict remarks on our inability to cope with such a virus! But after a very few pages, it also tells you what one can do about it, and then the rest of the book revolves around this one line i.e. how to eat right and how this goal is achievable by doing simple changes in our home food; the way it is cooked as well as the way we eat it and choosing the best option for yourself.
"Our physiological state allowed this virus to invade, which would not have been this devastating otherwise. We felt pressurized to write it as our previous book, A Crown Of Thorns, revolved around the course of the pandemic and how the underlying pandemic of obesity, hypertension, and cardiac illness made this virus so devastating. So, we felt we had to complete the story there, and thus Gastronama was started with an aim to urge people to keep themselves healthy by controlling what they eat", said the duo.
What sets this book apart is its ability to educate readers without condescension. With a captivating prelude, 5 main chapters, and coda (conclusion), Gastronama is a complete 5-course meal capturing the essence of food in all its glorious forms, right from its prep to cooking it right. There is a lot of research and the book mentions the most recent case studies and relevant information along with some time-saving, healthy recipes to help you get started.
However, a big chunk of Gastronama talks about what happens to our bodies when we eat and explains the effect of the food on a cellular level. The first chapter definitely takes you on a roller coaster ride of how the body functions and explains concepts like energy and metabolic syndrome while talking about how terrible the pandemic was, how weak it has left us, and how it's high time we change our eating and cooking habits.
And that's true! Gastronama actually leaves you with a feeling that you have swallowed a lot of science, as every chapter leaves you in awe with information you probably had no idea about earlier! Why at times eating Dal make you feel gassy, why do we cry while cutting the onions, why do tomatoes quickly turn into a mush, how the heck does garlic have a neuropathic effect on fat metabolism, why do rice and potatoes not the villains, what happens to food when it burns or when you cook it for five minutes or ten minutes, and the list goes on and on, and on.
The third chapter is an enlightenment of all this and much more. It talks about the good and the bad sides of fats, sugar, rice, milk, proteins, carbs, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and more. Chapters 4 and 5 continue the tale covering teatime, lunch, dinner, breakfast, and more, suggesting ways you can add more nutrients to these meals as well as how one can save time by listing out cooking hacks and quick recipes.
"A lot of what we were writing about was something we had to actually produce in the kitchen because the proof is in the actual inaction of the act. Seeing if they actually work in the kitchen or not. It was the practical part of the book that excited us the most as it's about what readers can actually do, and we are glad that it is very much achievable if done right", the duo further added.
And the recipes do work! An omelet can be made with 2 drops of oil, you can give an aromatic Tadka to your dal in ghee/oil less than a teaspoon, and you definitely don't need deep-fried potato chips or samosas to satiate your teatime cravings!
In a nutshell, Gastronama is indeed a must-read book for every Indian who eats veg food. It won't just motivate you to eat right but will also help you achieve the same if you have made up your mind. The duo is thinking of writing a non-veg edition of the same, and we can't wait to devour it.