Text and photographs by Ruchira Hoon
I am not a glutton. In fact, I don’t even eat that much. But I know that each time someone meets me, my size betrays me. I won’t lie. I love food. Correction, I love good food. Food that makes me want to touch it, to smell it, to eat it and more so, to create something with it.
The yearning for good food made me want to cook since I was almost nine years old. As a latch-key kid in Delhi, my sister and I would often have to eat things that my mom put together in a hurry before rushing off to work. Her experiments were hits and misses of sorts. Which is why the need to eat something I liked was very strong. I remember picking up that cheese knife from the drawer, cutting off a chunk from a tin of Amul cheese, and throwing it on to a hot tawa to melt, only so that I could mop it up with some bread. It is, perhaps, the one taste I have never forgotten. It was, perhaps, that moment that changed my life forever. Because ever since then, I haven’t stopped cooking.
I have had a very emotional relationship with food. It was my anchor through my parents’ divorce. It was what I turned to when I barely passed my boards and, as a journalist for over a decade, I realised I turned to food writing every time I found myself lost. The one thing that was constant was that I loved trying out new recipes.
Then I realised that I didn’t have to eat to enjoy food. Feeding people was what actually gave me pure joy. I love the looks on people’s faces when I feed them something unexpected. I love the satisfaction of having cooked something that someone actually likes. I live for those moments.
That’s why I started throwing dinner parties. By the time I was 14, I’d ask my parents to sit back and relax while I made a meal for them and their friends. At 17, when I moved to Chennai, I was making dinner every night for my family of six – which included my grandparents, my aunt, my sibling and step-mom, plus we’d have friends dropping almost every night, so I’d always cook a little bit extra. By 18, I could make lasagna from scratch with my eyes closed. By the time I was 20, I was making five-course meals for a party of 20.
The more I cooked, the more requests I’d get. Chocolate cake, some would ask for. Mexican please, others would say. By the time I was married and had moved back to Delhi, the list grew endlessly: quiches, desserts, Italian, Pan-Asian and – if it were up to my husband – fresh cream pineapple cake every week. The more I cooked, the more I learnt. The more I learnt, the more I wanted to feed people. It was a cycle I loved.
At every party back home in Chennai, I’d be asked to make something special. My chocolate pudding pie and savoury galettes are still top of the demand list there. I’ve savvied up so much that I now discuss the menu with my family before I go to meet them and carry all the tools and equipment so I can give them a totally professional experience.
Okay, you get it now, I am slightly obsessed with food. Which is why the people who knew me pushed me to blog about my experience. That was five years ago. Since then I not only cook but also style, photograph, and then feed people what I make. Two years ago, I decided to switch careers completely – from journalism to food. And today, I head a bakery out of Gurugram that lets people eat all things I love. I also host pop-ups at home, showcasing dishes that I love cooking.
Now at 37, I’m hyper organized when it comes to cooking. I know exactly how much time it’ll take me to prep, cook and serve. Going to the market is such fun for me. The sight of seasonal produce and new products on the shelves gets the juices in my brain running.
Peaches and mangoes in the summer, apples in the fall, strawberries in the winter – it’s as if I can’t catch up with the seasons. Peach crisps, apple pies, strawberry tarts – the thought that I can make something new, something delicious, with these things keeps me going. Cookbooks are my nightcap, Pinterest my styling guru. It’s pretty pictures of food that I fall asleep to each night – that’s what gives me the sweetest dreams.