I went at food the way I do most things in life—the wrong way. After a childhood spent looking malnourished, I progressed quickly to the other end of the spectrum post-pregnancy. Years of hostel life insured I knew nothing about cooking. But I spent a good part of my professional life as a food critic. I learnt first-hand from some of the top chefs in India and abroad how they get this particular nuance or that particular undertone to a dish. It helped that I have a very keen tongue that finds it easy to puzzle out the spices that went into any dish.
But I still didn’t know how to cook! I used to joke that my son would never quarrel about food with his future wife because he would not want her to cook like me. Then three years ago, I was thrown head-first into the kitchen when my husband and I moved to London. No mother, no mother-in-law, no servant, just us and our growling tummies. You can bet I learnt to cook double-quick! A ladleful of help from the Internet and today, I can actually cook amritsari chhole that would give any self-respecting Punjabi dhaba a good run for its money. I now find I love cooking, especially if I can set my iPod to loud and drown out everything else.
When I got around to writing A Scandalous Proposition, I was willing to let my characters do pretty much as they wanted. I was sure of one thing, though—there had to be a food element in my book. And this is why Mira Talwar, though she’s not a cook, loves cooking. And when she and her family are in dire straits, she takes the ‘food’ route to sustain them financially. And bumps straight into Ranbir Dewan.
Mira is innovative, full of bright ideas and loves to experiment. Often when I thought of her it was in the kitchen, trying out some new twist to a dish that would later have her family drooling over it. So she is able to produce a vada manchurian and a green mango salsa with great elan.
Mira looks down on what she calls firangi food, but she is conscious that a lot of the time, Indian food can be unhealthy. So she hunts for ways in which she can make it healthy and tasty.
When she lands the job of cooking for Dewan Industries’ conference dinner, Mira is so excited that all her personal turmoil gets shoved onto the back burner. She realizes that this is not the right occasion to innovate, but she can’t resist trying out one teeny little experiment—and so she comes up with the idea of topping rabri with whipped cream.
If you want to know more about Mira’s adventures with food and, of course, Ranbir Dewan, go read A Scandalous Proposition. For Mira actually lives the adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.