CLAY POT contributor Monisha Cardoso, whose story Lost In Translation was featured in our Memory Issue, tells us why eating well is an intrinsic part of living well
What are your earliest memories associated with food?
I grew up in a family in which everyone was a “foodie” before being a foodie became a thing. Laying a good table–not just for parties or when guests were around, but on a daily basis–was something that we took pride in. Eating well was an intrinsic part of living well. I think that more than anything is a tradition I aspire to keep up.
Do you have a favourite food/cuisine?
I love the Goan food I grew up eating, but it’s difficult to pinpoint any single cuisine. I have discovered that rice is my great weakness, more so than chocolate. I just arrived home after a fortnight in the US and the first thing I did was to cook myself some rice and dal!
Why did you choose to write about the experience of translating your grandma’s cookbook for the Memory issue?
I think in general anyone who decides to start writing is better off starting with things and experiences that they are most familiar with. This was my first attempt at writing about food and I chose to go with my personal experience.
What is the biggest challenge you face while writing about food?
I think the writing process exposes the limits of your own knowledge, especially when writing about something like your own cuisine, which you’ve taken for granted and never thought very deeply about. You go like, “Wait, is this correct? Maybe I should call someone and check”.
Why do you think we need to discuss about food and culture?
I think while people are travelling more and are more open to experiencing other cuisines, increasing cosmopolitanism might itself be the reason for people losing touch with their roots, culturally. Most Indians of my generation had parents who were from the same community and grew up eating the food of their community. However, many of us have married outside our community, travelled and lived abroad or far from our hometown for long. While such a cosmopolitan outlook is great in many ways, it does result in a dilution of cultural practices, food being a huge part of that.
One of my favourite bloggers, Sandeepa Mukherjee from Bong Mom’s Cookbook says that as a Bengali with children growing up in the US, food has become the vehicle through which she transmits her culture to her children. I think that’s something that is going to be true for a lot of Indians of my generation. Cooking their traditional food is going to be part of a conscious effort at transmitting their culture, rather than the default option that it was for much of the previous generation.