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After darkness comes the light.

Cornelius Nepos, Roman Biographer, c. 110 BC – c. 25 BC

 

Not For You
Family Narratives of Denial & Comfort Foods (Book One & Two)

 

 

As a food writer, personal stories around food fascinate me.

  • What stories do our recipes reveal about us?

  • What happens when we migrate, marry and mingle with those unlike our own, or even move across local and international borders?

  • How do new regions, cuisines or communities influence a family’s food choices?

  • How do comfort foods evolve in such kitchens?

 

Not For You is my third cookbook on Indian food inspired by real-life events. In here, I explore the lives of three generations before me, highlighting pivotal moments that caused shifts and changes in their lives and influenced their relationships with those around them.

 

Ordinary Lives: Extraordinary Foods

Personal family lore inspires this book, as I revisit the influence of 6 distinct cuisines both regional Indian and international, over 150 years on one family kitchen. I share the story of how ordinary people conquered public and private hurdles, and showcase how comfort foods sustained their spirits. The stories reflect on the evolution of relationships between people and their cuisines, how meaningful moments are carved out from life’s seemingly mundane events, how we redefine what is ordinary and what is extraordinary, and what influences ‘comfort foods’ for generations to come.

 

Food for the soul

From 1965-2000, my father served as a police officer. He was an ace investigator with a knack for handling tough undercover assignments with stealth and success. With his skill, he was often pegged to go out and physically chase 'the really bad guys', or go undercover for days on end sometimes (disguises and all). We have two scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings of his prominent cases!

 

 

But the newspapers left out the part about how he sustained himself in those grueling hours. If my father had a particularly intense case or chase we would not see him for two or three days straight. Without warning, he would come home for 30 minutes, often in the middle of the night. He was still 'on duty' and had to return. While he took a quick shower and changed, my mother would put together a quick meal, made from scratch, that he could eat quite literally 'on-the-go.' His favorites were whole grain flatbreads like roti rolls filled with preserves, stuffed paratha's or theplas that did not require refrigeration, silverware or fancy table settings. Before we knew it, my father would have grabbed the food that my mother had just prepared, and would be out the door, refreshed and back 'on duty.'

 

Restaurants were not uncommon in those days, but electing to return home for 'home cooked food' when work became too stressful or sometimes life-threatening was his comfort.

 

 

Don't we all crave the same things?

 

 

In the book, you will find several such stories. And there are many other simpler food stories, like one when my father first met my mother, their simple courtship over her fathers' diner, her post-marriage challenges of making flatbreads in their minimally equipped kitchen or how she, a vegetarian girl, learned to handle and cook meat! Of course, there are recipes for dishes from my grandfathers' diner as well as my mothers' early and simple dishes that she cooked for my father at short notice when he was 'on duty'.

 

 

The vignettes in this book are based on larger beliefs: it takes complete darkness to appreciate the importance of light; and only in that darkness, does a spark become a beacon of hope. The stories are much like a photographers’ study of light and shadows, as all the pieces and stories hold greater lessons about the harmonious relationships that sustain the human spirit.

 

 

{I routinely do chapter excerpts on Instagram LIVE & Facebook LIVE, if you want to hear more stories like this - you are welcome to tune in. Older videos are housed on the projects' Facebook page.}

 

 

Cookbook, Memoir/Fiction?

Yes. 60-40.

  • Cookbook: The cookbook component of this book is strong. There are more than 60 recipes in here and counting. (Check out the eye candy about what recipes you should expect in this book, approx. 4-minute show, YouTube Link)

  • Memoir or Fiction? This book started many years ago as a memoir but has evolved into a food fiction inspired by real-life events. Limitations of the publishing world prevent me from classifying it as a memoir.

 

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