SAN DIEGO — One of the first times food spoke to her, Madhushree Ghosh was 7 and tempted by a guava.
It was the last of three guavas Ghosh’s father had brought home to the family, and although she knew in her devoted daughter’s heart that she would probably have to wait to share it with the rest of the household, the guava had d other ideas.
“To this day,” Ghosh writes in his new memoir, “I swear the peyaara (guava) said, ‘Eat me. Eat me now.”
So she ate the guava, keeping a (slightly) guilty silence when her sister, Didi, started looking for it. Over 40 years later, Ghosh is still engaged in a deep dialogue with food. But this time, she doesn’t keep the conversation to herself.
On April 4, the San Diego writer and oncology diagnostic strategist made her publication debut with a memoir that uses food and food memories as a way to talk about so much more.
Ghosh loves food and food writing, so there are some great food photos, along with instructions on how to make ghee (clarified butter), taro root curry, and a touch of oil cake. Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Olive Oil.
But there are also love stories about her Bengali parents and her childhood rich in food and tradition in New Delhi. There are memories of culture shock from arriving in the United States in the early 90s to attend graduate school. There’s a sociological look at the impact of California’s numerous anti-immigrant laws on Sikh farmers in the Central and Imperial Valleys, as well as a painful account of Ghosh’s now-dissolved marriage to an emotionally abusive man.
“That’s how my brain works. I love the concept of a mosaic or braided essay. It grabs the reader’s attention,” said Ghosh, 51.
“If you’re not curious, if you’re not confused, if you’re not challenged enough, you’ll stop reading.”
The details – from the tasteless Land O’ Lakes butter patty that Thai Airways served on Ghosh’s first flight to the US, to the wild adventure that was pandemic panic shopping – are vivid and personal. But the variety of subjects and characters that Ghosh weaves into the braid of his book reflects his love of hearing the stories of others and then passing them on.
And like so much in Ghosh’s life, that fascination with stories came with ancestral territory.
“When you talk about South Asians and how we grow up, we grow up telling stories,” said Ghosh, who was born and raised in India. “Our grandparents told us stories. Our mothers told us stories. I lived on mythological folklore. You’re used to this kind of drama.”
For Ghosh, the writing journey began as an escape from the homesickness that hit her while she was working on her master’s degree in biochemistry at Stony Brook University in New York. After earning her doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Maryland, Ghosh went to work in the biotech industry, including Thermo Fisher Scientific and NeoGenomics Laboratories in San Diego, where she currently works.
She threw herself into writing non-fiction essays to help him cope with the breakdown of his marriage. She then moved on to write about other things, and for over a decade now, the process of exploring her deep well of interests and experiences has been its own kind of liberation.
Ghosh wrote about his refugee parents, who marched from what is now Bangladesh to India during the 1947 Indian partition that uprooted more than 10 million people. She wrote about how the late chef and author Anthony Bourdain honored immigrants’ many contributions to the world of food.
She explained the pressures diagnostics companies faced when producing COVID-19 tests during the early months of the pandemic. She reveled in the comfort of making lamb curry as a tribute to her late mother.
Ghosh’s essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Kitchn, The Rumpus, and many other publications. She was nominated for a Pushcart Award and her Longreads essay, “At the Maacher Bazaar, Fish for Life”, received a notable mention in the “Best American Essays in Food Writing”.
Some of those essays paved the way for “Khabaar: An Immigrant’s Journey of Food, Memory, and Family,” where Ghosh makes space to celebrate the things she loves — food, community, life. autonomy – while taking a careful and unflinching look at injustice. , racism and abuse.
When life said, “Share me. Share everything with me,” Ghosh listened to that as well.
“When I started writing ‘Khabaar,’ I didn’t want it to be a memoir from start to finish. I wanted to showcase chefs and home cooks. I wanted to talk about social justice issues. J I lived a life, and these are things that happened. I talk about domestic violence. Even if it wasn’t physical, it was important to talk about it,” Ghosh said.
“I would love for people to start reading and being like, ‘What is she talking about?’ And then they keep reading to find out what I’m talking about.”