We are a motley bunch of collaborators — friends, family, foodies. What binds us is a life-long passion for good food and a curiosity to see what we can invent next, based on new ingredients or combinations that come our way. Here, by way of introduction, are our first food memories:
A house built on a clearing in a thicket of banana trees and coconut palms. Inside, past the living room, is a large kitchen, full of tall glass jars and earthenware pots. At the far end, there is a fireplace set deep in the wall and in it are what seem like a million logs on fire. Some are large and others are small. Sitting on the logs are a variety of stainless steel pots, one with rice, another with a spicy coconut stew, and yet another with lentils boiling away. A lady holding a pair of tongs deftly moves the logs to alter the intensity of the flame. The scent of ginger, cumin and cardamom is in the air.
My first food memory is waiting for the next stuffed paratha to be ready. Mum and Gran used to make these for me when I came home from school for lunch.m.
When I was a little girl, I remember going to the temple with my family. After the rituals of prayer were over, the priest distributed payasam, the sweet offering made to the deities and considered to be sacred food. It was a delicious mix of rice or lentils, jaggery and coconut milk, flavoured with cardamom. After that, I was always eager to go to the temple, not so much because I was pious, but because I wanted more of this delicious sweet..
Some of my earliest memories of food involve my mum batting away my dad’s hand as he sought to grab a chip (or four!) from my plate as a kid. He blamed his appetite on his Yorkshire heritage! Many of these meals took place in a cosy pub called the Crown & Anchor on a pebble beach on the South Coast of England. I remember ordering a Baked Alaska one Sunday and thinking it was the most glamorous pudding I could possibly imagine.
My earliest food memory redefines fast food. As a child, I used to spend the summer months in the south of Italy with my grandparents. Like so many other Italian villages, this (particularly sleepy) village would snap alive in July and August as hordes of children were sent back to soak in the sun and sea of Calabria. In the evenings, we would run through the streets causing all manner of havoc. Refusing to leave my meals to chance, my grandmother would leave open the window of her kitchen and place frittata (zucchini flower and egg fritters) on the window sill for us to steal away between bouts of hide-and-seek.
I remember sitting at my desk at school and opening my lunchbox to find my peanut butter and jelly sandwich firmly pressed flat and comparing it to the array of food the others had: bagels, chocolate milk, thick sandwiches filled with interesting things. But I also had a small packet of raisins, so that made it fine.