The kitchen is the place where culture and love brim and mingle along with food and nourishment. It is also one of the best places in the house to foster bonds with children! A Little Spice is Extra Nice by Sruthi Vijayan (Talking Cub) takes you through the delicious world of spices, garnished with the love and warmth of familial bonds!
Annie’s Appoopan’s (grandfather) rules the kitchen with his knack for cooking. With Annie in tow, the sights, sounds and the smells of a traditional kitchen become come alive. It all starts with ‘waking up’ the spices in the spice box, after which they cook up a storm, relishing traditional delicacies.
However, since they have run out of spices they visit Mattancherry, the famous spice locality in Kerela. From this point here, the readers enter into a completely different world. One gets a hint of a spice village that seems crystallized in time, retaining its traditional flavour despite the changes around it. Here the reader gets an introduction to the village and also to the exciting world of spices, their origins and the tedious process that goes into actually drying and grinding them to be fit for consumption.
While the visit to the spice market is the true heart of this tale, there are some other beautifully nuanced elements that add their own special charm to the story. The story portrays how the relationship between grandparents and children is enhanced through shared activities. With the grandfather ‘running’ the kitchen, it makes a statement of gender equality. It also shows how our traditional cuisine and methods of cooking are timeless and must be passed on from one generation to another, just like the grandfather’s spice box, which actually belonged to his mother!
The use of local lingo adds an authentic flavour to the book. The illustrations by Sanjana Ranjit are evocative. You’ll most likely feel hungry after reading this book! And yes, there will also be another change. If you’ve ever seen cooking as a chore, you’ll start to view it differently. You’ll see it as an activity that can cement and reinforce bonds! Pick up a copy of A Little Spice is Extra Nice for young readers (4-8) and enthral them with this heart-warming tale. Off to spice village then?