We’re bringing you some inspiration through our Explore, Express, Experiment series. As mothers, as parents, as husbands & wives we often hold back, never allowing ourselves to reach our full potential. So follow this series. Get a little inspired!
Today we chat to Uma Ramanujam. Originally from Tamil Nadu, now living in USA, food has always fascinated her. What started as an experiment with a lunchbox series, turned into a community blog https://www.indiancurrytrail.com/ with nearly 50,000 followers on Instagram (@indiancurrytrail). Uma is a doting mom and apart from being passionate about food, loves saris, travelling & seeing new places. Read on & experiment more. You never know what becomes of it.
What does the word ‘experiment’ mean to you?
The magic of discovering a new way to cook a delicious dish!
When you cook, do you follow recipes to a tee? Or do you tend to adapt and make it your own? Or not follow recipes at all?
For traditional authentic recipes, I follow instructions to a tee & document it. Sometimes I try to bring my own style by tweaking ingredients that are native to the place where I’m from. For example, “beans paruppu usili” is a traditional dish, but I sometimes customise it by introducing asparagus in place of beans.
Any early childhood memories that prompted a love of cooking and experimentation?
I grew up eating lots of traditional recipes based out of millets, medicinal greens and pulses that were grown locally in my family’s farm. After coming back to the city with my cousins, I was bored of eating the usual menu which made me realise how good those good old traditional recipes were. This kindled my interest to cook those recipes along with some new dishes. However good or bad my culinary experiments turned out to be, my cousins always applauded me. They ignited my love for cooking & experimenting.
Any funny incidents or anecdotes that you might want to share with us, where you may have mixed up a spice or two?
When I was newly married, I planned a surprise dinner for my in-laws . I decided to cook a South Indian delicacy “Idiyappam”. This is a dish I knew they liked, but never prepared it, as it involves a lot of manual work. I started cooking, but I could not get the dough to be like that of a traditional idiyappam. All I got was water out of the holes of ithe diyappam press. Then I discovered that I had used the wrong flour. So the idiyappam had to be converted to a rice flour upma! What was planned as a surprise turned out to be funny disaster and everyone in my family still laughs about it 🤣
Do you cook with your children? How do you encourage them to experiment for themselves?
Yes! My little girl and I cook a lot together. She loves to bake with me, we make smoothies and salads. I have introduced her to fireless cooking as a start. For baking, she loves mixing the batter and arranging the nuts. For salads, I just pass on the instructions, she picks her own proportion of ingredients which sometimes comes out as a different recipe 🙈 She gets very curious to watch the final colour of the smoothie from the various ingredients that went in. When kids make their own food, they show a greater interest to eat. So, I always encourage them to experiment.
In your opinion, do you feel you are passing on a part of yourself to your child through your journey with food?
Absolutely. That’s why I started food blogging. I teach my child the basics of cooking and importance of cooking food at home. But it is up to her to decide what suits her best. I do not force her but if she loves to cook her own food, then one day she will always refer my documented recipes. I hope to inspire other moms and kids as well.
What has experimenting in the kitchen taught you about yourself? What do you hope your children could learn from it?
Experimenting has taught me to take calculated risks personally. It has taught me to face failures confidently and move on. Even in my personal life, I do not shy away from taking decisions when it matters. It has emboldened me and filled me with confidence. I also encourage my child to try out various things and not fear about failures in life. After all, failures are stepping stones for success.
Any tips or advice for parents who might want to experiment or encourage their kids to experiment with their food boundaries, taste palates or cooking in the kitchen?
Start by trying to experiment on a small scale if you are unsure of the outcome. Practice continuously as it builds your confidence. Involve your kids in the kitchen so that they understand the effort that goes into cooking. They will understand the value of food and will not waste it. Involve them in cooking simple recipes like juices, salads etc. Kids are more interested to eat the food they have cooked, so you will save convincing time. Go ahead. Experiment!
Thanks Uma! And to add a little desi touch to your playtime and bedtime click here!