Don’t you love healthy meals that taste good? That’s what you’ll find in Bindu Grandhi’s cookbook, which we reviewed in Spice Up Your Health Nut’s Life. I was fortunate to catch up with the author and ask her some burning questions about her book, influences, health philosophy and life!
In your introduction, you mention how your summers in India with your grandmother influenced you and the writing of Spice Up Your Life. Do you visit India much now that you’re an adult?
Yes, every two years my family and I spend 3 weeks in Bangalore, India. My in-laws live in the same town as my grandmother so I am fortunate to be able to spend time with both sides of the family, especially my grandmother. Bangalore, a thriving technologically advanced city, has a strange duality to it – traditional mixed with modern. For example, Chinese restaurants, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s are across the street from Dosa & Idli restaurants. Yet, even non-traditional restaurants have incorporated Indian flavors so the dishes carry a touch of fusion. During my visits, I always love to find the latest food trends and have incorporated a few ideas into my book such as Chili Cheese Toast.
Do you ever cook or have you ever cooked for your grandmother? If so, what is (was) her general reaction to your cuisine?
When I was a teenager, my grandparents visited New York a few times. My grandmother had never tried broccoli as it was not available in India at that time. The first time I made her Spicy Baked broccoli which she loved. During my last visit two years ago, I made broccoli soup, Mint Rice and Tomato and Cucumber Raita. She was so proud of me. I told her that I developed a passion for cooking because of her guidance and teaching.
Do you have any religious affiliations? If yes, how have they influenced your culinary creations?
I am Hindu and I find that Hinduism is more nature-oriented and mind, body and spirit centric. For example, nature dictates that if you expect your body to serve you well then you must take excellent care of it. Eating healthy is a basic tenet. Therefore, my recipes incorporate a majority of plant-based foods which are healthier for the body.
Your mother is vegetarian, does the rest of your family follow this diet choice? How supportive was your family when you told them that you prefer a flexitarian diet?
My family believes that healthy eating is a lifestyle choice even a philosophy. My parents, grandparents and generations before them are all vegetarian. In fact my Mom, Vasantha Prasad, is the author of “Indian Vegetarian Cooking from an American Kitchen” (Random House). She always found time to cook even though she worked full time. She made cooking look so simple, easy and fun. I also helped her in the kitchen and we would talk about our day. I cherish those moments. I think that experience molded me into the cook I am today.
When we immigrated to the U.S., my parents felt it was important for me to adapt to the American culture while also retaining our Indian heritage. Outside our home, they encouraged me to explore the delights of American cuisine and let me decide what food choices appealed to me. Naturally, I tried everything. Chicken, turkey and fish were my favorites. I tried burgers and steaks too but somehow ‘red meat’ did not appeal to me so I don’t eat it. What I also found is that I enjoyed eating vegetarian most of the times and eating chicken and fish occasionally. So whenever I was asked, “Are you a vegetarian or non-vegetarian?” I would say I’m mostly vegetarian but I like to eat chicken and fish sometimes. Only recently, I discovered there was a term for my style of eating – flextitarian.
Food preparation and consumption is obviously a very important, almost sacred, event for you. Do you find this approach to eating has slowed you down in other areas of your life?
On the contrary, I find that this approach has energized me and enabled me to be more productive in the workplace, in my parenting and in my social life. I don’t find cooking to be a chore because I enjoy making delicious and healthy dishes, and find it gratifying to see the grin of satisfaction on my husband and son. Cooking doesn’t consume too much of my time because I am organized and disciplined in my food preparation.
Have you struggled in maintaining this slow food approach while living in this fast-paced Western culture?
I do not find home cooking to be a slow food approach. First, the more you cook the faster and better a cook you become, where cooking becomes second nature to you. Secondly, the array of appliances at our fingertips, makes cooking faster and easier. Thirdly, the availability of partially prepared products like frozen cut vegetables or pre-packaged vegetables, chicken and fish; broths, spice mixes, etc. also expedites food preparation.
Every day, I prepare dinner for my family and it takes me an hour at the most. I believe dinner is the most important meal of the day where our family spends time relaxing and catching up with the day’s events. We eat a simple and nutritious breakfast at home which doesn’t demand too much time. Lunch is usually eaten outside and we make it a point to select healthful choices.
Do you enjoy every meal with this approach? If yes, do you have any tricks you can share to help people adopt a slow food approach?
Yes, I do enjoy every meal. There is no need for any tricks if you enjoy what you make.
Stay tuned for our next post (Thursday, March 11, 2010) where we get more personal with Bindu Grandhi as she shares with us her childhood dreams, her feelings on becoming a first-time author and some of her thoughts and tips on healthy eating.
Author of Spice Up Your Life, Bindu Grandhi is passionate about healthy and flavourful cooking, especially when it’s flexitarian. She shares her health knowledge with the world by providing practical, healthy and tasty recipes as The Flex Cook.