Some of the best things in life are the least expected. A few months ago, I had sent out a tweet asking if anyone wanted to do a little blog post about their cooking experience with Modern Spice. I got several lovely notes from people. Then I get an email from my guru, my essay teacher Andrea King Collier. She wondered if she could do a post. Hmmm.. YES! And then she got busy and I was a bit hesitant to remind her. You know how it is with people whom you want to emulate..
Well, today… I got an email from Andrea. And it included not what I would call a typical blog post but an essay on her love of Modern Spice.
Andrea made me cry.
Guest Post – From Essay teacher and author Andrea King Collier
Andrea King Collier
There’s No Place Like Home
One of the best compliments you can pay a cook is to ask for some of her recipes. I watched the women in my family pass them around on dog eared, lined notebook paper, and faded, vanilla extract splashed note cards all of my life. And now, since I am a 2009 digital diva, I can send you my family recipes via email, or post them on a blog with lightning speed (should I be inclined to share). I am even more fortunate that I have many friends like Monica Bhide, who write cookbooks. How lucky am I? I ask for a shared family recipe, and I get a recipe, a family story and a beautiful cookbook. How I have evolved from the recipe torn out of an old magazine. My grandmother would say, “Stop it. Nobody likes a show off.”
Monica’s cookbook, Modern Spice is even more special because it is a treasure chest of adventure and flavor. At first glance her beloved India seems far away and exotic, compared to the South of my roots. Yet there is comfort and a sense of home in the way she writes about family and food, that reminds me how people are connected in what matters.
Shortly after her book came out, Monica headed home to the place that inspired Modern Spice. I was one of the lucky ones to get little love notes about what she was cooking, how she was scouring the markets for fresh local ingredients, and Lord help me, how she was eating. I just wanted to say, ”stop it you temptress,” instead I would settle in with her cookbook and imagine the adventures, and pretend that I was talking to her as she prepared a meal. Some days I could practically smell the curry.
Wanting to experience what she was experiencing, I decided that it was time to dig in and tackle some of the recipes. And when I started cooking, I realized that the rhythm of cutting, sautéing, stirring and seasoning brought me comfort and lost me in time. I have worked my way through her Red Chile, Garlic and Basil Chicken and then delighted in the Pomegranate Shrimp. But my cultural Ah Ha! Moment came when I came upon the Catfish Curry(recipe here). Of course it brought tears to my eyes. I have never seen a catfish anything that I didn’t love. Give me some catfish
d grits, or bring it with some crawfish etouffee mounded on top of a catfish filet, any day of the week. I wear my love of catfish as a part of my true Southern pedigree. So when Monica tapped one of my favorite staples and gave it her own flair, I was all in.
I have 100s of cookbooks, many by old and new friends. And like most, I will sometimes forgo the organic instructions in my head, and hit the cookbooks as a way to discover a perfect recipe. But I also go there to discover a place, a time and a heart. After all, food, aside from sustenance is about the heart isn’t it?
Authors like Monica really write for people like me They want you to cook their food, or look at the pictures of the food they cook and enjoy. I do that with a recipe like Catfish Curry, AND I read for all the wonderful details, stories, what is said, and what is left to my imagination. To read and cook from Monica’s book is like putting on your coat, and your hat, and grabbing your purse to go on a little trip. Off we go to India, off we go to the Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia of my family. Off we go to a family dinner with laughter and love, and a pinch of the ubiquitous and ever present family drama. You know a little catfish and a lot of love will really take you a long way.
So how does one respond to a post like this? Well, in my case I spent the morning in the kitchen preparin a new catfish recipe just for Andrea – Andrea's Indian Catfish – cubes of catfish are sauteed in hot oil with mustard seeds, curry leaves and shallots. then I added ground coriander, turmeric and a touch of tamarind chutney. Serve hot with white rice 🙂