The day I started blogging little did I realise that it will make me into a different person. Today food is another emotion for me…. Yes, some 5-6 years back, cooking was a necessity for me and my family. Later, as the quotation states I developed it as an art. Now, it is an emotion , a happy emotion. It helps me express and communicate. This emotion definitely is different from the other emotions I have. In this case, I do not need to explain..one just needs to taste. Isingcakes started when I started baking and cake decorating. I learned numerous techniques from the perfect roses to the impressive borders, fondant figurines and icing skills with buttercream. I loved creating bakes with decorations. Being a sweet tooth, I started experimenting with English desserts. Isingcakes & more came into existence to record these bakes. Being an Indian, who believes in beginning anything shubh with a sweet, I thought I should make an Indian dessert to start the traditional section in my blog. It was then that, I recalled about Ruchira in my kitchen drawer. This book was authored by Late Kamalabai Ogale. Checked out the recipe for Sheera(Semolina halwa), cooked and blog posted it. Not that I had never made Sheera before or my mother had never made me one. Just that, had the urge to flip through and see and create. We all loved it. There are days when I churned out exactly the same as Kamalabai Ogale stated in her book and at times, I have adapted the recipes to my needs and ease. I started baking instead of frying, introducing new ingredients in place of those mentioned in the book merely because they either weren’t available easily or the fact that I just needed to experiment. Anything that got created was chronicled in the blog. Gradually I had both my baking and traditional sections filling in with my tried and tasted recipes. My family and my blogger friends supported me with this idea. Anjali from Annaparabrahma and Sayantani from A Homemaker’s diary have been my constant supporters. Sharmila from Kitchen e Kichu Khon is another mate who gives me the strength to carry on. This culinary journey saw me learning many skills. I met a bunch of bloggers in UK. Nupur, Nisha and Suchismita. The group helped me learn about photography. Rather than just point and shoot, I worked on manual shooting. I could understand my camera finally. This acquired skill of photographing food made me love my food all the more. The presentation, props, the colours, styling and processing added another feather to my achievements. I had never ever thought I would fall so head-over-heals with cooking, food photography and styling. I am honing my skills with constant practice. This is when I realised the same bhaaji(vegetable preparation) I served in a simple vessel or at times kadhai(yes, I was terribly lazy, serving it on a proper server) made so much of a difference when plated with care and style. I enjoyed eating and my family enjoyed it equally. Then began my next step…Cooking the food with the right ingredients, cutting the vegetables just right, cooking it the right way and presenting it in a pleasant way. Inspired by Kamalabai’s recipes and adapting them a few ways or coupling them with other techniques I was introduced to the whole new world of creation. Every meal served was idolised and enjoyed to the most. We enjoy our meals. Personally I feel it is so much of a symbiotic effect. Treat and respect your food well, you will receive the same. Kamalabai has said in her book “समाधानाचा जन्म स्वयंपाक घरातून होतो” (True satisfaction is born in the kitchen) .A few of my friends pointed out that my journey was Julia and Julie esque. I was not aware of the film then.I was following Anneliese from Rising to the Berry who was baking her way through Mary Berry’s book. I thought I will just carry on with the same.Finding it absolutely inspiring. I am an ardent follower of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood and watch their Bake Off series. So my world of cooking carried on, quite unaware of the fact that I was actually heading towards the same theme. One day, I was surprised to receive a comment on my blog by the editor of DNA. Initially, I thought it must be another of a spam comment. However, I just checked with my husband and my brother in India. They have always guided me when it came to technology and such matters. I just kept thinking why would anyone from media contact me. Surely must be spam. However, I just sent an email to the address the comment mentioned. To my surprise, it turned out to be the actual editor. He pointed out to the fact that this is like Marathi Julie cooking through another Marathi Julia. I was chuffed! A few emails and telephone conversations resulted in a mention in DNA on the 5th April 2015! I still do not believe my eyes when I read this article. The first thing I needed to do was watch Julie and Julia to see how we relate. I could relate to Julie yes, learning through the book just the same as I am through Ruchira. In my case, cooking works as a therapy after a hard day at work with my students. I so wanted my Julia that is Kamalabai Ogale to be alive. I just wished I could show how I have changed from a girl who would claim that I would never enter the kitchen to the one who now is frustrated when at times she doesn’t get to cook for because of other commitments. This book, Ruchira is a Cookery Geeta which is guiding me through the concepts and ethics of traditional cooking. Just when, I wished for this ..I heard Anneliese was to meet Mary Berry in a show and cook with her!! I was absolutely pleased for her. It is with such dedication and passion that Anneliese baked through the book and what a wonderful feeling it must be for Mary Berry to see her reader learn from her book. Anneliese, I thought was such a lucky girl! In my case, I will never ever get a chance to meet Kamalabai though. While all these thoughts kept my mind thinking and work got busier, I had a message one morning. It was from Kamalabai’s great grand-daughter and mentioned Ushatai (Kamalabai’s daughter) wished to speak to me!! I left a message with my number to call. She called up immediately…I hardly had the chance to think about the whole situation…mixed feelings?.. yes, because I did not know about her reaction. I could not hear clearly since the call was from Australia. Ushatai mentioned, how Kamalabai Ogale’s book got such a good readership in just a week of publication. I could just catch a few phrases, when the call disconnected. I waited for the call again, but in vain. This definitely made me all the more anxious. I got a message on my page explaining, why the call got disconnected. I proposed me calling up instead or a Skype talk. Skype talk was agreed the next day.
The next morning, we started our chat. Ushatai as she wanted herself to be referred as said, she read the article in DNA and wanted to speak to me. She was happy to know that I am learning so well. I conveyed that I could cook just enough to feed myself and my family. But through Ruchira, I know there is more to cooking I let her speak as I wished to know what her feelings were regarding the whole project. She began with, ” अग, तुला सांगायचं म्हणजे…. …” (a very casual chat one would begin with someone you know for ages). I found myself relaxing with every topic we discussed. Ushatai conveyed how Kamalabai Ogale gave her daughters the best she could. She wanted her daughters to learn and educate themselves as their mavshi(maternal aunt). Just because Kamalabai Ogale did not get the opportunity, she thought her daughters need to learn and rise to the best standards. Cooking will come to them when needed she thought, hence kept her daughters away from the kitchen and allowed them time to focus on education. Ushatai said, we owe everything to her and Baba. They were the biggest blessings to them. The countless sacrifices made by the Ogale couple and the nurturing provided the children with the necessities of life. Kamalabai spent most of her time cooking for the family. The best of meals was provided in her family. Ushatai mentioned about Kamalabai as such an adaptive lady who, would find solutions for all the issues arising in the situations. Be it her new kitchen she moved in when she travelled to Mumbai or the kitchen, when she visited her daughter in Australia. One of her experiences she mentioned was when a few ladies in Australia wished to know how Mande is prepared. Mande is a Marathi speciality prepared in North Maharashtra essentially like a puran poli but stretched delicately like a roomali roti and roasted on a heated clay pot turned over the flame. Now, there was no access to such equipment in Ushatai’s Australian kitchen. Interestingly Kamalabai got hold of a Chinese wok and made use of the same by turning it over the flame to cook her Mande. Ushatai sounded such a kind hearted lady to me. By then, I was so much comfortable to carry on my conversation. This is when I informed her about my profession as a teaching staff in a special needs school and my family of 3. Cooking and blogging is what I do in my leisure. Ushatai further mentioned that Kamalabai never thought of having a book of her own. When Kamalabai went to Australia to stay with her to help her when her Ushatai was carrying her child, that is when they decided to hand write the recipes. Ushatai started enjoying cooking during her mother’s presence, This is when she started chronicling the recipes. As Kamalabai cooked with her judgment, with no standard measures in her mind, Ushatai stepped in to measure the ingredients using vaati/pela to help her remember. This is how the hasta likhit(hand written) was formed. Shri Mukundrao Kirloskar supported in the publication of the book. The first publication the charged at Rs 15 a copy. The family was slightly apprehensive about the selling of the books so reduced the costs to Rs 12. To their surprise, the first publication was sold out in a week and the second publication printed the next week. Ever since then, the publications have received overwhelming support from the readers. Ushatai chipped in ” tujhi aai kuthe aste…mala tichyashi bolayche ahe”(where does your mother live, I would like to speak to her) I mentioned about my mother and spoke how I moved from Kolkata to Kolhapur and then to Pune and adapted to Marathwadi style of cooking when I got married into a family from Jalna. I am not sure about what Ushatai’s conversation is going to be with my aai..but I would like to hear about it once they have a chat. It almost seems like a teacher meeting up with a parent conveying the progress thus far 🙂 When I asked her about her visit to UK. Ushatai loves travelling she said. She has travelled all around the world. However, with her recent illness and the fact that she is wheel chair bound, has stopped her moving around. “पण अग, तू ये की ऑस्ट्रेलियाला. आता तुला एक घर आहे इथे.” (You could come over to Australia, you now have a house here ). So much of an assurance, care and love this message conveyed!! What more could I ask for. I was so thankful to God and to Ushatai’s grand daughter to have helped me connect to my Julia or should I say Mary Berry this way. Ushatai was in praise of her grand-daughter too whose name incidentally is Ruchira. She cooks well and is a clever girl.
I am absolutely one lucky girl I must say to wish upon a star and lo behold, my wish was granted in such special way. The day we had a chat, my colleague Jane was celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary. Her husband loves curries. Hence, Jane asked me to cook an Indian spread for the two. Ushatai asked me casually, आता काय करणार आहेस, आजचा काय प्लान आहे? (what is your plan today) I think my very close friends took a while to be so close to me …here I had Ushatai whom I had connected merely half an hour back..and we were chatting about our daily chores. When I mentioned about the Indian spread I was cooking, Ushatai suggested making वाफवलेली फरसबीची कोशिंबीर (salad made with steamed french beans). After sharing the recipe for the koshimbir, we bid adieu to each other of course on committing on catching up once my son is done with his GCSE exams. I have made the farasbichi koshimbir and will blog post about it very soon. I still do not believe the fact that such beautiful moments have actually happened in my life. Such moments which I will cherish lifelong and narrate to my next generations through this blog. It is certainly a dream come true…out of the blue my wish has been granted. I would now like to believe in Paulo Coelho’s quote