'Highway on my Plate' book review ...for the armchair traveller


I finished the book 'Highway on my Plate' last night. Ironically while lying flat on the bed. My back has been acting up again. Not being able to write irritates me. Makes me cranky. Almost like when I am hungry. Almost.

What makes it worse is that I have come back with so many stories from Kolkata. Of photographing mishti while I was dying of hunger, of stumbling onto ponds and the Gandhi Bhavan at Ultadanga, a Highway on the Plate lunch at 5 pm at Sanjha Chulha, of getting to know the phuchkawallahs outside South City Mall, of the lemon tart at Kookie Jar at South City and the guy at the counter who smiled in recognition, of the young lady who came and introduced herself to me as a reader in the middle of the Park Street Metro station, of a rites of passage long delayed at Oly Pub - the fantastic food and the secret behind the men in the ladies' toilet there, Someplace Else for a nightcap and reliving fond memories in the compnay of new friends, of food food and more food cooked by mom, a visit to Grand Parents and the pain of eating kochuri alu and mishti ordered from a shop... a pain which would be microscopic compared to what granny (Didu) would have felt at mnot being able to cook something for me... old age is bloody cruel, of the seven packs of Mokhorochak Chanachur I carried back and of a last impromptu stop at Nizam's at VIP Road to pick up rolls and biriyani on the way to Mumbai and a photo shoot that followed.

The stories will be told. Till then check out this album from the Finely Chopped Facebook page for some photos of my trip.

And how was the book?

Well 'Highway on My Plate' on NDTV Goodlife is the only Indian food and travel show that I like. Harsha Bhogle's too but then he hardly eats. I know of people who are are surprised about my choice of HOMP. "There are too loud". "The food they like doesn't look appetising enough". "They like everything" "It is not a food show." "It is not all about food"

Well, nor is Finely Chopped.

What I like is that  the hosts, Rocky & Mayur, bring in a lot of energy to the show. They look like they are enjoying what they are doing. They are spontaneous. That they travel to all parts of the country. That they are not food snobs. That they are fellow 'grunge eaters'. And yes, they do take some getting used to. Their humour is over the top, but they make no qualms or pretenses about that. And, as a reader pointed out, one is a non vegetarian and the other a vegetarian so you get both sides of the story. The vegetarian, as always, gets bullied.

And how was the book?

Well it was almost like a Lonely Planet of food. The scope of the book was huge and therefore it lacks in depth. The book covers just 2,3 eats in a place. In one or two paras each. But manages to hold you despite the limitations of its form. It makes your mind wander into the far reaches of the country. They do the hard work for you - I am sure lot of bumpy roads, dirty toilets, bed bugs and stomach runs would have gone into the making of this book.

You will have snippets on the history of a restaurant, or of its owners, or of some incident during their travels, of fellow eaters, clear statements on what to eat AND what to avoid. You can use the book as a guide. Or, as I story book, as I did.

It was a much needed book which helps break myths such as 'all South Indians are Madrasis, eat vegetarian food, viz dosa and idli'. Well get prepared to be lost in the search for chettinad food in Tamil Nadu, in the dreamy toddy shops of Kerala and the fire in your belly digs of Andhra. The book reminds us that India has a North Eastern corner. Learn about Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal, Nagaland and Manipore like you never did. And remember to smile the next time you see some of the staff at Candies or the salon or Spa or neighbourhood restaurants. The book reminds us that they are Indians and not 'Chinkies'... unfortunately too many of us need to be reminded of this. Read about the fresh fish from the ponds of Assam, missal pao in the midst of Mahrashtra...the best place for chicken and mutton at Haridwar and why Britannia in Amchi Mumbai got its name...The prose is simple and colloquial. Don't expect any esoteric descriptions of the food. In fact there are a few smilies thrown around ... and yet managed to fire my imagination. That's what good conversations are about I guess.

I am sure that one can dig many holes in the book but this is one of the best food and travel books that has come out of India recently. Well, all right, I love these guys, so pardon the hyperbole.

May they never have backaches.

Comments

Sassy Fork said…
Hmmnnn....I want to read the book!
jjs said…
i have regularly watcheed their show. I like teh fact that one of them is a hardcore non vegeterian and the other is pure vegetarian. I like the way they crack jokes. waitingg to get the book
Aroon said…
i love the way u have described the show, even i have been watching them for years and its my fav indian show on tv.. the guys r awsome, love the way they crack their pj's and end it always with rhyming food quote..
Aroon said…
btw if u get the time, do try the strawberry cheesecake at EATC in bandra..
Anonymous said…
Hope the backache gets better soon... is that header pic mishti doi? Been checking in for the related post since the last couple of days! Looks yummy - makes me crave a malai kulfi :)
Miri said…
What fun :) I love HOTP too - its so so funny the lines those two come up with. And definitely so much better than the snobbish, lacklustre shows which don't even know what they are talking about!

Hope your back heals soon....and btw, I have myself tried to dispel the "all South Indians are vegetarians" myth in my latest post.
Anchal said…
I love them tooo! They are just so so real.

And this is the first time I am reading a review of a book that I have already read. I think this book is based on season 1, hope they publish for other seasons as well..
Moonshine said…
One of my favourite shows!! They bring so much joy and happiness into th entire eating process!! Its fun to watch them.. my next buy for sure!!
The knife said…
Hi all,

Thanks for your wishes. I will add a few things in the post which your comments reminded me of.

Aroon, I tried the cheesecake during the tastings at EATC and loved it. Moonshine you are the one who got me hooked onto HOMP

Anon,, the header pic is of jol bhora sandesh or a soft centred jaggery sandesh. The shape is a creative take of that shop
Anju said…
Hi Kalyan,

Highway on my plate is one of my fav shows. Rocky and Mayur are hillarious. I watch it here in South Africa on Saffron TV. I wish i could get the book here, do you know if i can order it online and from where? Thanks
Thank you for the review! I was laughing at ur comment on all south Indians, for I'm a south Indian too & I know what those lines mean :)
Also, I invite you to come over to know about us at BookRack :)
Rocky'n'Mayur said…
Hey Kalyan,

Stumbled upon your blog as I was surfing for info. for our upcoming Wiki article. Just wanted to extend a big thank you for your balanced review. Your praise is flattering and what makes it more special is the fact that you have acknowledged the hardships we encounter while making the show. We have loved every minute of our journey on HOMP with all its up and downs. Reading reviews (and associated comments) which share appreciation for our show makes it all the more worthwhile.
cheers
Mayur
The knife said…
Hey Mayur, it was fantastic to hear from you even if I have the same regard for vegetarians that Rocky has ;) Jokes apart I think Rocky and you and the team have done a phenomenal job and have laid the foundation for some great travel and food programming and content in India. Keep up the great work. It's hard work no doubt and you guys should be proud of what you are doing. Here's to more successes and highs for you. Hope we meet someday.
Cheers,
Kalyan
vinay said…
Travel and Food ....an excellent show which is always on the top of the list....you guys rock...will be buying your book too.
Anjali said…
I was just going to say I love them too and will read this book, when I spot Mayur actually replying to you. Ain't that cool! That's why we love them, they are not snobs when it comes to food or not :)
Rocky'n'Mayur said…
Hi Kalyan hope your back is feeling better these days?

Wanted to share that our book 'Highway On My Plate' just won the 'Best in the World' award in the Celebrity cookbook category at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris.

There were people and books there from over a 160 countries. At the International Show Kitchen there we made and served over 10 kgsof Sevpuri, bhelpuri and Jhalmudi. We also did a cooking demo at the Cordon Bleu culinary School in Paris for their students and master chefs. They thoroughly enjoyed the 'malai chingdi', 'karari Masala bhindi' and the dhaba style Masala Chai we made.

It was amazing to see the love, warmth and keen interest that our country evokes in the minds of the world.

Thanks for your faith :) now you know who is responsible for the smilies in the book

Take care

Mayur
The knife said…
Hi Mayur,

Wow this is fantastic. Congrats to Rocky, you, the whole team and NDTV. This is a great achievement and you have done us proud. And the ten kilos of sev puri sounds equally mind boggling.

Back's a bit better now and am looking forward to stretching out on the couch and watching more episodes of HOMP. Thanks for asking

Cheers

Kalyan
hello rocky and mayur
i always watch your show from starting of it,i like to watch .and so many place i have visited like gayatri parotha house,porbandar ,gujrat,second:natraj rest.,nr railway station,udaypur ,rajsthan,etc...,cong.to both of you and also ndtv good time channel for getting celebrity cookbook award...
-hitesh patel (gujrat,navsari)...bye...
Anonymous said…
I am addicted to homp. This show is different from all other shows in being simple and funny.iam big fan of rocky. The book is fantastic and is a must read for anyone who loves food.