Those of you who’ve been following this blog for some years may know that I am passionately fond of food. For a while, I reviewed restaurants here, along with all the films I review. One year, I did an entire ‘food film’ project, where I watched many, many food films from across the world and cooked up dishes to accompany them. I devoted the month of October 2018 to food in films.
Yes, I find food just about as interesting as cinema. More, at times.
So this was bound to happen: a book on food. My first non-fiction book, part memoir, part an exploration of food history from around the world, part cookbook.
Lockdown Lunches was born in May 2020, when India was in the grip of the first Covid lockdown. My husband, I, and the LO (the ‘Little One’, our now eight-year old daughter, who really isn’t all that little any more) were stuck at home. We hadn’t been out anywhere since early March 2020, and the situation was beginning to take its toll on the LO. She’s a gregarious child and loves going out, so not venturing out anywhere was making her cranky and irritable. Even my husband and I, used to lunching out on weekends (one of our favourite ways of relaxing, pre-Covid, was to eat out), were getting a bit sick of dining in, day in, day out. I was sick of cooking the same old stuff every day.
In May, cherries come into season in our part of the world, and every year, I make the French dessert cherry clafoutis. In May 2020 too cherries arrived, and I bought some, intending to make clafoutis. Then there popped into my mind an idea: clafoutis is a good party dessert; why not combine it with a party appetizer, a party main course, a party drink? Why not have a party? A French party?
So we did. I hauled out my copy of Escoffier’s Ma Cuisine, went surfing the Net for traditional French recipes, and planned a menu. And why stop just at the food, I thought. After all, a good bit of the joy of going out to a restaurant for a meal is the ambience: let’s have music (French music! Vive la YouTube!). Let’s dress up! Let’s get out the good cutlery and the proper china plates, not our daily stainless steel ones. Let’s do a really good lunch, a change from the usual.
Which was what we did. The LO even pulled out, from her toy cupboard, a little stuffed toy, a teddy bear named Jean-Pierre whom her father had brought her from a trip to Paris several years back. Jean-Pierre was plonked down on our dining table to act as guest of honour, and the party began. We ate and drank, we danced, we talked about France, about our trips there (the LO glowered, because these trips were made before she arrived). We listened to music. And, sometime late in the afternoon, when her parents said, “Okay, time to wind up,” the LO burst into tears. She did not want the party to end, she’d just begun enjoying herself, why oh why did the fun have to stop?!
For the LO’s sake, I told myself (and my husband), we should do more such parties.
That French party, therefore, became the first of a long series of themed lunches. Every two weeks, we did a lunch party. I’d cook food from a particular country, my husband would curate a playlist with music from that country. The LO would dress up (sometimes I would too), and a stuffed toy, a doll, something from the LO’s cache, would be pulled out to act as guest of honour. For those couple of hours, we would let our hair down. We’d forget Covid was raging outside, that we weren’t going to be going to eat out anywhere in the foreseeable future.
Those lunches helped us keep our sanity. In the most severe period of the lockdown, they helped us stay afloat and not succumb to ennui or worse.
This book is about our lockdown lunches. It’s about the LO and her involvement in these meals. It’s about the many mishaps I had (and yes, the triumphs too) as I navigated my way through the food of twenty-six countries. Of course, it’s also a cookbook, since I’ve replicated, in this book, the menus I created, with recipes for each dish I cooked. There is (I am a history buff, after all) some food history about each country we visited virtually through our lunches.
Lockdown Lunches: The World on a Plate is only in e-book form, currently available on Kindle, though over the next few months we’ll also be publishing it on other platforms like Smashwords and Google Books. At only ₹199 ($4.99 in the US, with proportionate prices across other Amazon sites), this one’s an inexpensive way to travel the world. Join us!
You can buy Lockdown Lunches at the following Amazon sites: Amazon India; Amazon US; Amazon UK; Amazon Australia; Amazon Canada… plus, other international Amazon sites; just search for ‘Madhulika Liddle Lockdown Lunches’ and you should be able to see the e-book pop up in the search results. Note that the book is free on Kindle Unlimited, so if you are a member, go and add the book to your library!
And yes, please review the book if you do read it. Bon appetit.