Biting Through the Skin – An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland

Biting Through the Skin
188 Pages
ISBN 978-1-60938-185-1

At once a traveler’s tale, a memoir, and a mouthwatering cookbook, Biting through the Skin offers a first-generation immigrant’s perspective on growing up in America’s heartland. Author Nina Mukerjee Furstenau’s parents brought her from Bengal in northern India to the small town of Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1964, decades before you could find long-grain rice or plain yogurt in American grocery stores. Embracing American culture, the Mukerjee family ate hamburgers and soft-serve ice cream, took a visiting guru out on the lake in their motorboat, and joined the Shriners. Her parents transferred the cultural, spiritual, and family values they had brought with them to their children only behind the closed doors of their home, through the rituals of cooking, serving, and eating Bengali food and making a proper cup of tea.

As a girl and a young woman, Nina traveled to her ancestral India as well as to college and to Peace Corps service in Tunisia. Through her journeys and her marriage to an American man whose grandparents hailed from Germany and Sweden, she learned that her family was not alone in being a small pocket of culture sheltered from the larger world. Biting through the Skin shows how we maintain our differences as well as how we come together through what and how we cook and eat. In mourning the partial loss of her heritage, the author finds that, ultimately, heritage always finds other ways of coming to meet us. In effect, it can be reduced to a 4 x 6-inch recipe card, something that can fit into a shirt pocket. It’s on just such tiny details of life that belonging rests.

In this book, the author shares her shirt-pocket recipes and a great deal more, inviting readers to join her on her journey toward herself and toward a vital sense of food as culture and the mortar of community.

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

About Nina Mukerjee Furstenau (Columbia, Missouri Author)

Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Born in Thailand to Indian parents, Nina Mukerjee Furstenau grew up in Kansas, served in the Peace Corps in Tunisia, and founded a publishing company with her husband. Now a journalist and food writer based in Missouri and Washington state, she also teaches journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Furstenau has written a culinary memoir, Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland (MFK Fisher Book Prize winner, Les Dames d'Escoffier International Grand Prize winner for culinary/culture writing, Kansas Notable Book) and Savor Missouri: River Hills Food and Wine. Her work appears in magazines and newspapers such as Feast, Sauce, and the Columbia Tribune, and in literary journals such as Ploughshares and Painted Bride Quarterly. Her story, "And Then There was Rum Cake," is in the anthology, Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter and Booze, 2017.

Through her experiences in the Peace Corps and life-long travels, Furstenau developed a passion for great flavors and fresh ingredients and for the ways cultures entwine over food. She is fascinated with food story – its history and connection to land as well people – and the flavors of region.

Furstenau received a bachelor’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism in magazine journalism in 1984 as well as a master’s in English with a focus in creative writing in 2007.