Comeeat, March 10, 2016


Every dish tells a story. And when the dishes multiply, so do the stories. So, you end up with a feast on one hand and a book on the other. That, in essence is the life story of Mita Kapur, our home culinaire for the week.


When it comes to food and literary pursuits, Mita needs no introduction. But what is not known is how much these twin passions are intertwined in her life, like a timeless ying-yang embrace, each completing and complementing the other. Mita is the driving force behind Siyahi – India’s leading literary consultancy firm and she herself is part of the biggest literature festivals in India and outside. She is also the author of the “The F-Word” – described as a chaotic culinary romp of a workingwoman who spends days and nights juggling family, friends, long distance phone calls and food(now you know where our title came from. The book also boasts of many of her unique recipes – from the conservative to the unusual. Her other book  – Chilies & Porridge – is India’s first anthology of gastronomic writing and has charming contributions from an eclectic bunch of writers ranging from Manu Chandra to Janice Pariat.

The link between literature and food is not a flash in the pan, if you will excuse the unintended pun. The Jaipur Literature Fest is the world’s largest literary event. For the regulars to the Lit Fest, the concluding act is at the after party that Mita throws every year for her guests who make the annual sojourn from all parts of the world. The party is now as celebrated and renowned as the fest itself and those who fail to make it to the guest list either sulk silently or simply gate crash the party. As Mita tell us,“We begin to cook a day before and the food is served to more than 400 people  – double the number of invitees.” The menu at the party includes a wide variety of simple Indian traditional cuisine served without any pomp and show and is designed to showcase regional food to the national and international.

We are sitting in Mita’s home and the caravan of stories moves languorously as the aroma of Laal Maas that wafts across the home.

At Mita’s home, food is the glue that connects family and friends and that is how it has always been for her. A young Mita remembers the table at home laden with ‘bread pakodas’, ‘samosas’ and ‘besan cheela’ when she would arrive hungry from school. Even now, Mita turns to her mother for her homemade Makhane ki kheer and Meethi Roti. Honestly, can there be a greater comfort than having childhood favourites served once again to you by your mother!

She is blackmailed to cook and get the food wherever she goes because its difficult for people to get that flavour otherwise if not Mita’s. Yes, she has flown her world famous Galouti Kebab, Paneer Makhni to not just Kolkata and Delhi but to US for her daughters (we are not exaggerating). God only knows how she got past the customs. Mita knows her way out in all the situations.  She has had visitors just to devour on her French toast with Mascarpone Cheese – a continental play on the Shahi Tukda. If you are done salivating lets continue.

Food is discussed at Mita’s home just like the British discuss weather – which is most of the time.  Just like there is a tussle between heart and tongue, flavour and health, there is a constant rift between Mita and her Maharaj. While Mita likes to do her cooking in Olive Oil, Maharaj never fails to devoid the food from Ghee. At breakfast table, it is strawberries vs. pomegranate dilemma. At dinner table family members like to remind that their birthdays are coming up – each of which gets celebrated with a cake customized and baked by Mita. Her husband recently got a dark chocolate ganache cake with Bourbon, Baileys and Dark Beer for his birthday – how is that for being spoilt!

In this time, the Laal Maas had turned a beautiful deep red and flaky like a pastry as we dive into it. Alongside we were also treated with the healthy options of Moong Daal , which had flavours bursting within, and Sukhe Matar – all traditional but with different tadkas giving them unique, indescribable flavours. All these dishes were served with a very different kind of bread, Moti Roti, made just the way Mita’s mother would have prepared. Even though we were stuffed with such flavoursome meal, she didn’t let us go before we had our meetha(dessert), Rasmalai in kulhad which was simply divine.

What a delightful evening, we exclaimed after we end on this sweet note. And that is when Mita opens to us another chapter of her life – travel and food. Mita has gypsy feet – she has been traveling since forever with family or for work. For every travel escapade she picks stories, recipes, and ingredients and makes sure her day is divided into doing both touristy and non-touristy things. She makes it a point to have her local guides take her to the places where the locals dine and get together for the vibe and flavours of the place. There is a lot more to discuss on her travel inspired dishes and her journeys to experience food. But that is a story for another day.

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