In the book, she focuses on the prasadam (sacred food offerings) of each place of worship that she visited. She says using food as an anchor seemed like a “good way to parse the temples each with specific creation-myths, rituals, and recipes”.
Shoba gave a pass to what she calls “rockstar temples” like Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams considering everyone knows about its famous laddu prasadams. This decision helped her focus on lesser-known temples, and she was rewarded with interesting stories and recipes. For example, she bypassed Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, an equally “rockstar temple”, even though she wanted to include more goddesses, for a lesser-known neighbouring temple because of its interesting prasadam.
“My favourite prasadam in the book is from Azhagar Kovil in Madurai because it is a savory prasadam. Most prasadams are sweet and a lot of them are payasam and milk-based,” she says. At the Azhagar Kovil temple, they offer deep-fried dosa as a sacred food offering.
“We can sit here and be rational and skeptical about faith, but when you go to the places of worship, the temple is an anchor to many people, especially the old and women, mostly widows. It is a place that gives them a sense of community, some measure of happiness, gives them a sense of purpose in life,” she says. Shoba found women and men chopping vegetables, grating coconuts, laughing, and talking. “That was beautiful for me to see,” she says.