Sep 8, 2010

Guernesy literary potato peel and pie society and

a dash of cilanto-mint chutney

It is 1946. World War II has ended. London is trying to resurrect itself from the ashes of destruction and Juliet is trying to get her writer’s mojo back. A successful columnist during the war, she is now on a publicity tour of her book, a compilation of her war-time columns.

Juliet is a liberated woman for her times, who dumps her fiancé the day before their wedding. His offense, you ask? Emptying her bookshelf and boxing up her books to make room for his hunting and sports trophies. So this then is our liberated heroine, a lover of books, who is searching for a subject that will inspire her to take up writing again.

Enter The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. A group of mismatched citizens of Chanel Island who inadvertently end up forming a book club and lifelong friendships in order to hide their roast pig dinner from the occupying Germans. Her interest piqued by a certain Mr. Dawsey Adams of the aforementioned club, Juliet starts corresponding with the various members of the club. Her correspondence with the literature loving simple folks inspires her to sail down to the island and find the inspiration for her book and a treasure trove of war time stories – of children separated from their parents for the duration of war, of famine and hunger, of the German’s cruelty and generosity, of the islanders’ struggle of survival in the midst of eating nothing but potatoes and turnips.

If this isn’t enough of a gist, savor the fact that this is Mary Ann Shaffer’s first and last book. Written as a series of sometimes witty, often times poignant and almost always revealing letters between Juliet and various characters in the book, it takes a few letters to grasp all the characters. Once you do, you can’t stop reading till you have read them all. It is almost like a guilty pleasure to read someone’s private letters but at the same time, the book makes you want to pick up a pen and paper and write a letter back home instead of shooting off an email.

The rava idlis that accompany the chutney were made from a box, and not from scratch.

For our book club, This Book Makes me Cook, I decided to go the way of our ancestors and tried to think up how they came up with green chutney made by grinding some abundantly growing cilantro and mint in their backyard. To be honest, I was stuck by the islander’s use of sea water in their cooking as a substitute to salt. This led me to think that maybe one of the older women pottering in the yard chanced upon some cilantro or mint and thought, “Hmm, this smells nice. Maybe if I grind it with some green chili and some garlic, it will spice up the bland rice?” In the same spirit of honesty I will also admit that the chutney is what I made in the morning and got a decent photo of it.


The recipe for this green cilantro-mint chutney is simple, really, but you can adjust it according to your taste. Increase the amount of mint to cilantro ratio or make it spicier by adding more chilies or creamier by increasing the crushed peanuts. This essential condiment in every North Indian kitchen requires the basic skill of pressing down the blender button. For this reason, the chutney goes to Aqua, who is hosting B2B this month for me. If you would like to host it for me for the coming months, send me an email here.

Cliantro-Mint Chutney

Ingredients
1 cup washed and clean cilantro/ coriander
1-2 sprigs of mint
1 green chili
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tbsp of roasted, crushed peanuts
Salt to taste

Method:
Grind everything to a smooth paste, adding water as necessary.

Coming up in the next few posts: The roundup of Of Chalks and Chopsticks and the second part of my story, It takes two to err… marry.

11 comments:

  1. The book is an excellent read. Great idea of making the chutney. Perfect when one considers the austere lives the Islanders lead during the WWII.
    Good to see you are better.

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  2. even i was thinking of chutneyfying the coriander i have with me, and wondering if i should use peanuts to give it some bulk. now i think i will.

    nice post, makes me want to read the book.

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  3. I know you are taking good care of your selt , the green chutney come as a testimony...:)
    I loved this heroine who dumps her fiance for her books :)

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  4. Very interesting chutney :) I'm glad you like this book very much. I love the way the author managed to draw a reader into the lives of these people just via letters. It's sad that there isn't another novel by this author.

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  5. This sounds like an amazing book! So disappointed I couldn't find it in our library, but will be sure to order & buy it.

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  6. I've read this book for our book club few months back,and absolutely loved it..Love your thoughts on the book :-)

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  7. That's a lovely read behind the discovery of the humble Chutney! Like the peanuts in it, might add the next time I make one.

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  8. Love the chutney and ur review.Its nice that you tght of cilantro in the island.Chutney looks very refreshing.I must add peanuts next time.

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  9. I have to try making this chutney with peanuts. Never have. I am bookmarking your recipe. Is it good with idlis?

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  10. PreeOccupied, if in a pinch the chutney will make do, otherwise, I would recomend the usual tomato or a coconut chutney. This chutney is more suited for sandwichs and as a condiment.

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