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Anoothi Vishal  |  New Delhi 

Based in Brisbane, Requena traces her roots to Andalucia, Spain, the birth place also for modern Spanish cuisine that holds the world, currently, in its magical sway. This novella, a work of fiction, tries to capture some of the romance of that cuisine for a larger, multicultural audience.

The story is told in first-person. Rose, like the author, lives in Australia, and is surrounded by a large group of multicultural friends that meets once a month at a designated person’s home over a meal. Everyone makes an effort to cook meals for the friends themselves and resists the urge to order in some pizza instead! The opens with shopping in a local market, anxious about her turn the next day.

She has lost her power of smelling and tasting, and cooking is a difficult proposition for her. But from here on, the tale becomes a somewhat “magical” one, as discovers a mysterious seller of herbs, a Spanish woman who shares her family recipes with her, invokes the power of the herbs and spices, and helps rediscover family ties and her own abilities (including the sensory ones), besides leading her on to the love of her life.

The story is structured like a fable, with all the familiar motifs of suffering and eventual triumph and notions of fate and a larger sense of life built in. The recipes—they make up for almost half of the total length—are a bonus. A khichdi of genres, perhaps like Rose’s paella.

Manuela Requena
Undercover Utopia

147 pages
Rs 375

First Published: Wed, May 27 2009. 00:54 IST