Live to eat
That's an adage Karen Anand takes to heart. The food expert and consultant has compiled twenty years of her gastronomical experiences around the globe in the book titled, Good Food Good Living. She tells The Guide what it takes to be a gourmand
She grew up in London on nostalgia for Indian food in the '60s and '70s thanks to her foodie parents. The love for good food remains a life long occupation for Karen Anand. With 15 books and three cookery shows in her kitty, Karen returns to form in her new book Good Food Good Living, a compilation of essays and columns written for various publications in the last 20 years.
Karen Anand poses at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy
It's Karen's personal touches, her ability to take you away from the usual and insistence that you should venture into the not-so-well-known patisseries and bistros that makes this book a fun read. Every chapter is followed by a couple of easy-to-create recipes from the region. In a freewheeling chat with The Guide, Karen tells us what she likes to cook herself and what she detests eating among other food experiences.
How did the idea of the book come about?
A couple of years ago, probably one rainy afternoon when we were clearing up the office, I realised that I had been writing for over 20 years and had accumulated a huge amount of work which might be interesting. When I looked through the various files, in which luckily I had kept hard copies and cuttings of my columns from various newspapers and magazines, I decided its time to catalogue some of the work and put things into some sort of order. I got in touch with V Karthika at Harper Collins who instantly expressed an interest of compiling this work into one or more books.
Why is there an emphasis on haute cuisine and good living in the book?
I think India has always been interested in good life and good food. There are just more people today who have access to it. By the way, I don't equate 'haute cuisine' with 'good life'. 'Haute' implies fine dining and non-accessibility. Good living can be enjoyed by anyone.
How do you think you fare as a cook as compared to a chef?
I am not a chef by profession or training. However, I have had the good fortune of working under some great chefs for short periods of time and I do think that I have creativity more than great skill, which has worked in my favour for many years. This means that I can constantly improvise which is very self-satisfying. But writing is my first love and it's nice to be able to juggle both.
When not travelling or sampling food, what do you like to cook or eat at home?
Very simple food. Soups, salads, grilled fish or meat - meals that have good quality ingredients and are prepared very simply.
Of all the experiences you mentioned in your book, which one turned out to be most memorable for you?
This is a difficult one. Looking back through the book was quite an eye opener. I had forgotten many of the articles I had written and some of the places I had been to. Compiling the list of articles, which is about 10 times more than what was finally chosen for the book, made me realise how many fantastic people I had met and the wonderful experiences I had through food. I was even reminded by a friend about an orgy of food that I apparently hosted when I was in my last year at university in England. It seems that the meal started at 11 in the morning and went on past midnight. I can't remember much about it or what I served but everyone else seemed to.
Tell us something about you and food that we don't know?
I detest eating green capsicum or green bell pepper or whatever other name it goes by. This vegetable should be banned. It makes you burp and has no particular flavour. It does nothing to enhance any dish except may be with a bit of colour. I don't know why we grow them. They are only tolerable when cooked -- stuffed with a filling of spicy potatoes or in the French dish Ratatouille when they are smothered with tomatoes, and herbs. I am also not a fan of fast or processed food for several reasons -- for health reasons as well as culturally to preserve tradition, heritage and the art of eating.
Good Food Good Living by Karen Anand is published by HarperCollins and is priced at Rs 250. Available at all leading bookstores.