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I think that was the first time I realized how powerful that connection can be, and most of my memories of that time come from the time I spent with these women in the kitchens of their homes. She said she believes she implemented it successfully, and she is proud of doing so. Nina could probably take a five-minute scene in real life and stretch it out into an entire novel if she wanted, and make it worth every single word you read. She can pick out everything that makes a situation and bring it to life. Please provide a full name for all comments.

We don't post obscene, offensive or pure hate speech. Columns Editorial Board Letters to the Editor. By Thomas Friestad Oct. Let me give you one example of Indian architecture: "With time, mold and moss would creep over the pale pinks and butter yellows of the plaster walls until, grayish and mottled, the walls blended the space between the soil and the sky, as if a charcoal artist had just smudged their edges". Love it!

There is also a poignant tale at the beginning of the book where the author tosses a banana outside a train window to a boy who was watching her eat, cupping his hands, hungry. She reminisced how he caught the banana and immediately devoured it, skin and all. She was only about 6 years old at the time but she never forgot it.

As the book progresses she grows up, the final few chapters she is in the Peace Corp with her husband in Tunisia learning more food culture there. All through the book are recipes which I have bookmarked, eager to try.

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So if I loved it so much, why 4 stars? I want pictures!! That's the long and short of it. I did, however, enjoy the snapshots of her 6 recipe card recipe book she left home with. There is nothing quite so intimate as one's recipe book. View all 4 comments. Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.


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So many food memoirs, while enjoyable, are on the light side, but Nina Mukerjee Furstenau's writing made intensely specific flavors and scents flood my mind. She could have created a comic story of an Indian girl living in Kansas, but her reflections and conclusions are thoughtful and wise. Feb 26, Paula Margulies rated it it was amazing. Biting through the Skin is a moving and thoughtful memoir about the family traditions of a Bengali woman growing up in Kansas. Poignant and heartfelt, this book touches your heart with its lovely, poetic tone and insightful reflection on what it means to grow up in a country with different traditions and values than those of your family.

The author reminisces about her past in a soothing, intelligent way that touches you with its wisdom and depth. There are many wonderful vignettes about family Biting through the Skin is a moving and thoughtful memoir about the family traditions of a Bengali woman growing up in Kansas. There are many wonderful vignettes about family members, all centered around preparing meals and sharing food. In this book, food becomes a reflection of culture and, also, a conduit to finding a way back to our roots.

In Biting through the Skin, Furstenau takes us on a journey that is filled with love, as she reveals the dignity and strength required of a family juggling the retention of its traditional values with the challenges of assimilating into a new culture. The connection between her parents' native land and the author's American homeland is made through sharing, eating, laughter, and joy.

There is much great writing here, along with some terrific Indian recipes, making this a book to savor and return to long after the first read. Dec 11, Lilisa rated it it was ok Shelves: , around-the-world , non-fiction , india. Wish the author had spent more time developing the story line - was a great concept to parallel her cultural perspective with the myriad regional cuisines of India coupled with recipes.

But the execution fell short. Growing up in the American heartland, the author's family did everything they could to lead an "American" life - a successful family doing the usual things American families do, but in the evening her world is transformed through her mother's traditional Indian meals - one of the onl Wish the author had spent more time developing the story line - was a great concept to parallel her cultural perspective with the myriad regional cuisines of India coupled with recipes.

Growing up in the American heartland, the author's family did everything they could to lead an "American" life - a successful family doing the usual things American families do, but in the evening her world is transformed through her mother's traditional Indian meals - one of the only ways through which parents clung to their roots.

There are hints of how the author felt growing up - the feeling of being different in the all white American heartland, but she doesn't explore it further, nor does she explore the same feeling of being different when she visits India - a foot in each world.

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For this and more, a not-so-high rating. Sep 10, Calamus rated it it was amazing Shelves: nonfiction. Inserted at the end of each chapter are a few Indian recipes easy enough to follow and create in your own kitchen. In addition to describing how food brought India to her American lifestyle, the author graciously expands on growing up with a blend of Indian customs and American culture.

For example, keeping two calendars, one for Indian holidays and one for American holidays, and having to decide which to celebrate and honor. Keeping her commitment to volunteering for one holiday keeps her from attending Indian festivities in the neighboring town. The writing is succinct but opens up for beautiful descriptions and is overall a wonderful read. Aug 02, MaryJo rated it really liked it. Nina Mukerjee Furstenau lives in nearby Fayette, Missouri, and I had heard about her and this book from coverage in the local paper, and friends who had heard her speak.

The author was born in India in Her parents migrated to the US, first to Chicago, and then, after their first Chicago winter, to Pittsburg, Kansas in This is where Nina and her brother grew up. Of course, those experiences are bound up with Nina Mukerjee Furstenau lives in nearby Fayette, Missouri, and I had heard about her and this book from coverage in the local paper, and friends who had heard her speak.

Of course, those experiences are bound up with growing up in a particular time and place, and also with searching for a meaningful life. Her nuclear family maintained ties with their Bengali relatives, and visits to them are a part of the story. In Kansas, the parents are extremely careful to conform outwardly to the mores of their community. At home however, Nina grows up eating Indian food, and stories about food, and the family recipes are the anchor of this book.

When it is time to go to college, Nina decides to attend the University of Missouri where she meets her future husband. The two of them participate in the Peace Corps, and serve together in Tunisia, where Nina makes connections through food, and brings home the recipe for couscous that is featured in that chapter. I found my appreciation for the writing and the person I was getting to know increased throughout the book. When I finished, I felt I had been treated to a satisfying meal, served by a generous hostess.

View 1 comment. Dec 08, Niya rated it it was ok. After finishing the collection of essays I can see where Mukerjee Furstenau was trying to go with her work - and it is a powerful place. Finding a space, when one is visibly othered, especially in a small North American town prompts a wide range of compromise in order to "fit in" in a way that goes beyond tolerance. Her exploration of how the food of a homeland she never truly knew defines her identity is trying at best and will leave all except the most focused reader slightly exhausted as they After finishing the collection of essays I can see where Mukerjee Furstenau was trying to go with her work - and it is a powerful place.

Her exploration of how the food of a homeland she never truly knew defines her identity is trying at best and will leave all except the most focused reader slightly exhausted as they try to see the point of the collection. It's a reasonable effort, but the execution fails to deliver. Jun 15, Mommyhungry rated it really liked it. I loved this book, which evoked my own childhood, not because I'm of Indian descent growing up in Kansas, but because my neighbor in suburban Houston was of Indian descent and I've long wondered how she might have viewed being in the minority.

I remember her mom's yogurt, tea, roti, chappels, saris, bindis, bangles, and the like, while I taught her about Easter baskets and Christmas. This book, with its recipes and reflections, allos me another perspective on this part of my childhood. Dec 12, Anne rated it really liked it Shelves: podcast. A satisfying mix of memoir, cookbook, and travel guide. Each chapter has related recipes at the end. The recipes are user friendly: most of the ingredients are familiar and available in our area. Nina Mukerjee Furstenau was born in Thailand to Indian parents.


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They moved to Chicago, then Kansas when she was still a baby. Her family settles in Pittsburg KS, a small town near the Missouri border. They're happy there and find community with their neighbors. Although there are no other Indian familie A satisfying mix of memoir, cookbook, and travel guide. Although there are no other Indian families in her town, they connect with some in neighboring cities and join them for religious celebrations and house parties.

Her family return to India many times for visits with their large extended family. Her childhood sounds close to idyllic. Her adolescence is fairly typical. Her parents speak Bengali to each other, but not to her. Food is her main connection to her culture, and she recognizes and embraces it, and tries to share it with her Kansas friends, with little success. The title refers to an encounter on a bus in India when she is five or six. She throws him the banana through the bus window.

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He grabs it and bites into it without peeling it, through the skin. This story echoes throughout her life and she credits it partially for her decision later to join the Peace Corps. The writing is excellent, often beautiful. There is humor.


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  5. Her descriptions of the taste of food border on poetry. She clearly loves to eat and cook, and this comes through clearly. Highly recommended. Feb 20, Donna Reedy rated it really liked it. I learned alot about Indian food! I liked the book. Sep 09, Jill Orr rated it it was amazing. I should start by saying that I don't usually read memoir, and certainly not food memoir - but I was compelled to pick up this book and once I did, I had a hard time setting it down. The author drew me into her story with such rich, descriptions that I literally felt like I could see each scene as clearly as if I were watching a movie.

    The story is that of the author who grows up in middle America Kansas and how she learns about her family's Indian heritage largely through the food her mother I should start by saying that I don't usually read memoir, and certainly not food memoir - but I was compelled to pick up this book and once I did, I had a hard time setting it down.

    The story is that of the author who grows up in middle America Kansas and how she learns about her family's Indian heritage largely through the food her mother prepares. You also get a unique perspective on India as she describes her trips back to see family. Having never been there myself, I really appreciated her attention to detail in how she described the land, the food, the people - paying attention to all five senses. Again, it was like I could see it as I read. In one of the most poignant scenes, we see a young Nina visiting India - I think she was 6 or 7.

    Against her mother's wishes, she throws a banana to a hungry child begging to her from outside the bus she's on. Nina watches the boy, who is too hungry to even peel the fruit, bite the banana right through the skin. The image is startling and touching all at once. The other thing I really liked about this book was how it cemented for me how much of our heritage is connected with food. Of course I think I knew that on an instinctive level, but reading about how Nina learned about her parents, grandparents, the land she was born in, and moved to, who she was and how she straddled two completely different cultures - it really made me think about my own food traditions and how they tell the story of my family.

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    It was just all-around a very enjoyable read - and such a nice break from the same-old, same-old. Oh - I almost forgot the recipes! Now that I have her family recipes, though, I will definitely plan to attempt at least a few of them.

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    So not only is it a great read, but you get bonus recipes as well. Love a little extra value in my books Jul 18, Rachel rated it it was amazing Shelves: biography-and-memoirs , cookbooks-and-food , ebook , netgalley , arc. I loved this book! It is a cross-genre memoir that is part biography, part travel journal, with equal measures of culinary and cultural background and recipes. As a first-generation immigrant, it is interesting to se I loved this book!

    I liked how she talks about the recipes her mother got from her family in Bengal when she first got married, and how these were the same recipes that the author used when she joined the Peace Corps and was living in Northern Africa with her new husband. I also enjoyed the link she made between food and language, and how much the two are linked. It made me want to do an anthropological study on the topic. It holds story. It can represent who we are. Oct 30, Jenny Reading Envy rated it liked it Shelves: ebooks , foodie , location-india , around-the-world , netgalley , location-usa-kansas , read , around-the-usa.

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    This is a very quick read since each chapter ends with a significant recipe section. Nina Mukerjee Furstenau tells the story of growing up in Kansas in the 60ss, the child of Bengali parents, living in a very unBengali place. The book starts with a description of the traditional Durga Puja holiday, a week long celebration after the monsoon season, a holiday that can't possibly be fully experienced in Kansas no matter what a community might do. The entire book has an element of sadness and los This is a very quick read since each chapter ends with a significant recipe section.

    The entire book has an element of sadness and loss to it - the author has a connection to her background through the food she learns to cook, but she never learns the language fully, only gets to visit Bengal on a rare occasion, and even getting to know her cousins' names is difficult.

    Still, the descriptions of food and the dichotomy of home life with Bengali elements vs. One chapter is named, "All Our Tupperware is Stained with Turmeric," which to me was the best example of the combination of East and West! Also included are recipes from when her parents lived in Thailand, and when she and her husband worked for the Peace Corps in Tunisia.