While driving home from work one early-June afternoon, I turned on NPR (typical) and started listening to Kojo Nnamdi (not so typical, as I don’t usually get out of work so early and have to settle for Kojo repeats).
Kojo had a guest host that day and she was interviewing Monica Bhide, author of several cookbooks, including her latest, ‘Modern Spice’. I had a lot on my mind that day and was debating turning off the radio and zoning out. But there was something about Monica’s self-deprecating and engaging manner that kept me listening for my entire drive home…and listening after I parked my car in the garage. As a novice foodie, I’m excited about developing my food palate and learning how to use and pick out spices in food. However, I’ve been intimidated about where to start and up until listening to the interview, had not been incredibly adventurous in my cooking, though I can certainly throw in a good dose of salt.
The interview was fascinating for several reasons. First, Monica explained her round-about career path to becoming a cook and cook book author. She started out as an engineer and was quite frank about the difficulties she faced when she decided to leave a well paying job to follow her passions—financial difficulties, family confusion, etc. It was an inspiring story to hear—I admire those who are able to buck society’s many pressures and follow their hearts and passions.
Second, she was so easy going about navigating spices and experimenting in the kitchen. She recognizes that traditional Indian cooking takes forever and has an element that is simply not ‘teachable’ (as she said, her grandmother used to just throw in a little of this and a little of that, and she had no idea what was happening). Her goal was to make a cookbook where the flavors of Indian cooking came through in an accessible and delicious way.
After listening to this interview, Justin and I immediately went through all of our spices, threw out the incredibly old ones, and bought Modern Spice. Since purchasing the book, we’ve tried four different recipes and already feel more comfortable with using curry, fennel, coriander, and cumin. We were also lucky enough to meet Monica at the Penn Quarter Farmer’s Market last week and try a few additional recipes from Modern Spice.
Our dinner tonight included Roasted Cauliflower with Fennel.
If you are an aspiring foodie interested in cooking more adventurously, I highly recommend this cookbook. I would love to find a cookbook as accessible as Modern Spice for Asian cooking.