December 15, 2011

Secret Daughter & Short-Cut Indian Dinner

On Tuesday evening I finished reading Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.

On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to Asha. But in a culture that favours sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter's life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son. Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband Krishnan see a photo of baby Asha from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion for her. Somer knows life will change with the adoption, but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles. Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and Asha, "Secret Daughter" poignantly explores issues of culture and belonging. Moving between two worlds and two families, one struggling to survive in the fetid slums of Mumbai, the other grappling to forge a cohesive family despite their diverging cultural identities.

Secret Daughter is a different kind of novel than I have been recently reading.  There is no element of science fiction, no utopian/distopian sub-plot, and no romantic journey or romantic triangle.  Regardless, I think it's always a good idea to change-it-up every once in a while, and this story was a perfect example of why that is. 

Sometimes I get stuck in a reading rut.  I think that I like one particular type of book and only that particular type of book.  But what happens when that occurs is that I shut myself off to so many wonderful stories in different literary genres.  Had my friend Colbi never lended me Secret Daughter, I don't think I would have picked it up on my own.  But as it was, Colbi did lend me Secret Daughter, and I am very very pleased that she did.

  • Secret Daughter had me at Chapter 1.  Sometimes I find 20-30 pages chapters to be overwhelming.  I say to myself, "Do I really have enough time to sit down and read 20-30 uninterrupted pages right now?"  So the shorter chapter of Secret Daughter were refreshing.    I found that I could pick up this book at any time during the day and make a few pages of progress.
  • I appreciated the multi-dimensional quality of the story.  Because every chapter was narrated by a different character in the book, I, as the reader, gained a multi-faceted understanding of the cultural and generational dynamics at play.  Even moreso, I became attached to not only the main protaganist of the story, but also to the secondary and terciary characters.
  • The book highlights many ideas and themes, including the gender roles in India vs. America, emotional expectations regarding fertility, parenthood...but even more specficially motherhood, and the journey to accepting and understanding one's heritage.

According to a review by Paul Weiss:

Some readers will almost certainly be disappointed at the lack of closure that the finale of the story brings to all of its characters. For my money, this open-ended conclusion keeps SECRET DAUGHTER out of the potentiall pitfall of becoming trite or sappy. Life, after all, goes on. Families and cultures are dynamic, evolving things and, as individuals, our life on this earth is all too short. Our individual contributions are only a small part of that development. If we can all agree that the murder of infant Indian girls is unacceptable in a modern world whether it is in India or North America, then I think we can also agree that Shilpi Somaya Gowda, the novel SECRET DAUGHTER and the story of little Usha's life, has made a notable contribution toward that change.

My point?  If you are looking for a great story that might be a little different from what you normally read, pick up Secret Daugther!  Trust me.  It will have you at Chapter 1 too!

After reading Secret Daughter I found myself really craving Indian food.  All the talk about vegetarian curry dishes and naan had my stomach grumbling pretty loudly.  Since going vegan, Indian cuisine has become one of my favorites.  Perhaps this is because so many of their dishes are vegetarian.

Why, you might ask, are so many Indians vegetarian?

According to the article Vegetarianism in India, "the rise of vegetarianism in India goes back to more than 500 B.C., when India saw the rise of Buddhism and Jainism.  These religions preached the principle of ahimsa or 'non-violence'"  In addition to these religious reasons, many Indians also become vegetarians as a result of poverty.  After all, vegetables are cheaper to both produce and purchase than meat!

Back to the recipe at hand!  Like I said, after reading Secret Daughter I was really craving Indian cuisine.  I had a lot of vegetables on hand in my refrigerator; and thankfully, I also had a short-cut ingredient in the pantry!  The end result was full of vegetables, textures, and curry! YUMM-O!

Short-Cut Indian Dinner
Serves 4

1 medium russet potato, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 large crooked neck squash, diced
3/4-1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 T sunflower oil
Patak's Tikka Masala Sauce
1 C quinoa
cilantro, for garnish


  • Heat the sunflower oil over medium high heat in a large non-stick pan.
    • Note: I use sunflower oil in this recipe because it has a higher smoking point than olive oil.  Because I will be cooking the vegetables on medium high for several minutes, I didn't want to fill my kitchen with smoke!
  • Place potatoes in the pan, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and cook until beginning to brown (approximately 8 minutes).
  • Add the diced carrots, and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, add 1 C quinoa to 2 1/3 C water.  Allow the water to come to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Fluff after fully cooked.

  • Add zucchini and squash to the vegetable mixture with a dash more salt and pepper.  Cook for approximately 8-10 minutes until all vegetables are soft and brown.

  • Serve over quinoa with a garnish of cilantro.

Next up - A yoga craft project I recently completed!

Question of the Day:

Have you ever tried Indian food?  If so, did you like it?

Ally and Bo


  1. I'm eating Indian food right now, so yes, I love it. So many vegan options :) I am definitely going to make this dish, as I have a sauce sitting in my pantry now that I didn't know what to do with.

  2. I have fond memories of eating Indian food with you! I think we should plan an Indian food date for the next time I see you!