The lesser foodie

The Sunday Guardian, 14 November 2010

By: Janaki Viswanathan

She’s a small eater but mind you, she is a foodie. Mita Kapur who runs literary agency Siyahi, makes her book debut with a cookbook-memoir, The F-Word. Extracts and an interview

It’s one of the fieriest book covers we’ve seen in a while. Amber flames lick the edges while various hands pop in to toss ingredients into a dekchi. But this isn’t a cookbook. Well, not just. “I wrote it for my kids and I also wanted to personalise it,” says Mita Kapur. The founder of literary agency Siyahi, the Jaipur-based Kapur says she has always been fascinated by food and cooking.

Married life of a cooking woman
“For the first 15 years of my married life, all I did was cook,” she says jokingly, referring to the large appetites of her husband and his family, strikingly different from her own household. And while Kapur hasn’t developed a monstrous appetite over the years, she still calls herself a foodie.

“I connect with flavours and textures, I love experimenting and I live and eat on an impulse. That’s being a foodie,” she says. On a trip to Turkey, she tried a new dish off the street food carts every hour, and still didn’t manage to taste every item sold. Colours and textures changing, every ingredient contributing to a dish, Kapur says every aspect of cooking excites her. 

Back to the book, then. Packed with tidbits about growing up, her sisters, dating her husband, eventually 
marrying him, the birth of her three children, everything is flavoured with food. Whether its memories of her sister’s recipes or secret romantic dinners at a Jaipur restaurant or her eldest daughter Sakshi who insists kebabs ought only to be made of mutton, the F-word is all over. 

Sometimes the memoirs run for pages before skidding to a halt for a recipe. “The young generation thinks cooking is a very downmarket activity,” laughs Kapur, adding that she’s directly quoted from her daughter’s vocabulary. 

Through The F-Word, Kapur says, she also wants to convey how “cool” it is to live in a joint family. “My book’s a sort of social history too, because I’ve lived in a joint family for 21 years now and it’s a great thing,” she says. 

Food trails
Ask her to pick the more enjoyable activity, cooking or eating and Kapur can’t choose. “When I’m home I’m putting together a meal, I can never tire of cooking. But when I’m out on holiday, I want to feed myself, try out new things,” is her answer. 

The F-Word out, Kapur’s given herself a break till December, but a second food-related book is on its way. Until then she’s plotting her next trip to the city, official work punctuated with restaurant visits, of course.

“I need my vada pav, and I always plan my schedules with friends, say breakfast at Madras Caf ©, a Mangalorean meal at Ankur and then some Thai at the President,” she says. 

The F-Word is published by HarperCollins, Rs 599

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