PFB Challenge#1: my life in all its…
Foodbuzz has created a fantastic opportunity for food bloggers like me to know more about each other and have fun together as a foodie community, here’s a link to the Project Food Blog. Stupendous guys! The first challenge requires us to write what defines us as a food blogger,
18 years ago there have been days in my life where I have set a table on fire with my baking, made pasta that could substitute glue, and sprinkled fennel candy over custard. The thought of me entering the kitchen could knock the eyebrows out of my family. But to me, the kitchen was like the pilgrimage I could never take, try as I might I could never cook like my mother, my grandmother, my brother, my uncles, my aunts, my entire congregation of ancestors put together.
I never said I wanted to cook to please others, I cooked to please myself. Putting together a combination of ingredients, adding a bit of this, and a dash of that, and getting it to look like that gobbledygook featured in a fancy cookbook, it was all so incredibly fun! No one could see beyond the disasters to comprehend why I loved the kitchen so much, when nothing I cooked came close to edible.
Then came a phase in my life where I moved away from home, when cooking became a necessary survival tool, and while I gorged on endless packets of Ramen (the only culinary monstrosity I had mastered), I learned to appreciate food, good food. And soon my forays into the kitchen led to reasonably palatable endings. Well to cut a long story short I learned how to cook for others, and to enjoy doing so.
Motherhood has been by far the most cathartic chapter of my life, for starters it has made me appreciate my mother, as also the deluge of counsel she loves to dump on me every now and then. She and my grandmother are the two non-celebrity chefs I look up to most. For women of my grandma’s generation cooking was a tool used guilelessly – to please, satisfy, cajole, embrace, and accept. Sometimes in my kitchen when I cook something familiar, with familiar ingredients, a familiar recipe perhaps, I am shocked at how deftly and with fluidity my hands chop, grind, and season the dish, and I know then that the congregation of ancestors are right there whispering to me in good faith. I know I am fine.
When I started writing the blog it was bit strange at the beginning, because with the food and the recipe came slices of my life, laid out to be picked bare by others I barely knew. It was also strange because though I had been writing for ever since I knew how to, I had never written about food and I certainly didn’t want it to be perceived as a sissy thing to do (I made environmental documentaries for a living). But then hey, now I was sitting at home and with a bawling kid at my feet and the kitchen was my hermitage.
My early posts reflect my uncertainty, I blogged about everyday food at my place, also foods that I was introducing my daughter to. But as I blogged more and more, the food I cooked in my kitchen started inadvertently to cater to other foodie friends who visited me. At some point, scuttling between a freshly cooked meal that just had to be photographed before it was taken apart, I started getting adventurous, even daring in the way I started handling ingredients like yeast.
I baked my first bread; I baked cakes that had been modified to use less butter, free of eggs, whole-wheat. Food became a reflection of my beliefs. I also started revisiting my childhood, relishing bits and pieces it threw up every now and then, savouring dishes I grew up on, sharing, as I went along.
It has been 16 years since I turned vegetarian, it was a personal choice. My family is NOT vegetarian, though on a daily basis the food on our table is strictly vegetarian. I occasionally prepare seafood for my daughter because like me going vegetarian should be her choice and not something that I stuff down her throat (though battle lines are drawn at red meat). However here on my blog I like to promote this deeply personal choice, by treating my readers with vegetarian food from all cultures, including my own.
Here in the emirates the local cuisine is more popular for its meats and grills, but there’s also a whole of vegetarian options in the mezze spread that’s amazingly delicious. So it’s really fun to discover these new tastes, use ingredients like sumac and tahini and pine nuts that are alien to my own food ethnicity and learn to savour it like my own. So my friends this is the way it is now, my blog is an extension of myself, I write it so I can share my table with you, that’s all there is to it.