Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity by Priya Basil
Print Length: 144 pages
Publisher: Canongate Books
Genre: Nonfiction, Food, Memoir, Essays, Philosophy, Cooking, Food and Drink, Politics, Biography Memoir
When I completed my final day of my internship at Canongate Books, Edinburgh in July 2019, this book was hot off the press. I had to wait to get my hands on it, and now that I have, I am intrigued to view food from a different angle because it is full of insights, questions, and interesting thoughts.
Priya Basil is a thought-provoking author who skilfully uses food as a prism to explore a variety of subjects, including how it may be used or abused for power, to unite disparate cultures, to start new conversations, and more. Her personal experiences are then used to illustrate the impact of the Partition of India, the stories of starvation and the British Raj, the similarities between history books and recipes, and many anecdotes about her time spent in Kenya as a British Indian before moving to the UK and currently residing in Germany. She starts by recalling her childhood memories of her mother making Kadhi and her grandmother chowing down on compliments from everyone while refusing to share any of her recipes. Priya has observed the subtleties of people and recorded the experiences of serving and being a host.
A dish is not just the sum of its parts, it is its maker, its occasion, the company in which it is eaten.― Priya Basil
Reading this book made me more conscious of the food we eat and how we frequently take its production, distribution, consumption, and wastage for granted. Her writing has amazing depth for only 144 pages. This book was worth the years I waited for it.
Ratings on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being exceptional):
Quality of writing – 10
Pace – 9
Plot development – 8
Characters – 7
Enjoyability – 8
Insightfulness – 10
Ease of reading – 7
Photo/Illustrations – NA
About The Author
Priya Basil was born in London to parents with Indian roots. Her family moved to East Africa when she was a year old; she grew up in Kenya, and later went to university in the UK. In 2002 she moved to Berlin, where she still lives. Since 2018 she holds dual German and British citizenship.
She is the co-founder of Authors for Peace, a political platform for writers and artists, established in 2010. She has been engaged with various political initiatives, including launching a campaign for a European Public Holiday across Europe – a cause she initiated in 2017 and to which she remains actively committed.
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