4 QUESTIONS WITH FOOD AND TRAVEL WRITER ROSHNI BAJAJ
WORDS BY GENESIA ALVES
Roshni Bajaj is one of the guest speakers at the Gather event organised by BARO, Bombay Perfumery, and Paper Planes on July 15. The event, amongst other things, also celebrates the release of the new issue of Gather Journal (an independently published food magazine), a copy of which can be purchased from here.
TCS: When did you realise you were passionate about food and nutrition and flavour?
RB: I was 20 and I’d recently moved away from my parents and my large joint family – I’d left Bombay for Pune to do my post-graduate in mass communications. I had my own kitchen for the first time in my life. (Our family cook in Bombay would openly sneer at me if I as much as tried to knead dough at home.)
My folks would visit a couple of times each month, and I would plan and cook (what I thought were) elaborate meals for them. That’s when I found that cooking makes me happy, and cooking for people I care about, even more so. I didn’t have a dining table, so we’d sit on the floor of my studio and eat fun, slightly fancy food.
Nutrition is not the focus of my cooking as much as balance is, so I try to see that my meals contain a little bit of everything – carbs, protein, fat, veggies in many colours, and a variety of flavours, textures, and temperatures.
TCS: Baking or cooking, which do you prefer and why?
RB: Definitely cooking, because I’m more familiar with it, because I have always done more of it, because I feel more confident when I am cooking, and not so much when I am baking. In culinary school, the excessive precision of pastry class would make me nervous. Also, my taste preferences veer more towards the savoury, tangy, and spicy flavours. I have an almost non-existent sweet tooth. I do enjoy baking occasionally, and I hope to have some mastery over it eventually. For me everyday cooking is cooking on a stove top; baking is when I am feeling indulgent, when I feel like experimenting without worrying too much about the result. When I pull stuff out of the oven, I’m always curious (and never sure) about how it will turn out.
TCS: Talk to us about the gender imbalances in the kitchen at home and outside. How are roles changing in the making of the everyday family meal or the ones in restaurants, and does gender affect where a cuisine or attitude to cooking is headed?
So far (generalising, of course), we have looked at men as chefs, and women as cooks; professional and home kitchens showcase this imbalance. But I would think this is changing, slowly. Chef Thomas Zacharias takes pride in having several women on his kitchen team at The Bombay Canteen. In the US and in Europe, women chefs especially make sure to have a balanced gender ratio working under them.
It also follows that working in a restaurant kitchen now is considered a career worth having and being proud of, so this attitude should bring more women into professional cooking environments. Restaurant kitchens have become relatively softer, more respectful places. The behaviour that Anthony Bourdain described in Kitchen Confidential isn’t as common any more.
TCS: What are you looking forward to at the Baro event?
RB: I’m excited about Nupur and Paper Planes making Gather available to Indian readers.
I’m really, really keen to hear other food writers and people from the industry talk about their food memories. Food makes us feel all sorts of things, and when people get together and talk about how meals made them feel, I sit down with a notebook so that I can go back home and really dig into topics and ideas that intrigued me. And there are always enough to keep me Googling for weeks.
I’m glad people are going to get a drink before they hear me speak, it makes me a slightly less nervous speaker.
The City Story is media partner for the event.