I have been tweeting furiously lately, having finally ‘discovered’ twitter. And yesterday the topic “#2010was” was trending. I tweeted that 2010 was the year of Masterchef Australia for me. It might sound melodramatic to attribute a TV show with having so much effect on one but it did.
2010 started off slow and degenerated on the work front with big disillusionment on the professional front and major loss on the personal front. I came close to chucking everything I had worked so hard for, for the last 6 years. The year began with plans to move house and I was winding up pending projects in anticipation. Then Mar 11 brought bad news. My older brother had a stroke. He came home about a month later, a shadow of his former self. And then on the 19th of July, he passed away.
I took his loss hard. It was easy to coast along. I wrote then about how even thinking about food seemed sacrilege. And it was true. I really seemed to have reached a dead end. And as the monsoons raged outside my window, I tried to cope with loss, grateful to be cocooned by the elements up here in my new house far away from the world, devoid of thought or sensation, doing the bare minimum required to keep things functioning. The clouds offered a panacea of a sort, coming in low every morning and keeping the sun away. But then one day I woke up to rain swollen clouds in my face and the smell of Sourdough. Only that particular morning the sun managed to muscle its way past the clouds and poke me in the eye. Wake up it said! You are letting life go by. And I did, literally.
I sat up as the aroma of the sourdough waltzed over to my nostrils with that of the fresh brewed coffee my very wise and gentle husband was bringing to me in bed and his words of the night before came to me. “We will never forget those who are gone, but it is also important to celebrate those who are still here.” It woke me up to a realisation that too many unnecessary things, people and their desires had taken over my life and the things I valued in the last year. And while I had learned the hard way that life can come in the way of love once and you can lose the chance to hug someone, one last time, I did not going to let that happen again. There is something elemental in bread, it takes us back to our roots as humans. And I realised as I bit into that bread that a quiet but delicious revolution had been taking place in my home right in front of my eyes. Thanks to Masterchef Australia.
A week after Ashu Bhai died, MasterChef Australia kicked off on July 27, 2010. I had been looking forward to it ever since I saw the first promos because Australia is very close to my heart and I have watched Australian cuisine burgeoning into one of the finest over the years. But now my attention was halfhearted. In fact I don’t even really remember watching the first couple of episodes. I tuned into the episode where Cookbook author Donna Hay arrived as a guest judge and the contestants had to recreate her Pavlova recipe. It was the day Shekhar tuned into cooking as well; because the next morning I woke up to beautifully plated pancakes for breakfast! By then I had immersed myself in finishing my book and worked on it late into the night after the kids went to bed. And Shekhar took over breakfast and tiffin duty.
Initially Masterchef Australia was a distraction that filled a gap when I didn’t want to talk about my days because I just let them go by. But it soon became a something to look forward to. It combined food porn, high drama, teamwork, competition and learning and made me happy. Where nothing else seemed to, the antics of the contestants and judges made me smile. It also served to bring my little family. Every night our family congregated in front of the TV. We were all hooked. The first thing Natasha my 3 year old daughter would ask on waking up every morning “Aaj Masterchef aayega na ? (Masterchef will come today no?). Ask her who she likes bast and she will say “George” in the cutest way! (Matt and Gary she calls Masterchef!)
And Aman my 9 going on 19 year old sone started handing out compliments like “I give you a 9/10 for this dish Mom” or Mom you should have made this on Masterchef!” But the WHOA moment for us in his case was the day Marion won her immunity pin. Aman pops up with “I like her, she’s cute!” Whoa! When did he grow up that much? And then when he realised he had complimented not just a girl, but a woman he sheepishly added “She has a pretty smile like Mamma!”
And Shekhar? Well in his own words Masterchef taught him two things. “The importance of presenting food well and learning to compliment food properly”. I Concur. Compliments from him that made me soar; On tasting Dragon fruit for the first time he tells Aman “Son, you might not understand this just now but remember it for when you are older. When you look for a life partner, look for someone who will widen your horizons. And more recently, when I made my close to perfect Pasta Alio Olio e Pepperoncino he said “From now on this is the base I will judge all pasta by. Anything less than this will be a disappointment!” (I suspect I should thank Matt Preston for that bit of my husbands learning! So thank you Matt!)
Unfortunately S was not able to make it home in time to catch the concluding episode last night. He will be taking the week off for some surgery and he was winding up a project delivery. But I know what I would have said to him when it ended. I remember watching Miss India the year Sushmita Sen won, with my dad and turning around to tell him I wanted to be Miss World one day. (I was much thinner then and I even participated in a beauty pageant but thankfully was cured of that aspiration, I loved food too much!). And if Shekhar had been here last night I would have turned around and said I wish I could have been there. God knows I have told him umpteen times that I wish I had gone to cooking school after a Masterchef Australia episode. And it is not because I want to be a Masterchef. Working from home, freelancing can be very solitary. I sometimes miss the excitement of being part of a team and want a reason to do something with my whole heart.
In the concluding episode, Gary told the contestants that they were what made the season happen. I agree, but I have to add something more. Masterchef Australia is everything a TV show should be. (Unlike the dismal Indian version). And while the contestants; Claire, Jimmy, Callum, Aaron, Marion, Courtney, Jonathan and all of the others, entered our homes and became parts of our lives (we talked about them all the time) it takes a good cook to bring out the full potential of superlative ingredients and Gary, George and Matt were the tempering that rounded of the flavours of Masterchef Australia. So thank you to all of you at Masterchef Australia for helping me preserve everything I love about food in a year that I was close to losing it in. I will be taking a trip to Australia in 2011 and I am going to try to make it a little Masterchef food tour by visiting whatever establishments and endeavours have taken off for its contestants so I can get a taste of all the cooking I watched!
Especially Fenix. Gary’s restaurant. One thing in particular that I loved in this season of Masterchef – were those beautiful platters that Gary assembled. I loved those. I especially want to visit Fenix because I have history there. About 5 years ago I was in Melbourne at the start of my career as a food writer. My husband sent me off to spread my wings a little and a highlight of my trip was a dinner at Gary’s Fenix restaurant. I don’t know if Gary was in the restaurant that day, but the Wasabi Ice cream with the candied jalapenos that were sent out by the chef as an Amuse Bouche that day were one of the defining experiences of that trip I still remember the flavours of my Pork Belly with coconut noodles and one of the sexiest desserts I had ever eaten. A lot of the things I do today, are results of that trip. Ideas that were inspired or germinated there are seeing fruition today; my books, the way I conduct my cooking classes, the flavours that make my cooking what it is and most importantly Masala trails.
If you have made it down to here, I apologise for the long post. I hope that your 2011 brings you everything you are looking for from it. I have a feeling mine will! Much love and thank you to all of you for your continued support and encouragement.
|Kids in the Kitchen |
|Friends and feasts!|
|The momo making party!|
|Ross sings a song for me!|
|Many meals with Kim of Jhovaan!|
|Last big cookup in my old kitchen!|
|Getting down to the bare bones of the Matsyagandha Seafood festival!|
|With Vikram Doctor at the first ever Mumbai Food Bloggers dinner.|
|The beautiful Makhani Icecream with wild mushroom Khichdi from Ziya - where I had my best meal of 2010.|
|Jyotika AKA Curry Spice of the blog Follow My Recipe|