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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