Eat, Drink, Read: Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee

This month’s book club pick is a smart new novel about the high price of ambition, set in hurly-burly Bangalore, India. Spice up your next dine-and-debate with a zesty, flavorful bowl of chilled soup.

Reviewed by Katherine Russell Rich
Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee
Photograph: Photo by Avery Powell

Anjali Bose, the most luminous star of her business school, has a choice to make about her future: remain in her backwater Indian town and succumb to a stultifying arranged marriage or, at her professor’s urging, muster the nerve to move to dizzying, boom-time Bangalore. When an outing with a marriage applicant goes brutally wrong, she takes off for the city and a life of improvisation and risk.

It’s here, amid the glinting wonders of modern India, that this spirited tale of transformation really begins. Anjali walks wide eyed through a city where the streets are lined with swank boutiques, where women can associate with men who aren’t their relatives and where, for the financially anointed, apartments come with indoor swimming pools and maid service.

You can be anyone you want here, Anjali marvels as she falls in with the call-center crowd, the “Suzies” and “Brads” who’ve sharpened their English on Seinfeld and who make more money in a month than her father did in a year.

But Anjali’s sudden, euphoric rise to “it” girl is tempered by the sometimes sinister motives of her fellow strivers and by her own crime (as she perceives it) of “constant, heedless wanting.” As a tidal wave of riches comes crashing down around her, Anjali must rethink who she truly wants to be. In nuanced prose, Mukherjee vividly demonstrates what we all come to know but can easily forget: that even in a thriving consumer culture, transformation by money alone isn’t transformation at all.


Recipe: Chilled Mango- Papaya Soup

This Indian-accented sweet soup gets a touch of heat from the hot sauce and a lovely warm finish from the nutmeg. To make it a bit more substantial, you can top the soup with a few small shrimp that have been sautéed with salt, pepper and a little chile oil.

Serves 6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Chilling time: 2 hours

3 ripe papayas (1 pound each), peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
3 ripe mangoes (12 ounces each), peeled, pitted and roughly chopped
1¼ cups carrot juice
¾  cup coconut water
½ teaspoon salt
3–5 dashes of hot sauce (preferably Sriracha)
2–3 tablespoons heavy cream
¾ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves

1. In a blender or food processor, process the papayas, mangoes, carrot juice, coconut water and salt until smooth. Add hot sauce to taste. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until well chilled.
2. To serve, adjust seasonings to taste, and pour the soup into chilled bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of heavy cream and the nutmeg and basil.
—Monica Bhide



First Published Wed, 2011-03-30 13:11

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