Monsoon Diary

A Memoir with Recipes

Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Shoba Narayan’s Monsoon Diary weaves a fascinating food narrative that combines delectable Indian recipes with tales from her life, stories of her delightfully eccentric family, and musings about Indian culture.

Narayan recounts her childhood in South India, her college days in America, her arranged marriage, and visits from her parents and in-laws to her home in New York City. Monsoon Diary is populated with characters like Raju, the milkman who named his cows after his wives; the iron-man who daily set up shop in Narayan’s front yard, picking up red-hot coals with his bare hands; her mercurial grandparents and inventive parents. Narayan illumines Indian customs while commenting on American culture from the vantage point of the sympathetic outsider. Her characters, like Narayan herself, have a thing or two to say about cooking and about life.

In this creative and intimate work, Narayan’s considerable vegetarian cooking talents are matched by stories as varied as Indian spices—at times pungent, mellow, piquant, and sweet. Tantalizing recipes for potato masala, dosa, and coconut chutney, among others, emerge from Narayan’s absorbing tales about food and the solemn and quirky customs that surround it.


Chapter One

First Foods

The first foods that I ate were rice and ghee. I know this because my mother told me so. I was six months old, and as was traditional, my parents conducted a formal choru-unnal ceremony at the famous Guruvayur temple in Kerala.

Choru-unnal literally means "rice-...
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“Shoba Narayan is that rarity in the food world: She has both a unique story and the lyrical skills to tell it.”
—Regina Schrambling, New York Times and Los Angeles Times food writer

“A taste of a life that is exotic yet familiar, Monsoon Diary is as pungent and satisfying as a good curry. Reading it made me want to get on a plane to India—or at least eat in an Indian restaurant.” —Sharon Boorstin, author of Let Us Eat Cake: Adventures in Food and Friendship

“An entirely enchanting look at growing up in South India, in an exotic world populated by the flower woman, maamis, and the colorful and opinionated members of an extended Hindu family. Food and recipes are a powerful element in Shoba’s story—tokens of identity and a passport to freedom.”
—Nancy Novgorod, editor in chief, Travel & Leisure

"Of all the many recipe-laced stories, fictional and otherwise, that seem to be arriving in bookstores lately, Shoba Narayan's funny, bluntly honest memoir stands sharply apart from the crowd. This is fresh, wonderful writing that captures the large personalities of Narayan's extended family (her own outspoken self included) and the texture of daily life in Tamil Nadu and Kerala--a life that also happens to be filled with spicy curries, pungent chutneys, and coconut-rich stews. It is a mouth-watering book from a gifted storyteller."
—Margo True, Editor, Saveur