Skip to main content


Jing-Mei Woo inspires a ginger tofu dish

 Trigger warning: death    My father hasn't eaten well since my mother died. So I am here, in the kitchen, to cook him dinner. I'm slicing tofu. I've decided to make him a spicy bean-curd dish. My mother used to tell me how hot things restore the spirit and health. – Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club, chapter 12  At the tail end of a chapter primarily devoted to an elaborate meal involving eleven crabs, the simplicity of the dish that Jing-Mei chooses to share with her father and the reader is interesting. In this novel about mothers and daughters, and friction between generations and cultures, we don't see the daughters in the kitchen too often. Jing-Mei's cooking is nurturing, and nostalgic, but she explains the act with humility. Throughout the book, I got the feeling that she wasn't particularly culinarily inclined  – perhaps it was her lack of interest in (and knowledge about) the differences between black sesame seed soup and red bean soup; or the way she admired

Thirty-one going on thirty-two

Last March I bought liquid foundation for the first time (the shop was all wrong) to conceal the forever-shadows under my eyes but sometimes I wonder which cosmetic chases away the less-than-hopeful feeling that this is all there will ever be or less maybe pandemics do this to a person or maybe it's just thirty-one where adventures do lie ahead but cautiously.

The Garage Girl and Maureen Fry's apricot flapjacks

Over tea and several apricot flapjacks, the girl told her she was the one who had given Harold the burger all those weeks ago. He had sent her many lovely postcards; although due to his sudden rise to fame there had been an inconvenient number of fans and journalists hanging about the garage. – Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, chapter 28 In the second chapter of this poignant story, sixty-five-year-old Harold walks into a garage a couple of post boxes away from his street, seeking a snack. He's feeling something , but doesn't quite have a mission just yet.  Although we never learn her name, the girl in the garage is the catalyst that starts everything.  You have to keep positive, though." Harold stopped eating his burger and mopped his mouth with a paper serviette. "Positive?" "You have to believe. That's what I think. It's not about medicine and all that stuff. You have to believe a person can get better. There is so much in the

Vianne Rocher's dark chocolate mendiants

Anouk reads a book of nursery rhymes behind the counter and keeps an eye on the door for me as I prepare a batch of mendiants in the kitchen. These are my own favourites – thus named because they were sold by beggars and gypsies years ago – biscuit-sized discs of dark, milk or white chocolate upon which have been scattered lemon-rind, almonds and plump Malaga raisins.  – Joanne Harris, Chocolat , chapter 7 There is no overt magic in this novel about a chocolatier who wanders into a small French village with her daughter and an imaginary rabbit on a Shrove Tuesday, the day of pancakes. I re-read this book after years, mostly because I'd forgotten large chunks of it and wanted to revisit Lansquenet-sous-Tannes before I read the rest of the series. This was my second "buddy read", which has been great for keeping my reading on track (case in point: the book I'm currently reading is taking far too long.) Vianne's mother was a witch, we are told, but she prefers to not

Wild iris

We first saw you as children when we first tasted starry nights and dewy greens on our palms, and drank the shades, so many shades, of purple that had sprung in feathery wisps and flakes and striped petals near nettles and firewood and cow dung cakes. We learned how to make ladders from your leaves as tall as dreams. As I sit here staring at four white walls in a dark city claustrophobic I remember you and the tingle of the open sky under my skin, the smell of wood shavings; the sound of cattle herders calling the cows home; the fluffy white clouds of smoke from a chimney and a few cigarettes between steady fingers. I do have a few photographs of you purple and green; pale imitations for I smell nothing, hear nothing. There are only  white walls in dark cities. Written in 2013, first published in Miracle magazine, issue 7, October 2013. Himachal Pradesh, 2011

Anne Shirley's teatime biscuits

Mrs. Rachel and Marilla sat comfortably in the parlour while Anne got the tea and made hot biscuits that were light and white enough to defy even Mrs. Rachel's criticism. – L. M. Montgomery,  Anne of Green Gables, chapter 30 This year, I've got a new project up my sleeve, one that combines books and food and photography. Each month, I plan to cook or bake one dish mentioned in a book I enjoy, and hopefully discover something new about the characters, try new recipes, and hunt for new ways to make images of food on the one table in our apartment that is exposed to good lighting. In honour of new beginnings, I thought I'd start with my favourite series , and I have a good reason for choosing these biscuits in the first book from among all the cakes, pies and preserves on offer. ( A shout-out here to  36 Eggs  for compiling an exhaustive list of every food item ever mentioned in the  Anne  books!) As unassuming  as biscuits may seem  –  indeed, I didn't remember them at al

I take thee

I got married a couple of weeks ago. It was simple – just us and three kind witnesses at a small registration office whose whitewashed walls belied its crumbling exterior. Somewhere in the courtyard, there was a primarily blue mural depicting the old and the new of this city. We talked, waited and sweated in our masks, sat in front of a camera and left a thumb print, signed papers and a register and repeated weirdly old-fashioned oaths ("I ... take thee ... to be my lawful husband.") There were flowers and balloons, lunch by the sea (well, sort of), and a free piece of cake. We also had another, larger cake – with three kinds of chocolate and adorned with books – all to ourselves. There were evening outfits for a virtual celebration, and there was wine. I just finished reading Meik Wiking's The Art of Making Memories, and he talks about how photographs are the "key to a vault of memories", and a way to "outsource" memories by serving as triggers. He su

Culinary comforts

I've always been intrigued by cooking – for who doesn't enjoy the fruits of that labour – but it was never really one of my ambitions to become a good cook. It felt like aiming too high, ever slightly out of reach. In fact, if you check out the Food label on this blog, you'll find that hardly any of it is about my own cooking.  I moved to London in 2011, opting for a dorm with a kitchen rather than one where meals were provided. I preferred the idea of being able to choose what and when I ate. Perhaps I thought I'd figure out how to cook along the way, and throwing myself into the deep end was the answer. I learned a few basic things before moving, some more theoretical than others. The first few days in the huge, bright kitchen were a mess; I needed to get used to the stove-top (no fire) before actually figuring out what to do upon it. I bought iffy heat-and-eat meals from Tesco, and I used the microwave a LOT. I guess those were my culinary beginnings, if we can cal

My 5 favourite podcasts this holiday season

Winter, even without the cold, is a special time of the year. As a kid in Delhi, the months from October through December were rife with family birthdays, anniversaries, Diwali, Children's Day, annual visits from our grandparents, and Christmas – all of which involved food and cake and people. It's different now; I've moved away, and things changed, but the seasonal feeling of warmth and cosiness and taking stock of the year remains. I'm going to start watching and reading and baking Christmas-y things soon, but this year, there's one more thing I'm adding to the traditions: uplifting podcasts. I'm new to this. For some inexplicable reason, I had never listened to a podcast until a couple of months ago, when I read on a friend's blog that she uses them to brighten up her chores. Cooking and cleaning can be repetitive and dull, and though I sometimes listen to music or make a call while doing them, it always felt like they were taking too long. But storie

A Goan monsoon sequel

One year ago, we escaped from the craziness of Mumbai to the rains of south Goa – my second visit, and second monsoon there . The trip was a pastiche of our interests, from architecture and long walks to distilleries and bakeries, with a few (mis)adventures and changes of plans (for the better) thrown in.    Beaches look very different in this season. My favourites were a private beach in Varca and the small beach at Cavelossim, where I largely loitered taking photos of creatures and people.  I spied bright blue things amid the shells, which I later discovered were called blue buttons, with the scientific name Porpita porpita . I've never encountered them before, though admittedly I've been to relatively few beaches in my three decades of existence. There were so many in some places that a whole part of the beach appeared blue. I didn't get too close  – instinct told me otherwise – but found this discovery quite fascinating.   One of the highlights was the Paul John whi