Mum's the word: On Mother's Day, four chefs tell us how their mamas shaped their food philosophy
Be it hand-me-down recipes or an introduction to sustainable cooking, mothers play a phenomenal role in shaping our food journey and these chefs will confirm that
If you really think about it, our mothers are our first teachers in so many ways. How often do we catch ourselves doing things in a certain way because that's how our moms did it? How often have other people caught you off guard by telling you how much you speak like her or how much you resemble her and her mannerisms? For so many of us, our orientation to food began through our mothers. Even if it was just by sitting next to her and observing her make herself a cup of tea.
On Mother's Day, we ask four prominent chefs from the Indian food industry how their moms have influenced their cooking styles and techniques and here's what they have to say.
Chef Amninder Sandhu
National award winner and a participant on Netflix's show, The Final Table, chef Sandhu has fond memories of watching her mother nurture herbs and spices she grew in her kitchen garden. One of Sandhu's recipes, Mama's mutton curry, has been on her menu for years."This is what we grew up eating. My brother could not even wait for my mum to open the pressure cooker and serve the curry in a bowl. So, he would just bring the pressure cooker and we would eat from there directly. I hold that memory very close to my heart, and this is why I've recreated that experience, and I serve the dish in a small pressure cooker on the table,'' says the chef.
Chef Sandeep Sreedharan
Co-founder of Mahe in Goa, chef Sandeep Sreedharan specialises in Indian coastal cuisine. "Even though I have been taking recipes from my mom from a very early time in my life, I learned a lot from just observing her,'' he says. "It's always fascinating to see how she squeezes and snaps a green chilli or bruises the curry leaf to make it into a fragrant garnish,'' he adds. He says that there is still a lot to learn from her and while he tries his best to experiment with many kinds of dishes, he always tries to inculcate what he grew up learning from his mother.
Chef Radhika Khandelwal, founder of and chef at New Delhi's popular Fig and Maple, says that her introduction to zero-waste cooking was propagated by her mother. "Meals in the evening were always special and I used to be perched on the kitchen counter, helping her and catching up with her after she returned from a day at work,'' she reminisces. "My mother always found a way to trick us into eating healthy nutritious meals by sneaking in seasonal ingredients into flavoursome dishes. She would ensure that nothing in the fridge went to waste, often repurposing leftovers into a whole new dish. This, in turn, influenced my philosophy as a chef deeply,'' she shares.
Nambie Jessica Marak
Nambie Jessica Marak, who is behind the popular North-Eastern food YouTube channel, Eat Your Kappa, grew up in Shillong. Her mother grew most of the vegetables they ate in her own kitchen garden and she credits her for the cooking skills, tips and tricks she's passing on to her fans. ''I learnt the small things from her. For example, my mom would never use a knife to cut certain vegetables like beans and mustard greens, she believed cutting it with a knife alters the taste. So, she would tear them down with her bare hands,'' says Marak. It is these small and beautiful idiosyncrasies that makes the culinary education we receive from our mothers so special.
And while most of us are looking for that perfect present this Mother's Day, the truth is that they've already bestowed on us a gift like no other: that of nutrition and nurturing. So, this year, a heartfelt 'thankyou', might be the best thing to give her.