Thursday, September 16, 2010

Project Food Blog: Cooking My Way To India

  So here I am, officially entered in the Project Foodbuzz Challenge to be the next Foodbuzz Foodblog Star. Voting opens on Sept. 20th and I'll let you all know how you can vote for me. I hope you will. 
 Challenge #1. I got some 'splaining to do. Who am I?
  I'm a screenwriter; it's how I earn my living. Before I was a writer I was the voice of many Saturday morning cartoon characters and television commercials. Yes, you've probably heard me. Here's one, Rosemary from Hong Kong Phooey!

  But before all of that, I was cooking. Of course like every little girl I had an Easy Bake Oven, but my father being a fireman, and wary of "accidents" and fire, took away the light bulb. They never told me, so I'm still waiting for my white cake to bake.
  This is where I'm supposed to tell you about my most beloved and cherished childhood food memories. Was it baking chocolate chip cookies with Grammy? Making a delicious home roast chicken, or a three-day pasta gravy? Not quite. Mine involves the Big Bang and more Pyrotechnics than are found in a Michael Bay movie. Canned tamales that my mom boiled for dinner one night without opening the can. Whoops. She blowed them up real gooood. That was a real flavor explosion, all over the walls. Ah, good times. Good times.
   If you haven't figured it out by now, cooking is not a big deal in my family. My mother hates to cook and always tells me that her next house will not have a kitchen. She also tells me that the gypsies brought me. 
  After the explosion, I decided I wanted to learn more about all this cooking stuff. So I started to read cookbooks, studying the pictures to discover what stuff was really supposed to look like. You mean fish is not a piece of charcoal with fins? Really? And, slowly I learned how to cook.
   Since I'm lucky enough to have a job that involves working from home, I have plenty of time to cook, and about 20 years ago I decided to learn about Indian cuisine. My sister-in-law, a noted  expert on Indian art, has lived and worked in India. Knowing my love for Indian food, she got me started.  However I didn't love all the ghee and oil, so I set out to make traditional Indian dishes with a healthy twist. Like this cauliflower with mustard seed.
 Or, an entire banquet for a special event.
   And that's what I've been doing for the last 20 years for my husband/writing partner Alan, friends and family, all under the watchful eye of Patsy the Wonder-Husky.

 And it's what I do in my blog.
   I  show that an Italian American from a food-phobic family can cook one of the worlds' great cuisines and do it "old skool." I show the steps, I show my mistakes, I show seasonal variations. Indian food is a passion for me, and an obsession.
  I also try to show what to do when Indian ingredients aren't available. Living in LA there were easy sources for anything I wanted. Long beans? No problem. Bitter melon? A snap. Silver vark for garnishing my desserts? Right around the corner. Living in the Wine Country of Sonoma, California... not so much.

   Part of the fun of cooking Indian in Sonoma is discovering that many of the local ingredients that are thought of as part of the Italian kitchen, originated in India (thanks Roman Empire!)
   One final thing. People always ask me how many times I've been to India. Well, I'm embarrassed to say... never. Alan and all the rest of his family have been numerous times, I've cooked for many visitors from India. But I'm a big chicken, and we all know that big chickens, and even little chickens  like me don't fly. For years my fear of planes has kept me grounded. My husband and I judged a film festival last year and it was my first time on a plane in years. However, I'm determined to get myself East. Finally. I have gotten my passport, and now it's time to go to Mother India, to go to the source. So I'm cooking my way to India, and I realized shortly after I started this blog a little over a year ago, that that's what this thing has been all about. I 'd love some company on the trip!
   Now about this whole Blogger Star of Tomorrow business. Working my whole life as a screenwriter, I'm certainly not used to thinking of myself as any kind of star. Writers are pretty far down on the Hollywood food chain. In fact we're usually lunch, or maybe brunch... most of the time make that toast. Even when I was a voice actress doing cartoons, it's not like anyone ever saw me. But the more I think about it, it might be kind of cool to be a star, which is why I'm here.
   What I have to offer as a Food Blogger is a fresh and hopefully fun take on a type of cuisine that few non-Indians cook. They're traditional recipes adapted for the modern kitchen. Like this deconstructed Banana Split done with Indian flavors.

   I cook this food every day, and if I can do it without the help of a Kitchen Wallah, anyone can. I also love to take my readers along on my foodie adventures, from visiting a heritage potato farm, to taking up the modern version of old style gleaning, to discovering Banana Flowers right in my own backyard!

   Living in Sonoma County allows me a sort of all access pass to go behind the scenes and visit the people who create some of the most exciting food and some of the most delicious wine in the world. I'm ready for my close up!


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