Friday, February 26, 2010

The White Tiger - book review - Food For Thought
photo courtesy of

I just finished listening to the novel, The White Tiger but before I get into my review of this book, I want to tell you about an incident that happened before my husband retired from practicing medicine.

He was on call for the weekend & was awakened around 3 am by the Medical-Dental Bureau that handled after hours emergency calls. They told him there was a man calling long distance & insisting on speaking to him, despite the time.

When my husband took the call, the guy blurts out, excitedly


"What did you say?" my husband replies, as he sits up & rubs sleep out of his eyes.

"Doc, I said I got TWO WHITE BENGAL TIGERS!" he shouts, even louder.

"Yeah, well what do you want ME to do about it? " says DH, a family practice physician.

There is this short, silent pause on the phone...

"Is this Dr. ______________?"

"Yes, it is."

"Dr. ______________, of the Ohio Zoo?"

LOL!! We then discovered that he wanted to speak with the veterinarian at the zoo, who just happens to have the same last name. The bureau got the phone numbers mixed up.

We never did hear how or where he had acquired the tigers, but we still laugh about it.

This is the fourth Food for Thought bi-monthly meme I'm joining today,
the brainchild of the very talented Jain from

Once in Blue Moon and of Food With Style.

If you're interested in seeing what others are reading & cooking

just follow this link:

Food for Thought

My book choice is the last in a trilogy of "help" books

being read by my book club.

The White Tiger

by Aravind Adiga

Rating: *

I found this book to be a coarse, intense, unsettling novel about prey & predators, a story of an Indian man trying to break free of societal chains & expectations that accompany the terrible caste system of India. The India that we see in The White Tiger is a brutal, totally corrupt world, where people behave like animals & everything can be bought for a price.

The story is of Balram Halwai’s journey from a village where he spent his days working at a tea stall to the city of Bangalore, the murdering of his master & his transformation into an entrepreneur who currently owns a successful transportation agency.

Balram is intelligent & resourceful & stands out in his school which gains him the nickname “White Tiger” because a white tiger is the rarest creature in the jungle, only coming along once a generation. Balram eventually finds out that white tigers have their cages, too. It is told in the form of letters that Balram writes over the course of seven nights to a Chinese Premier who is about to visit India.

Balram wants to describe the stark contrast between the real India and the India that will be presented to the Premier during his visit. The blurb on the book jacket calls it "amoral, irreverent" which is certainly was, but I wouldn't call it "deeply endearing". Since my library only had the book on tape version available, I found that LISTENING to it frequently shocked my sensibilities with its crude language and offensive descriptions. Just because an author is able to describe something that is dead & rotten with eloquent prose, doesn't change it from still being smelly, dead & rotten..."deeply endearing" this book was NOT!

While the language & accent in the book on tape was beautiful to listen to

(very rhythmic & sing-song with succinct pronunciations)

Balram himself spoke with a sarcastic, cynical & crude voice. The story is laced with a dark sardonic wit & provocative confessions. I found him unlikable & unable to feel any sort of regret or remorse for the terrible things that he did. He justifies the premeditated murder of his employer as an act of class warfare.

I only gave it one *.

Silk brocade, woven tapestries, Budda, spices & incense...all these represent pieces of India's culture. In researching the foods of India, I learned that an Indian meal should consist of the entire food spectrum; spicy, creamy, hot, salty, sweet. Over fifty different spices are grown in India among them pepper, ginger, turmeric, chili, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cassia, clove, nutmeg & mace.

Pickles were the first food mentioned in the book, as part of Balram's lunch at school, so I started with those, serving them in an American Brilliant cut glass pickle dish from the Depression era in the United States.

Many of their dishes are baked in a special tandorri or clay oven,

which I don't own, so I made curry chicken instead & served it with their traditional Basmati rice & naan, a type of Indian flatbread.

Chai masala tea is a favorite drink & is usually served in clay cups without handles.

They are used only once then broken & thrown away.

I had to improvise by making this:

It was warm & spicy with hints of ginger & cinnamon.
Perfect for a cold, winter day and sugar free, too!

Even though I didn't like the book, I'm glad that I read it
because it helped me to learn about
different foods & culture & that
is always "a good thing!"

*said in my best Martha voice*

Thanks for visiting & have a nice weekend.


  1. This is a BEAUTIFUL post!! I like your review of th book...your feelings about it came out clearly n passionately...beautifully written and beautiful photos and beautiful food!

  2. Ditto, Rett. This is a beautiful post with all its textures and vivid colors. Curry chicken is a favorite here! I think I can smell this dish right through the screen.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book and the funny story about the phone call.

  3. I love your tiger story... if someone would have gotten me still asleep I might have given advice! The tiger picture was fabulous and Ioved your curry story... it was great. It is an ancient cuisine and you did well by it... Thanks!

  4. Your dish looks delicious and the perfectly propped photos do honor to Jain's FFT:) Well done Rett.

  5. i just love my food for thought saturdays, i am hunkered down on a stormy day enjoying everyone's reviews as much as a good book! love the white tiger story, now thats worth waking up for!

    oh my, one star... i was just looking at on my reading list the other day, time to cross this one off! it was dicey for me as is, i don't like violence, and i bet listening to was the worst, you can't get away from the bad parts!

    but good comes from bad, i love how you researched the food and learned things, makes up for it doesn't it! and such fun pics too, don't you love playing with food for thought? it expands our horizons in a fun way! i confess, i had never had naan until i used it for my everest book, gosh it was delish!

    how fascinating the cups are just discarded...

    your meal looks wonderful, who cares if the book was bad, the meal looks fantastic! thanks so much for playing, i love love love seeing everyone creativity, great way to spend my weekend smiling over all of you!

  6. This is an outstandingly informative post about both the book and the foods. You did a great job in recreating the story line.

    Your fabrics are TDF & that chai tea is making me thirsty. I love Starbuck's chai tea.

    Your friend,

  7. I like an honest review of a book. The food looks delicious, I love that bread.

  8. Oh no, I could never break the cup!
    We don't eat curry here..but yours looks good.

  9. You seem to be very interested in different cultures and their food. You may want to check out my book Entertaining From an ethnic Indian Kitchen. Thanks for mentioning Indian spices. I love your white tiger story.


Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I read them all & each one is so very special to me & I try really hard to return the visit!