On a personal note: Tara Deshpande

Actor, model, VJ, author and a trained chef, Tara talk about the importance of cultural diversity in food habits and influence on Indian cuisine

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Geetanjali Minhas | March 27, 2019 | Delhi


#A Sense for Spice   #Fifty and Done   #chef   #author   #VJ   #actor   #interview   #An Indian Sense of Salad   #personal note  


Actor, model and VJ Tara Deshpande is a published author and a trained chef too. After marriage, she taught at culinary schools in Boston and New York, hosted a cookery show on the Public Broadcasting Service channel and ran a catering business. Her first book was Fifty and Done (published at the age of 23). She also wrote A Sense for Spice: Recipes and Stories from a Konkan Kitchen and An Indian Sense of Salad: Eat Raw Eat More. 

 
The book you are reading at present: Ramachandra Guha’s Savaging the Civilized and Gangadhar Gopal Gadgil’s works in Marathi.
 
Cooking to you means: Family
 
What is common to cooking and writing? Both create something that didn’t exist before. It is a cathartic experience.
How does cultural diversity influence food habits? In India, food is not just a task, it is a ritual. Whether you are using a family virjan to make dahi, boiling your own ghee, making modaks for Ganesh Chaturthi or deciding which chutney to prepare, it is all wrapped up in both family and community traditions.
 
How do you see Indian cuisine evolving? It’s evolving rapidly, in some good ways and in some bad ways; and that makes me sad. Indian cuisine is becoming more global. We are exploring northeast cuisine that hitherto has remained a mystery to the general public. We are foraging, eating more organic and seasonal, growing more urban gardens, consuming more ancient millets and greens. But we are also buying many products that we once made at home from the store now. India is one of the few remaining cultures where we cook more at home than we eat out. We must retain and nurture this quality because the best food is always homemade and so much of our culture and hospitality is embedded in this. 
 
How can we preserve traditional Indian food and cooking?  The quick service food industry is growing by leaps and bounds. I wrote about fast and junk food in Chillies and Porridge: “The average meal served at American chains like Wendy’s or IHOP have ranged from 1400-1800 calories without dessert. But how is this any different from our thalis with repeated servings of rice and ghee smeared rotis served at the speed of light?”
 
Your views on incorporating locally available food on dining table: An Indian Sense of Salad discusses exactly this. How to use local and seasonal Indian produce to make global foods by incorporating techniques from all over the world. Indians are magicians of flavour. We mix spices in more combinations than V Anand’s chess strategies. Take a classic Indian recipe, deconstruct it and apply a new technique – you will find it will taste really good because the foundations of our flavour are so solid. 
 
Your views on #MeToo movement: It is horrifying and distressing. It is a cleansing process for our society. We have to question our gender values, our work ethics, and some age-old traditions. But I feel change is happening. And it is happening because women are standing up and also because many good men have lent their voices and support.
 
The greatest influence in your life: My mother and grandmothers.
 
Your favourite pastime: Cooking, watching movies, spending time with my animals, playing chess and reading.
 
At the moment you are busy with: Writing another book, my cake business, and working on a web series.
 
Your future plans: My culinary studio, which is in the works now, and returning to acting.
 
– As told to Geetanjali Minhas
(This interview appears in the March 31, 2019 edition)

 

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