Book Review: Thinner Dinner by Shubhra Krishan

[singlepic id=1726 w=80 h=92 float=left]I’m not entirely sure how to describe Thinner Dinner. It appears to be trying hard to break the moulds we carry around with us that help place things in the right slots. If it were a cook book, I’d expect lists of ingredients and numbered steps for the method. If it were a regular book on the other hand, paragraphs of prose, broken into chapters and interspersed with illustrations/photos would be the expected format.

[singlepic id=2335 w=320 h=240 float=left]Thinner Dinner (lovely name BTW) appears to fall someplace in between. Stuffed with hints, tips and tidbits of information, it can be quite an informative book, if you have the patience to extract the stuff.

While I wouldn’t describe the tori as something that ‘bathes your mouth in creamy heaven’ *shrug*, each one to his own.

Thinner Dinner seems to have decided from the start that bullets are a waste of time. Recipe ingredients are listed in dainty little multi-colored panels lined like note books, while each step of the method has it’s own little paragraph. Perhaps that’s ‘cool’, but I’ll take a standard recipe format any day, thank you.

Thinner Dinner doesn’t appear to share the common perception that good photography is crucial for food related books. Perhaps that’s the reason behind the assortment of photos used throughout the book, of which you’ll be hard pressed to find any really good ones.

The author tries hard to establish a conversational tone (which she does to a large extent) but at the price of consistency and usability? Some recipes end with headings such as ‘Taste-Tip’, others with ‘Mmmm Factor’ and yet others with ‘And oh’. There’s no recipe index and apart from cardboard bookmarks, no way to reach a recipe later. Again, I don’t get it. Does the author expect readers to read her book from start to finish whilst cooking her recipes throughout? That is to say, I start reading in the morning, cook whatever I’m reading for lunch, continue reading till dinner, then cook whatever I’m reading about for dinner and so on. The layout and format doesn’t make sense in any other scenario to my mind. One needs cook books to be consistently laid out. One wants recipe ingredients and steps to be clearly formatted. One wants ingredient names to be consistently termed; either use kaali mirch and elaichi or use peppercorns and cardamom; or use both – Elaichi (cardamom); why a mixture of the two?

Let’s take a look at a random recipe – Lemony Peppery Broccoli Pasta. The ingredients include fettucini, spaghetti or thin penne pasta, olive oil, broccoli, oil packed sundried tomatoes, red pepper flakes, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper and lemon zest for the garnish. The ‘What you do’ section (the presence of which I’m happy to say is consistent throughout the book) instructs readers to ‘boil the pasta in salted water’ and goes on further to the vegetables telling readers, ‘tomatoes should be tender’ while referring to the vegetables being flecked with a ‘lovely roasted color’.

On one hand the author assumes a certain (low) level of awareness in her readers when expounding the virtues of some fairly well known concepts… and on the other hand says, ‘Boil the pasta in salted water’, when she really should instruct the novice cook to follow the instructions on the packet, considering the awareness level the rest of the book appears to take as a given. Secondly, I’ve yet to find oil packed sun dried tomatoes that are anything but exceedingly tender, which may be the experience of other readers too. Therefore, if a different variety exists, the author would have done well to explain. Finally, the dish in the photograph on the opposite page doesn’t appear to have been made using the recipe described, unless of course that isn’t the photograph for this recipe, in which case captions would have been helpful.

Could someone please tell me what ‘flecked with a lovely roasted color’ means in the context of pan tossed vegetables?

While I do like the recipes themselves, which will probably be delicious and easy to do for most part, the book largely appears to be a collection of personal notes… which as we all know, can only be understood by their owner.

Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at sid.khullar@chefatlarge.in.