Ginger and Ganesh, by Nani Power
Years ago I attended a time management workshop with my teaching colleagues. We did an exercise where we drew a circle and turned it into a pie chart detailing how we spent our average day. I drew mine out, content to see that my piece of the leisure pie was a huge, gluttonous chunk. Then I glanced at the woman’s next to me. Her piece of leisure pie was a thin strip. The woman on the other side of me had a mere line where her piece of leisure pie should have been. We were mostly women in that workshop, and all of my colleagues were flapping their pie charts at one another, roaring about how little leisure was in their lives.
I furtively hugged mine to my chest, eyes cast downward, feeling like I should have been naked, except for high heels, an ostrich feather fan gracing my shoulder, (fluttered by a hard working slave) as I lay comfortably, languidly gazing into the eyes of my hard working compadres. Then the discussion began.
What actually was it that defined tasks, chores, work, work, work, and what defined leisure? To my colleagues, meal planning was work. To me, it was the creativity I enjoyed on the commute home, mentally creating recipes as I dodged traffic. For them, cooking was work. To me, it was an infinite luxury, as evidenced by the fact that when I had no time, we ate factory produced fast food.
So it is with Nani Power, in her Ginger and Ganesh. Although I found this in the Indian cookbook isle at Powell's, in Seattle, I could have found it on a fiction shelf. The premise of the book is that the narrator pays Indian immigrants to the United States to teach her to cook Indian cuisine, and she then gives the recipe each immigrant taught to her. In fact, this is a story with lots of characters, some deeply resentful, others melancholy, others burning and perishing with unrequited love. As far as literature therapy goes, I think this novel/cookbook has the ability to freshly open one’s eyes to the beauty of food, and the warmth of the kitchen. Not only can this book help to heal a damaged household attitude, it can heal your body as well, with its delicious vegetarian Indian recipes.
Don’t worry. This is not one of those books to suggest that a good woman strip naked, cover herself in saran wrap, bite a rose in her teeth, all to welcome hubby (grand master) home. Not at all. This is a single woman with an interesting life to live. But she makes sure that she enjoys every moment, especially the planning and cooking moments! If you could use a boost in the kitchen, to feel a bit more enjoyment around the stove and fridge, this book could have a therapeutic value for you.