When you’re in the kitchen, ever wonder how the chefs do it? We’re sharing a new series on masalamommas showcasing South Asian chefs and food experts who inspire us to share how they learned to master the kitchen, what books they read and what they REALLY have in their pantries!
This Month we feature food writer, cookbook author, Monica Bhide.
Monica Bhide is an engineer-turned-writer based near Washington, DC. She has built a diverse and solid audience through the publication of three cookbooks and a collection of short stories, her website, MonicaBhide.com, and articles in top-tier media, including Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Saveur, The Washington Post, Health, the New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, AARP The Magazine, Parents, and many others.
The Chicago Tribune named Bhide one of the seven food writers to watch in 2012. In April 2012, Mashable.com picked her as one of the top ten food writers on Twitter. Her work has garnered numerous accolades and has been included in four Best Food Writing anthologies (2005, 2009, 2010, 2014). Monica released her debut short story collection, The Devil in Us, in October 2014. Monica is a frequent presence on NPR, and serves as a speaker and teacher for organizations such as Georgetown University, the Association of Food Journalists (AFJ), London Food Blogger’s Connect, and the Smithsonian Institution. Her sixth book, A Life of Spice, releases on April 27th, 2015.
We sat down with Monica Bhide to chat about her experiences as a cookbook author.
1. When you first got into the kitchen what were your biggest mistakes/challenges?
Patience! I have very little patience when I cook and so, at first, the food was not properly cooked, many times I burnt things.
I also learned that it was critical to have your ingredients laid out before you start cooking — I have burnt so many spices while hunting down an onion! Oh, and I have to admit — I hate measuring things and this has led to many an adventure in the kitchen.
2. How has cooking and your perspective changed on food since becoming a mom?
Oh, so so much! I feel that food not only nurtures the body but good food memories nurture our spirit. I try my best to make meals times important for the kids – it really doesn’t matter if we are eating boiled eggs, pizzas, take-out, or home-made meals. What matters is that we are talking, sharing, and being grateful for what we have. Every conversation at mealtime is not a happy one but, you know, it is an important one. The kids feel that mealtime is a safe time to talk about anything that they want.. and that is what matters.
In terms of what I cook, that has changed a lot as well. I have learned that what is comfort food for me (Indian kidney beans and rice or Indian Kadhi and rice) are not what my kids view as comfort foods. They prefer my egg curry or a simple khidghree. It has been a learning experience!
3. What are your top five cookbooks?
I love reading cookbooks and cooking from them. So my favorite books to cook from are —
- Mark Bittman – How to cook everything
- Leslie Revsin – Come for Dinner
- Julie Sahni – Savoring India
- Ramin Ganeshram – FutureChefs
- Grace Young – Stir-Frying to the Sky’s edge
- Nancie McDermott – Pretty much anything she writes!
4. What is your favourite recipe from your books? It is hard to pick one! I have to be honest and admit that I included dishes that I adore in my book Modern Spice. If you want to have a look, take a look at the Pinterest Board for the book — there are so many wonderful photos that readers have posted! Click to see Monica’s favourite recipes
5. Who were your mentors as a food writer?
I have so many! I read and adore books by Ruth Reichl. Toni Allegra has been a mentor for ten years. As I move towards fiction, Sree Sreenivasan has been mentoring and guiding me.
6. What advice do you have for those trying to get into food writing or write a cookbook?
Write! I know that sounds easy and simple but it is amazing how many people just talk about it. If you want to be a writer, of any genre, you have to write – not talk about writing, not complain about lack of time etc — just write. It takes years of experience and loads of hard work to become an overnight success!!
7. Tell us about your new book, A Life of Spice.
My essay collection releases on April 27th, 2015. The collection, A Life of Spice– explores my romance with food. As in any romance, there are moments of great heartache and unbelievable happiness; betrayals and breakups; and, of course, intimacy. The essays in this book show how food affects all the areas of our lives: family, friends, love, culture, faith, and more. They capture the delights of cooking as wooing and of food as nurturer, and the sadness of the heartbreak kitchen.
This collection of powerful and thought-provoking vignettes makes us examine our relationship with food deeply—and what food really means to us. A Life of Spice gives readers a front-row view—and deliciously stolen peeks behind the curtain—into those choice moments that define a lifetime.
The collection has garnered some praise already:
“Monica writes stories about food, but often they are really stories about searching. She looks for what the world will reveal if you ask questions of the things we usually keep silent. She’s a generous writer, seeking the finer, richer sides of us.” – Francis Lam, Editor-at-Large, Clarkson Potter, and New York Times Magazine columnist
“Monica Bhide is more than a food writer. She’s a chronicler of culture and family history. She is a romantic for the bond between parent and child. She is an essayist of her own heart and mind, fearlessly searching for the truth in both. She is endlessly fascinating to read.” – Tim Carman, James Beard award-winning food writer for the Washington Post.
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