Friday, October 07, 2011

Why do YOU cook, Monica Bhide?

Monica Bhide
I'm not sure there is a harder working food writer than Monica Bhide. She teaches, writes magazine articles, has a syndicated newspaper column called Seasonings, and has written several cookbooks including her most recent, Modern Spice. What I like about her writing is the personal stories and her enthusiasm for using different ingredients. She's also about as big a twitteraholic as I am. Not only do I learn something new when I read her stories, articles and tweets, but I enjoy the journey.

As a child, I always felt that I had trouble relating with the world. I always felt that I did not fit in the crowd and that I could not really "connect" with people. Then one day, I discovered what I did relate to: the kitchen. I would spend hours watching my parents and my grandparents and uncles and aunts cooking but never attempted to try it myself. I think I was about 8 or 9 when I began to cook. It was an experience unlike any other. I never felt awkward or out of place in the kitchen. I never thought of cooking as hard (unlike school work!). The kitchen made me feel at peace with myself. It was around the same time that I started writing... but all the writing was private. I never shared it with anyone.

But back to cooking: As a child, there were so many things I could not do. I did not know how to swim or ride a bike or be one with the in crowd. But I knew how to bring out the best in eggplant, i knew how to sizzle cumin just right to release it's flavor and aroma, i knew how to stuff an okra with a pungent spice mix, I knew how to simmer a deep and intensely flavored lamb curry. I would go to the farmers market and pick fruits and vegetables with my dad and learned how to tell good fish from bad. And then the magic happened: when I served the food to people, they liked it. It became the source of connection with friends and family and those who came to my table. I felt like I finally had made a connection. Years later, as I cook to care and nurture my family, my writing grew up. I heard from more and more people that they connected with my words and that made them want to cook my food.

I cook because it is who I am. Cooking, for me, is a away of nurturing those around me and sharing a part of me with them. My world of writing and food makes me feel like I belong in this world and that I have a purpose and that I matter and can make a difference.



Monica Bhide is the twentieth person profiled in this series. Read more profiles.