My story

My love-affair with food is something new... As a kid, it was my brother R who loved being in the kitchen! And we all thought he would be a celebrity chef one day (No, he is not gay!). I was always the confused one - a tomboy, yet a romantic. A rebel, but could give up the cause to immerse myself in my books :D And the kitchen was definitely alien territory! I loved my mom's sambhar and alu bhaja (aloo fry) and kobarkai patchadi (coconut chutney), and being a Telugu Brahmin born and brought up in Bhubaneshwar meant I had the advantage of relishing typical South-Indian cuisine along with the sea-food of Orissa and the pungent kick of mustard oil...
I also remember slobbering over Enid Blyton's description of midnight snacks in Malory Towers and St.Clare's without actually being aware of what sardines, tongues, and anchovy were! They just sounded so good... (I know better now!) But I never entered the kitchen even to make a cup of tea or coffee!

17 years of my life I took for granted all the yummy home-cooked food made painstakingly by my Mom and my Amamma (my paternal grandmom) where everything was made the traditional way. From papads and potato wafers to wild berry and mango pickles, from Kandi Gunda (a traditional powder of mixed lentils and spices) to coconut chutney made in a huge stone mortar and pestle, from 5-6 varieties of Charu (Rasam) to innumerable chutneys made of practically every vegetable and fruit, from Oriya/Bengali style Fish Fry to Chowmein and Chilli Chicken - my childhood was a gastronome's delight! A huge bungalow with a massive backyard and 7 varieties of mango trees, 6 coconut trees, and trees of guava, berries, custard apple, lemons, and curry leaves, meant I had the most amazing childhood filled with comfort food of every kind.

Watching over pickles & vadiyalu drying in the huge backyard while sitting with a book in the shade of the awning with our dog chasing away the crows; packing amazing koli bodis (dried berries made into tangy fritters) to share with friends; Sunday lunches that were no less than a feast fit for kings; and my dad's love for chinese food - all this laid the foundation for my present epicurean quest i guess.

But this idyllic existence did not last as the next 10 years of my life were spent in hostels, paying guest accomodations and pokey rented flats with a sorry excuse for a kitchen. That's when I really started cooking... with little money to eat out and unable to afford a cook on a student's limited allowance, I started experimenting in the kitchen. The first ones to bear the brunt of my escapades were Kakki & Prasad Uncle (my mausi and her husband in Chennai) and my cousin Neha. There was no lack of lofty ambition, and I started off with Tomato egg drop soup, beef vindaloo and mushroom soup - all with varying degrees of success (read disaster!). I remember trying to make idlis with the pressure cooker whistle on and my aunt laughing her head off at my understanding of "steaming" in a cooker!

But even through the experimentation phase, I somehow knew what was missing where, could judge what I could add to the recipe to enhance the flavors...

Then Mumbai happened and a career in media meant no time to eat, forget cook!  But I could afford to hire a cook and eat out more often. Even today I love trying out new forms of cuisine and never order the same thing from a restaurant if I can help it :)

Post marriage, the tiny kitchen in our brand new 1 bedroom flat inspired me to start cooking again. And this time I had a willing taster in my husband Sid. But it was limited to just the weekends off - which is why I thought of myself as The Weekend Epicurean :) But it was a tall order - having to live up to my mom and my mom-in-law's expertise and ease in the kitchen! But there is something called genes thankfully... and growing up surrounded by food afficionados had had its effect I guess. I realised I was more adept in the kitchen than I thought I was. Sid enjoyed everything I made, even though I sometimes suspected he was saying nice things just to please me! (And that's quite strange considering how blunt Sid usually is...) Now our friends G&A have been added to my list of willing guinea pigs who try everything I churn out without flinching...

Today I have a bigger house (read kitchen, with a cool new cooking range!) and have recently quit my television programming job in an effort to understand what I wish to do next. Call it an early onset of midlife crisis if you will!!! But as I enter the third decade of my life, there is this urge to do something more... and something I enjoy. That and many words of encouragement from Sid, and food blogger and woman extraordinaire Arundati, have finally made me take the plunge into the world of blogging. This blog is a start, hopefully - a way to begin changing all that I do not like about my life right now, and a way to incorporate more things that I love and enjoy into my everyday routine. Now I can only hope that I can sustain this enthusiasm and take out the time to stop and smell the spices...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey swati...its really inspiring and good to see that you are doing something that really interests you at this moment...you are really living your life the way you want to....i really admire u for this....wish u all d best :)

sliceofmylyfe said...

HEY Swati,

Thanks for dropping by.

You have a beautiful space here. I enjoyed browsing through your posts. I really feel your enthusiasm through the posts. I'll keep popping over every now and then to get a regular dose of that infectious enthusiasm

Gayathri Ramdas Sreekanth said...

Hey Swati, Great space that you ve got here. Seeing Orissa in your description, I was about to request you to put up the recipe of Khatta, when I found it here. My sis-in-law and family are at Orissa and I had spent over a month there last December. Loved the Oriya cuisine especially the Khatta, Dahi baingan, fresh prawns.. Will keep popping in..

bharathi said...

Hello Swathi
I found your blog through Preethi's Krya blog. I liked what you had said on the issue of Beauty with responsibility and I just clicked on your name and I came here. I am so glad I did because more than food I like to hear stories especially childhood stories of food and reminiscing.And you have said that so well about your childhood. Sometimes I wonder if this generation will also have such warm memories of food cooking in the kitchen, open places, sitting under trees and trying to eat sour tamarind balls. hoping to see lot more such stories

simple baking said...

Hi Swathi,
Found your space through Caramel Wings and, I must say, m very impressed. Totally going to follow from now on :D
Anuja