is a very short biography and if you want more information
you can visit the contributor's website where you
will usually find contact details. If you wish us
to pass a message on email
me tell you a little bit about myself - the sort of
things friends share over a cup of coffee. I took
a rather meandering route to the world of food writing.
After spending over two decades in a career in finance,
today I spend my time researching, cooking and writing
about the cuisine and culture of my home state in
India. For the first twenty-five years of my life
I knew only one kind of food the vegetarian
cuisine of my home. However, a move to the U.S. with
my then graduate student husband opened the door for
me to the wonderful world of cooking. Until I came
to this country I had never cooked a complete meal.
I taught myself to cook by referring to the recipes
that my mother sent me every week in her letters.
They never mentioned any measurements - a pinch, a
handful, and some -were the most prominent adjectives
she used. I had to rely on my memory of tastes to
get the flavors right.
by my early successes in cooking, I submitted my mothers
recipe (with proper measurements of course) for coconut
rice to a recipe contest held by Womans Day
magazine. My joy knew no bounds when I received a
letter from Womans Day informing that I had
won the first prize in the recipe competition. A couple
of weeks later the food editor of Providence Journal
wanted to interview me. We talked in the kitchen as
she watched me make pancakes with a rice and coconut
milk batter. Next Wednesdays food section featured
her article along with my pictrure and some of my
recipes. Thus began my journey into the world of food
writing. My dream to get an American education and
pursue a career took me in a different direction for
the next several years. But my interest in all things
culinary has always kept me close to food.
was one of the founding members of the University
Gourmet Club in Dallas, Texas, in which I remained
active during the twelve years I lived there. In New
York I continue to attend culinary seminars and take
continuing education courses in Food Studies. I am
a member of the International Association of Culinary
Professionals, Culinary Historians of New York. South
Asian Journalists Association and Slow Food USA. My
articles Woks, Fishing Nets and Ceramic Jars and Congee:
Asias Bowl Full of Comfort appeared in Flavor
and Fortune, an award-winning magazine about the science
and art of Chinese cuisine. I have also contributed
recipes and articles to www.leitesculinaria.com, www.ThingsAsian.com
and Kumkumam, a Malayalam weekly published in Kerala.
My educational qualifications include a diploma in
article writing from the School of Careers, Berkshire,
England; a BSc. in chemistry and physics from Kerala
University, India; and an MBA from Southern Methodist
University, Dallas, Texas.
life in India was a privileged one by Indian standards.
I grew up in a large, well-to-do Nayar joint-family.
Our household included twenty-one family members as
well as two cooks and several servants. Our kitchen
was a spacious and special place with its wood burning
stoves and wooden racks filled with copper, bronze
and soapstone pots and ceramic jars. Like the kitchen
of any orthodox Hindu home, it was always spotlessly
clean and no one was allowed to enter it without taking
a bath first or with shoes on. As children we were
not allowed to go further than the doorway to this
childhood recollections are of waking up to the distinct
aroma of freshly made decoction coffee that emanated
from this kitchen in the morning. Of sitting on the
windowsill in the mornings and watching the cook churn
a large pot of yogurt to make fresh butter and buttermilk.
Of lazy summer afternoons tiptoeing into the kitchen,
when no one was there, to pick a handful of sea salt
from the uppumarava (wooden salt box) to eat with
fresh raw mangoes. Of watching my mother continuously
stir paalpaayasam (rice pudding) on festival days,
while the cooks hurried around her preparing traditional
dishes with fresh vegetables from our farm. And of
the many good times that made this kitchen the heart
of the home. From this kitchen came some of the amazingly
diverse vegetarian dishes that were prepared with
seemingly ordinary ingredients. To this day the tastes
and aromas that accompanied these simple creations
remain vivid in my memory.
interest in the cooking of central Kerala has been
truly kindled during the three decades I have lived
away from there. When I learned to prepare dishes
from other parts of India from my friends, I realized
how different and unique our cuisine is. Exploring
the world of international cuisine made me aware of
the vague similarities of our cuisine to Mexican cuisine,
and to a certain extent even to Italian cuisine.
for some of the traditional vegetarian dishes of our
region still remain only in the memory of an older
generation. During my many visits home I have studied
this traditional cuisine from native cooks who have
lived and cooked in this region their entire lives.
I have spent many fascinating hours listening and
writing down their verbal culinary histories that
go back hundreds of years.
Southwest" will always be home to me and
its foods are the comfort foods I long for. Through
this web site I want to share with you the simple
foods and cultural traditions of my community from
central Kerala, a community to which I belong.
Please come with me through this Peppertrail to my
corner of the pepper country, the old kingdom of Kochi,
in central Kerala. Black pepper, the most widely used
spice in the world, is native to my home state of
Kerala, located at the southwestern tip of India.
ago black pepper attracted many foreign traders to
our shores. This long history of foreign trade had
considerable impact on our agriculture, cuisine and
to a certain extent even on our language. Both the
Nayars (hereditary warriors) and the Royalty
of Kerala still continue to observe the ceremonial
aspects of the ancient matrilineal system. Let me
introduce you through my web site to our ancient cultural
traditions, fascinating food history and our delicious
and simple cuisine.