New Book! Lockdown Lunches: The World On a Plate

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.

24 thoughts on “New Book! Lockdown Lunches: The World On a Plate

  1. Hey Madhu!

    This is such a delightful surprise!

    I am so in awe of your prolific output.

    The meaning as given on Google for “prolific output” (I did look that up..to get it right) :
    “A prolific writer, artist, or composer produces a large number of works”.
    That is so You!

    I will have to take a vicarious thrill out of this one….as one has perforce to eat what is cooked for a patient at home…since well before Lockdown…

    All success for “Lockdown Lunches” and
    Bon appetit!

    Praba Mahajan

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  2. Of course I simply HAD to buy it, to find out what “Oceania” included. Looking through the list from the “prisoner island hidden in the sun for a million years” to my west, the similarities between our foods was really emphasised. Sadly. :)

    Well done Madhulika, if you ever want contributions for a sequel featuring more parts of Oceania (such as Indo-Fijian treats or Cook Island fish dishes) I may know a guy.

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    • Thank you so much for buying, Stuart! :-) Yes, I remember when I was doing this particular batch of lunches, I thought – after we’d done Australia – that I should really check out what the food of New Zealand was like. And it sounded so exactly like what I’d just made, I dropped the idea. Maybe I shall circle back and give it another try now (I am already 17 meals into the sequel to this book).

      Coincidentally, we had a Papua New Guinea lunch just a few days back. Very unusual and interesting: both my husband and I agreed that it was like nothing we’d ever had before and we had no frame of reference for it. But delicious, nevertheless – enough to make me want to eat some more of that food even as I write.

      BTW, ‘Cook Island fish dishes’ sound intriguing. I’m off to explore!

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  3. Oh!
    Congratulations for your first non fiction publication. That too on food and recipes.
    I’m not used to e-books, not easy on eyes in my opinion. I hope it would be published in physical format as well. Do it soon.
    And I do remember the food film project and the recipes. And I think during that project only, someone added Vivah bhojunambu song from Maya bazaar.
    All the best!
    :-)

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    • Thank you, Anupji! And yes, I remember Vivaah bhojanambu – what a great song, what a great film. :-)

      I can understand; lots of people don’t like e-books. With this, I didn’t want to get into the entire hassle of even trying to approach a traditional publisher – cookbooks are notoriously hard to get published, and the amount of work that goes into them means that years can pass between the submission of a manuscript and the publication of the book. I was a little impatient with this one.

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  4. I remember the FB posts about those Lockdown lunches, and though they did not inspire me in any way- right or left- to cook, I was excited for people (here, you!) who were finding these spots of bright sunshine as Covid raged on and brought us all down. Those posts felt so personal because of all the tiny details you included- how you tweaked some recipe, how the LO loved the swings of 50s during one of your American meals, was it? I am SOOOOO happy for you and cannot wait to read this book! I will, however, wait for the printed version of the book :-) but yayeee!!!!
    Oh, also, some of the recent movies actually have food as very integral part of the story telling- there are scenes of people sitting on a table, dishes being handed out, shots of steaming scrumptious looking plates of food (and ‘not’ the hero buttering toast, taking a bite and saying, okay bye, bye while a washed out butler stands aside before the scene shifts to a police station – okay, I may be thinking of the movie ‘Parvarish’ here for some reason, but you get what I mean, na!), munching and crunching sounds, mouths full of food listening intently, cutlery scrapping, or hands being used to eat dollops of biryani.
    I liked how Piku did this and two short films – Rogan Josh and Chutney ((available on YT).
    Here’s to your writing and love for cinema and food!

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    • “I will, however, wait for the printed version of the book :-)

      There may not ever be a printed version, actually. Finding publishers for cookbooks, I am told, is a very tough job, so I didn’t even think of going down that route. I self-published this one.

      I totally agree about your Parvarish-waala comment, so true! Those films just had food as another prop (though I remember one scene in the otherwise reprehensible Doli which revolved around gobhi ke parathe, if I remember correctly. And about how Prem Chopra, returned from abroad, would have those, but wasn’t keen on other desi dishes, like karela… :-D

      Thank you for telling me about Roganjosh and Chutney – I hadn’t known! Have bookmarked, and will watch.

      Thank you so much for the wishes, Simrita. I really appreciate it.

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  5. Madhu,
    This is a wonderful news. I am a vicarious foodie, this is the only kind of foodie I could be, with 90% of the countries being non-veg. I have faced strange queries when I announce I am a ‘vegetarian’. They would serve salads with some veggies and egg pieces. Or chicken fried rice with some veggies on the sides. Or, do you take fish? No. What about cheese? Yes, that I can take. I can overhear the waiter’s mumbling, ‘Strange!’. In East Asia, a foodie like me needs to work out a survival technique.

    US/West Europe now are aware what ‘vegetarian’ means in India. But I have had great fun, and some close shaves.

    Congratulations on your new book!

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    • Thank you, AK!

      And yes, I hear you about vegetarians having a tough time. A dear friend of mine, who’s vegetarian, used to have to travel abroad a lot on work – and while places like the US and Australia could invariably offer options, she had a particularly hard time in East Asia. She was reduced to eating mostly lettuce, and ended up losing a lot of weight! On the other hand, a colleague of ours, also vegetarian, forced himself to become more flexible: so if there was nothing vegetarian, he’d order something (a stew, for example, or something with gravy and vegetables) and then pick out only the gravy and vegetables and have that.

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  6. How exciting, Madhu! Congratulations! Being a vegetarian, many of these dishes will not appeal to me but I would still love to read the history/memoir part. :) And S will certainly experiment with the non-veg dishes.

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    • “Being a vegetarian, many of these dishes will not appeal to me

      You are assuming that many of the dishes will be non-vegetarian, which is not the case. :-) I was very careful to make sure there were plenty of vegetables at each meal, so out of the (at least) five dishes in each menu, only one would be non-vegetarian.

      Thank you, Anu. I do hope you enjoy the book!

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  7. Congratulations Madhu, hope the books sells like hot cakes. I am a terrible cook as my wife and daughter will attest to although I have managed to surprise them pleasantly from time to time; so cookbooks do not tickle my fancy. Besides I have still your earlier book to read. Best wishes for the book.

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  8. When the post is such an amazing account of your journey of authoring the book, how interesting it must be can be imagined. Hearty congratulations. It’s indeed a heartwarming news for all the admirers of your writing.

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  9. When I was about eight or ten, my mother would have me study the history of such and such a country every week; for Shabbat (Friday evening) supper we would try to make a dish from that place. It was a real challenge to get information on local cooking back in the early days of the internet and with access only to a very primitive local library. (We went alphabetically, and I recall that Afghanistan was a particularly rough place to start trying to find recipes!) Those are treasured memories for me now. I’m certain your little one will look back fondly on these “lockdown lunches” : D

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    • That must have been really difficult to do in the good old days! I have the internet to thank for all the recipes I’ve been able to find, and all the information I’ve been able to lay my hands on. :-)

      Liked by 1 person

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