Shared Tables

By Kaumudi Marathé

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If my hunger is for love, the manifestation of it, food, is a metaphor for everything life holds: chemistry, physics, medicine, nutrition. We need food to survive. But from a young age, love was given to me tenderly on a plate so I also see food as memory and comfort. It is my muse, my inspiration, my way to give love.

I did start my adult life as a journalist but food was always circling in the air above me. When my then-husband Sanjiv and I moved to the USA in 1996 so he could study urban design, I was not allowed to work for pay on my student spouse visa. So I used the time to explore my adopted country, write freelance, raise a child, and teach myself about food and food history.

I read, I cooked, I experimented, I made notes, I entertained. Each time I made Indian food for guests, they were pleasantly surprised because my cooking tasted nothing like restaurant food. ‘You should start your own restaurant,’ they said. After eleven years we got our green card authorization and I was raring to start work. What about that restaurant? No, I wanted something more. I wanted Americans to really know and understand the complexity and wealth of Indian cooking. I wanted to combine my writing and storytelling skills with my love of my native food and my knowledge of American tastes.

So I launched Un-Curry, a catering-teaching-food writing company. Over the past decade, it’s been one hell of a ride. I’ve written a cookbook. I’ve cooked for everyone from actors like Timothy Olyphant, John Cryer and Kelly Williams to TV producers like Gary Glasberg, from people like me who just wanted to throw a great party to terminally ill patients like Toni Brown who wanted Indian food for her last birthday supper while she was still physically able to chew. I’ve taught budding vegans and vegetarians how to cook to satisfy both their diets and their appetites. I’ve shared my country’s history and culture with people who might otherwise have gone on thinking that Indian food is just some stereotype called ‘curry’. I’ve opened eyes, taste buds and hearts.
When I think about it, it strikes me that my work, my sharing, is deeply rooted in the people, places and stories, as well as the foods of my youth. In Shared Tables I share some of their deliciousness with you, just as I experienced it through the family moments, meals and anecdotes that shaped the paths my life would take. At the end, I have also shared recipes for some of the dishes I mention along the way. They bring me joy and appear regularly on my table, as if my beloveds are sitting down to share a meal with me.

As they say in Marathi when a meal has been served, ‘Basaa.’ The word literally means sit but the invitation is to ‘sit and feast.’ I hope you will.

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