Publisher: Canongate Books
Published: November 2019
Buy at: Buy on Amazon | Add to Goodreads
The dinner table, among friends, is where the best conversations take place—talk about the world, religion, politics, culture and cooking. In the same way, Be My Guest is a conversation about all those things, mediated through the medium of shared food.
We live in a world where some have too much and others not enough, where immigrants and refugees are both welcomed and vilified, and where most of us spend less and less time cooking and eating together. Priya Basil invites us to explore the meaning and limits of hospitality today, and in doing so makes a passionate plea for a kinder, more welcoming realization that we have more in common than divides us.
Can food be used as a weapon? A powerful tool that unites and divides. Can hospitality be conditional? Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community and the Meaning of Generosity explores the meaning of hospitality and the role food plays.
A short book of just over 120 pages, the book primarily focuses on food, community, and generosity. It is as much about the author’s family as it is about the politics of food. Her love for food and the greed for her mother’s kadhi. The secret recipes that are never shared. The unconditional and the conditional hospitality within a family.
We are introduced to her grandmother, Mumji, who used hospitality and food as a weapon to seduce and keep her husband. As a Sikh, I could relate to the family and her thoughts on the community. And particularly on the concept of the langar (community kitchen).
The history of food is the history of globalization. Every ingredient, however genuinely local it might seem, has behind – and likely ahead – of it a trail of travel and transformation. Still we can’t help but cling to a dream of original provenance.
Alongside, the author discusses politics, religion, racism, intolerance, and particularly migrants in context with hospitality. Topics one would not generally associate with food. With a primary focus on Europe’s migrant crisis, she raises a pertinent question. Why can’t we treat migrants as guests? It would definitely make the world a better place.
It is interesting that the etymological origin of both hospitality and hostility is the word ghosti. The author explores how food has been used as a weapon. How colonial administrations exploited natural disasters to trigger and intensify famines. To weaken the lands and strengthen their control.
Food has long been wielded as a form of power, a potent means of commending or condemning, of flaunting extravagance and displaying largesse.
The writing style is conversational. It almost feels like a dinner table conversation. True to its name, it is a reflection. At times, nostalgia. Often, a collection of philosophical musings. It is a book that makes you think and introspect.
I enjoyed reading the audiobook narrated by the author herself. It always adds to the narrative. I would recommend the book to readers who want to explore a powerful meditation on food and hospitality.Can Food Be Used As A Weapon? Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community and the Meaning of Generosity by Priya Basil #BookReview #BohoPonderings #MyFriendAlexa Click To Tweet
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About the author
Priya Basil was born in London to parents with Indian roots. Her family moved to East Africa when she was a year old; she grew up in Kenya, and later went to university in the UK. In 2002 she moved to Berlin, where she still lives. Since 2018 she holds dual German and British citizenship.
Priya has published two novels, a novella and a book of narrative non-fiction, as well as numerous essays for various publications, including The Guardian, Die Zeit, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Lettre International and Die Tageszeitung. Her fiction, which weaves stories between continents and cultures, has been nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Recurring topics in her work include identity, art, mass surveillance, democracy, (neo-)colonialism, feminism and the European Union. Her latest book, is Be My Guest, Reflections on Food, Community and the meaning of Generosity.
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Image by Дарья Яковлева from Pixabay
October 22, 2020 @ 4:07 pm
This one looks like an interesting book. Something different, something novel.
Your review has revealed the book to be quite thought provoking. Food and the dinner table can make or break relations and countries it appears!
November 21, 2020 @ 4:48 pm
The unique concept is what appealed to me too, Radhika.
October 22, 2020 @ 8:58 pm
Food related stories are so interesting. This sounds intriguing. Would check out the audiobook.
Today only I was watching a documentary about the rise of avocado as a superfood, and how it has left it’s land of origin depleted of water..
November 21, 2020 @ 4:54 pm
So true, Pratikshya. I keep reading similar things about quinoa. Once a staple food of Bolivia, and now it is affecting their ecological sustainability.
October 22, 2020 @ 9:36 pm
A different book with a different theme. Never have I read such a book sounds interesting and your review is really good it makes me want to read it right away.
November 21, 2020 @ 4:56 pm
Thank you, Shail 🙂 . Do check out the book.
October 22, 2020 @ 10:21 pm
mmmm this is very interesting. food is surely a very important part of many homes. i mean to a point where every mood and talk and respect depend on it.
November 21, 2020 @ 4:58 pm
Quite true, Cindy. It is a make or break in many homes.
Puspanjalee Das Dutta
October 23, 2020 @ 8:35 am
Loved reading your book review.
November 21, 2020 @ 4:59 pm
Thank you, Pushpanjalee 🙂
October 23, 2020 @ 1:12 pm
Food is actually a pretty powerful weapon in social norms! This sounds like a very interesting read.
November 21, 2020 @ 4:59 pm
Exactly Tina. Sometimes relationships depend on it.
October 23, 2020 @ 2:41 pm
This book sounds quite different and interesting. I have never heard of such a theme as the one explored here and the title surely got my attention. Thanks for your review, loved reading it!
November 21, 2020 @ 5:00 pm
Thank you Neha. I hope you enjoy reading it.
October 23, 2020 @ 4:21 pm
Im really intrigued by this book review; really interesting review; im I definitely now looking forward to read it now.
November 21, 2020 @ 5:01 pm
Thank you Vashi 🙂
October 23, 2020 @ 10:20 pm
Food is definitely the most powerful. Aakhir husband k pyaar ka rashta bhi pet se hi jaata hai. Apart, Food has the power to heal!
November 21, 2020 @ 5:03 pm
Quite true. Food is used as therapy too.
Anecdotes of Mom Life
October 26, 2020 @ 1:00 am
I was I intrigued by the post title and this book looks very interesting as well. A very different take on food! Thanks for the review.
November 21, 2020 @ 5:05 pm
Thank you 🙂
October 26, 2020 @ 2:00 am
the similar words and origin is interesting, as does the idea of treating people as guests and being hospitable! the story book sounds like an interesting read.
November 21, 2020 @ 5:07 pm
Isn’t it? One would never expect hospitality and hostility to have the same origins. I hope you enjoy the book.