Mita runs Siyahi, a literary agency based in Jaipur, which also conceptualises and directs literary events. She writes for various newspapers and magazines on subjects ranging from women’s rights to lifestyle and food. In a conversation with YSWeekender, Mita Kapur speaks about traversing the F-Word and how travelling has helped her understand food from different places.
Mita Kapur: I loved playing with words and the rest just happened. Writing is like breathing. I used to scribble poetry (like most of us do in our youth!) and also wrote long letters to friends during school vacations. Writing as a journalist - doing features on women's issues, humour, reviewing theatre, books, and art was the next stage. Ironically, as an agent, work pressures have made sure that I put my own writing on the backburner, which is why the ideas for my next book are in storage still.
MK: It was a combination of things – I wanted to give my daughters a gift that will last. I am a foodie, I love to cook, love travelling and picking up recipes wherever I go. So the book happened.
MK: I grew up watching my sister cook, watching her beat a cake batter by hand; make the tastiest mutton and chicken dishes. Even the simplest of dals had magical flavours when she cooked. That was my first introduction to cooking. I started cooking while I was in college and was staying with my dad because he was on a transfer and my mom being a doctor couldn’t move with us. That was the fun part! I started baking and burning cakes and made a lot of every day food just to teach our cook.
MK: It’s a memoir of sorts mixed with my travel experiences, my family, with recipes thrown in. I wanted to give something to my daughters - something that lasted forever. I started writing and Karthika VK, then with HarperCollins liked the idea of a family food narrative. I wrote the first three chapters and work took over for over a year. When I read them again I was aghast because I completely disliked what I had written. I must have been depressed like hell till one day I sat up and told myself, I have to walk the talk, I am always telling my authors that we can't give up and we have to reject and start from scratch all over again so there I was - after that it was just one fun journey.
MK: It’s therapeutic for me. I go straight from office into my kitchen to make dinner. It’s the usual story, if I don’t cook for a few days, my husband starts grumbling! It’s just so relaxing to be playing with textures, flavours, aromas - like creating a new story each time you cook.
MK: Not all of them - I’ve picked up a lot from various people from within my family, friends, and travels. I learnt some from my mother, my sister, my mother-in-law, friends, you could say I am just a very nosy person when I am eating food made by someone else. I like to poke, ask questions, and scribble notes on my napkins. I must have an assortment of napkins, which I’ve stolen just because I had scribbled a list of ingredients or some new recipe idea, etc. I've stopped now because the phone serves the purpose very well.
MK: I get into every little hole-in-the-wall wherever I go – I eat where the people of that city eat, I go to their vegetable and fruit markets, I always bring back some ingredients that are native, I experiment with them – all this helps.
MK: It makes me happy, and makes me smile. Just the other, day a friend commented that she hadn’t a smile as wide as the one I had when taking out a tray of perfectly baked orange and cranberry scones.
MK: There are so many of them – it will become another book.
120 g butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
¾ cup castor sugar
1 cup banana mashed
1 and a half cup flour
½ tsp soda bicarbonate
½ cup chopped walnuts
Grease cake tin. Cream butter, sugar, essence till light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Stir in half the banana with half the dry ingredients and half the walnuts, then stir in the remaining banana, dry ingredients and walnuts and stir until combined. Pour mixture into cake tin and bake in a moderate oven for 45 minutes.