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Chef
by Jaspreet Singh

Overview - Kirpal Singh is riding the slow train to Kashmir. With India passing by his window, he reflects on his destination, which is also his past: a military camp to which he has not returned for fourteen years. Kirpal, called Kip, is shy and not yet twenty when he arrives for the first time at General Kumar's camp, nestled in the shadow of the Siachen Glacier.  Read more...

 
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More About Chef by Jaspreet Singh
 
 
 
Overview
Kirpal Singh is riding the slow train to Kashmir. With India passing by his window, he reflects on his destination, which is also his past: a military camp to which he has not returned for fourteen years. Kirpal, called Kip, is shy and not yet twenty when he arrives for the first time at General Kumar's camp, nestled in the shadow of the Siachen Glacier. At twenty thousand feet, the glacier makes a forbidding battlefield; its crevasses claimed the body of Kip's father. Kip becomes an apprentice under the camp's chef, Kishen, a fiery mentor who guides him toward the heady spheres of food and women. In this place of contradictions, erratic violence, and extreme temperatures, Kip learns to prepare local dishes and delicacies from around the globe. Even as months pass, Kip, a Sikh, feels secure in his allegiance to India, firmly on the right side of this interminable conflict. Then, one muggy day, a Pakistani "terrorist" with long, flowing hair is swept up on the banks of the river and changes everything. Mesmeric, mournful, and intensely lyrical, "Chef "is a brave and compassionate debut about hope, love, and memory set against the devastatingly beautiful, war-scarred backdrop of occupied Kashmir.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781608190850
  • ISBN-10: 1608190854
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Publish Date: April 2010
  • Page Count: 248


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Books > Fiction > Literary

 
BookPage Reviews

Understanding a culture, bite by bite

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, especially in India. Like its cuisine, India is vast, complex and defies easy categorization. To say that you are eating Indian food is not nearly specific enough. Is it Southern or Northern? Did you put tomatoes in the Rogan Josh, or did it take its red color from the peppers? Like the people of India, the country’s food varies from region to region, with no simple consensus on how to prepare anything. But in Jaspreet Singh’s outstanding debut novel, as the characters learn to understand the origins of their food, they begin to understand each other.

As Chef opens we learn that Kirpal Singh (known by most as “Kip”) is a former military chef who has been out of the service for 14 years. After years of silence, his former commanding officer has asked Kip to cook for him once again—only now it is at his daughter’s wedding, outside the auspices of the military and under the weight of painful memories. Until this point Kip has led a quiet life, cooking and caring for his ailing mother, but as he begins his journey north to the beauty of Kashmir and the sublime oppression of its glacial border with Pakistan, the trappings of his former life come flooding back. Through a series of flashbacks, Chef becomes a coming of age tale in which a young Kip learns how to understand the people and the world around him through food and its infinite complexity. When a Pakistani “terrorist” with long hair and her own ideas about a “proper” Rogan Josh washes up on the Indian side of the river, the course of Kip’s life—and cuisine—is changed forever. Brilliantly interleaved with the memories of Kip’s awakening is his current journey north into the twilight of his existence as he prepares to cook a meal that could save his life.

Quintessentially Indian, Chef is a book that eschews complex prose in favor of authenticity. Touching in its deft handling of Kip’s journey into maturity, Chef helps its readers realize that true understanding comes when you recognize not only how people are alike, but also how they are different.

 
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