My father inculcated a love of Indian food in us from an early age. As an 18yr old conscript, towards the end of the war, he'd been sent to India. He'd learnt Urdu and when he took us to the Pakistani restaurant at Expo'67 in Montreal that was the "open sesame" to the kitchens for me. I was not quite 8 years but I vividly remember the magical things I witnessed: plumes of naked flames, sizzling and bubbling, puris that puffed like cumulus clouds, deft folding and flipping of samosas, real silver leaf fluttering onto creamy puddings and the scents of spices and herbs! Heady formative stuff: I needed to teach myself some of this alchemy.
After I'd graduated from Harvey Day, I moved on to Jack Santa Maria. I know nothing about its author - unlike Madhur Jaffrey's lovely biographical introductions and asides to her recipes, Santa Maria gives us tales of Sadhus and travellers - he is absent. This is not normally my favourite sort of cookbook but I love the range and diversity so much that I had to track down a second copy of this book when I lost it.