“Those rotis need to be rounder and thinner!”
My mother is the one who taught me how to cook, starting before I was a decade old. It was a regular after-school activity, making dinner in under an hour with my Mom. She cooked with speed and precision, and put together huge dinner parties with such ease. Thus came about my passion for cooking and entertaining. I baked more than I cooked through college, and then began my expensive hobby of collecting cookbooks.
While training to be a Physician Assistant, my spare time went to experimenting with non-Indian cooking techniques and trying non-Indian recipes. At that point, I had never cooked or handled meat or seafood, having been raised vegetarian. I then fell in love with and married my then carnivorous husband whose absolute favorite food is South Indian food, and much to my mother’s chagrin, he introduced me to non-vegetarian Indian cuisine (we now eat it sparingly but it is SO delicious and always a party favorite).
While working as a PA in oncology and then gastroenterology, in my spare time I gradually learned how to cook and prepare South Indian food to my husband’s delight. Much of it I learned from my mother-in-law, who is a fantastic cook with a repertoire of dishes that I hardly find in any Indian restaurant in the United States. At that time, we lived in Seattle and my husband worked long hours. I would cook leisurely for hours, watching Food TV and reading cookbooks, as if I was a student, absorbing everything.
I learned about ingredients complementation, making stocks and sauces, cooking grains and legumes, braising and parboiling, preparing produce perfectly for cooking, knife techniques, and handling and preparing meat/seafood. I also took cooking classes occasionally, and found myself dreamily wondering if I could ever teach Indian classes. I mean, the food is just SO good! But more importantly, I wanted to reach out to people about this particular kind of Indian food, which most people in the United States had not been exposed to before.
We then moved back to Texas, and began to raise a family. This changed everything. I wanted to stay home with the children and didn’t particularly find my career in healthcare to be as fulfilling as it had been in the past. When I was about to have my second child, I decided to teach an impromptu cooking class, modeled after the ones I had been to, to people I knew. That first class changed my career path. The students had a great time, the food was fantastic, but most importantly, I was thrilled to impart so much knowledge about Indian food, ingredients, and technique to others. I felt like I really was teaching something new and I had a great time doing it! I discovered that Austinites love ethnic foods, and health-conscious folks were particularly happy with the variety of Indian foods that could accommodate their diets.
As the next many years flew by, I jumped into local teaching positions at notable places like the Whole Foods Flagship Culinary Center. I became a private chef cooking instructor. I contributed to cookbooks. I started this blog. I guest cheffed at events. I became a freelance food writer. I taught kids classes. I created cooking videos and got on TV. And best of all, I brought my medical background full circle with my love of food and cooking and am currently embracing the concept that I’ve practiced all along without knowing it: Food As Medicine.
And what’s next? Stay tuned and you’ll see!