The birth of Finely Chopped...my mom writes on my love for food

mom feeding me fish and chips in the UK


Many of your here are fans of my mother, Rekha Karmakar's, writing.

She used to do guest posts on the blog which are linked here. Then she stopped.

That's because she has started her own blog called Tabulous Mom.

I recently requested her to write a post about my love for food over the years. I thought that this would be of interest to those who want to know when I became a 'foodie'.

I usually reply saying that I always was one. My mother's account seems to bear this out.

So here's her post on my love for food from my childhood days:

"Soon after I came back from Mumbai last year, one evening, my daughter-in-law Knz Whatsapped me excitedly that my son Kalyan had won the best food blogger's prize in India. I was very happy as he received the prize for two consecutive years. Knz attributed his success to me but I wrote back to her that behind every successful man, there is a woman and she was the one in this case. Long and short of it , we both started basking in the reflected glory of Kalyan.

After the initial euphoria was over, I wondered what is it that differentiates a food blogger from a person who loves to have food. On much contemplation, I realized that a food blogger is distinguished not only by his love for food but also by his passion for it.

I noticed in Kalyan this love for food since his childhood though the word 'food blogging' was unheard of at that time, as far as my knowledge goes. As I thought of those days, his childhood memories came back to me in a flashback.

Born in Canterbury, the U.K., he was a pampered child - pampered by his dad, who would have got the moon for him if K ever asked for it. Soon after his weaning and 'mukhe bhaat'/rice eating ceremony, he was allowed to have rice. His dad ordered me to cook specially for him at home and not to feed him with canned baby food, as was wont in Britain at that time.

Being a foodie himself, his dad gave me the recipe for it by saying, 'Throw in a handful of rice in a pan, add a few spoons of lentils, peeled potatoes, some vegetables and boil it thoroughly with some salt and water. Then mash it with the back of a ladle and feed him.' 

 'For taste', he asked me to  put a dollop of butter over it. Though I cooked as directed for K, sometimes I used to grumble as it added to my work,  especially when most of the British moms and also quite a few Indian moms could get away by just opening a can of baby food and warming it up for their children. K was, however, allowed to have dessert, available for babies in glass jars, from shops as it was quite tasty.

As K grew up and learnt to walk and talk a little, we got him a high chair with a tray in front of him. Every day, I used to make something special for his lunch but as soon as K saw his dad, who used to come home for lunch, he would say, 'I donth like it'. Hearing it, his dad would get hyper and ask me to fry some fish fingers/sausages/burgers and French fries for K. Thus I had to double cook for him almost every day.

He had very distinct likes and dislikes for food since his childhood. I remember once going on a holiday somewhere in England. The waitress asked if she should get some black pudding for us as it was the pick of the day.  Hearing it, K said,'I donth like black pudding'. The waitress said,'Son, how would you know if you like it or not if you do not try it'. But K was adamant and would not have it in spite of all the persuasions. It was very unusual for a child of 2/3 years to have such strong likes and dislikes.

As he grew up, I would cook for him burgers ( made with meat, minced at home with my ' Moulinex' grinder) /chicken stew/Chinese fried rice/ chilli chicken/ Indian fried rice etc. Sometimes our next door neighbour Mrs Taylor would cook for him an apple pie made with cooking apples grown at our backyard. He did not learn to eat Indian food. Probably it was my fault.

After that, we went to Iran. We had a huge kitchen in our flat at Rasht. I used to put K on the working surface so that I could keep an eye on him while cooking. K used to sit on the working surface and watch me cook. Some how or the other, he felt that onions should not be used in cooking.  Whenever he saw me chopping onions, he would say loudly, 'Do not put onion. Do not put onion'. Seeing him so excited, I would go out of the kitchen, chop the onion and come back again to put it in my cooking. After that, I would serve him the food, with onion in it, and K would have it gladly. Probably K  did not like the smell of raw onions and, thats why, he did not want me to put onions in cooking though he did not have any problem with cooked onions. He was only four years old at that time.

Quite often K and I would go out in the morning and have kebabs from roadside eateries. His dad did not like us to have food from those road side shops because of their unhygienic condition. In spite of our secret adventures, we used to be caught red handed due to our stomach upsets.

K liked to have Iranian 'polo' specially the 'takit'/ the burnt part of the bottom layer of the 'polo'. He also liked to have 'chelo kebab' and 'roasted pistachios'.

After we came back to India, I cooked for him specially for quite a few years. But when I joined work, it was not possible for me to cook special dishes for him. But he never had mainstream Bengali food then and was very selective about his food. My younger son Sid also followed in the footsteps of his elder brother and was very selective about food.

When my sons were in schools and colleges, I never ever asked them to help me in the kitchen as my emphasis was more on their studies than on household work. K, however, started taking interest in cooking when he was doing his MBA. Every Sunday, he would cook chicken curry for us, which turned out to be very tasty. But, please, do not ask me how long it took to clean the mess in the kitchen. After a few years, he went to Mumbai and started a new chapter in his life.

I know when children grow up, they do not like their moms to tell their childhood stories to their friends but children will be always children to their parents . I realized it more when I once out with Sid, his wife and  their friend in Gurgaon. While sipping tea, I started narrating a few stories of Sid's childhood. Suddenly his friend Satrajit became very attentive. Sid felt a bit uneasy and coughed a few times to make me stop. When I did not take the hint, he said the famous dialogue, ' Satra tumhara paas bhi ma hai.'( meaning 'you too have a mom.' Let her come to Gurgaon and he  will also get  Satra's childhood stories from her.) His friend became cautious under Sid's veiled threat and became careful.

Hope K, too, will not mind my writing a post on his childhood stories and give me a bit of his mind.

Rekha Karmakar

Kolkata."

Mom and me last winter in Delhi after a Starbucks visit at Cyber Hub





4