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BITE BY BITE by Aimee Nezhukumatathil


Nourishments and Jamborees

by Aimee Nezhukumatathil ; illustrated by Fumi Mini Nakamura

Pub Date: April 30th, 2024
ISBN: 9780063282261
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

A collection of flavorful memories.

Poet and essayist Nezhukumatathil, award-winning author of World of Wonders, creates a graceful memoir centered on 40 different kinds of food, some exotic, some familiar, all evoking recollections of childhood, family, travels, friendships, and much more. “This book is a bite of personal and natural history,” she writes, “a serving if you will—scooped up with a dollop of the bounty and largesse of the edible world.” With a father from India and a mother from the Philippines, some of the author’s memories center on traditional food such as kaong, the fruit of the sugar palm, prized in Filipino salads; jackfruit, her favorite fruit, which she first tasted during a visit to her grandparents in Kerala; bangus, the national fish of the Philippines, served fried as part of breakfast; and lumpia, a deep-fried Filipino finger food, with a crisp outer skin filled with chicken, ground beef or pork, carrots, and green beans. She takes sides in her parents’ debate over which mangoes are sweetest, those from India or those from the Philippines. For her, it’s Alphonso mangoes, from India, “hands down.” Eating lychees reminds her of her 20s, when she lived in Buffalo and would fly to New York City to meet friends. She’d buy a sackful of lychees, eating them happily on a bench while people-watching. Cherries, figs, and maple syrup are among other foods that elicit the author’s lyrical responses. The taste of apple banana, for example, “becomes a party in your mouth featuring a banana host and a sort of pineapple-strawberry DJ spinning tunes.” Her memoir is not unlike halo-halo, a mixture of unexpected ingredients that make for a delectable dessert. "With halo-halo," she writes, "you never know what you are going to discover and when."

Savory food writing.