My first thoughts while going through Uma Raghuraman’s cookbook was that I wish someone had written this when I was in school, or even while my own children were in school. My lunch box always, inevitably, held paranthas with some pickle sitting snug in the middle, diffusing its flavour into every fold of the flatbread—simple and delicious, but a little boring day after day. My own children got paranthas with a wholesome subji and, occasionally, sandwiches or Maggi.
In her cookbook, Raghuraman, a food blogger and recipient of several prestigious food awards, gives recipes for balanced, nutritious meals that also lend themselves to easy packing and portability—great for school children and office-goers alike. Her lunches are planned with some essential tenets in mind—they should not be time-consuming, should not compromise on taste, must be pleasing to a child’s eye and should be packed in a way that a child can eat it easily and without creating a mess. In that, Raghuraman’s lunch boxes will remind one of the Japanese and Korean bento boxes—nutritious, glamorous and convenient.
The book has been produced with mouth-watering, expertly-shot photographs of the final product. The author gives 10 wholesome recipes for each working day of the week, ensuring that parents have enough options while planning and prepping meals for their loved ones. The simple step-by-step instructions and mentioning the utensils/equipment needed (whether an appam or paniyaram pan, or a steamer or a muffin tray) upfront, make the book easy to follow. Each recipe mentions cooking time, which will be helpful for the forever-busy parent who plans out her/his day by the minute. Moreover, since the author is well aware that mornings tend to be chaotic for homemakers and working moms, she has incorporated suggestions on how one can get some of the preliminary prep out of the way the night before to reduce the cooking time next morning. This ‘homework’—as the author puts it—will help mothers sail through hectic mornings smoothly. Raghuraman also shares small helpful tips on how to pack the food. For instance, she suggests cooling down the baked or fried dishes on a wire rack before packing to prevent them from getting soggy. It is these small details that will endear this book to parents.