I’m nobody special or important. I have no famous friends or lots of money. I live in Dubai with my husband and daughter.
When I got married I couldn’t boil water – I would come back to the kitchen after setting a pot to boil and find it empty. I learnt how to cook out of necessity because my husband was the chef but only cooked macrobiotic dhal and pasta arrabiata that was mostly chilli and pasta. So on a rescue mission to save my intestines from the daily tug-of-war of my hubbie’s schizophrenic cuisine, I went out one day and bought 4 cookbooks from the local bookstore.
I read them cover to cover. 423 recipes. Then I read them again. I was not inspired, not interested, not inclined. I read them a third time and in a bid to throw them all out, I went food shopping. Then I got interested.
It was not the first time that I had gone to the supermarket, but it was the first time I had gone food shopping. There is a huge difference- grocery shopping is like taking out the trash. Food shopping is like taking out the trash then finding that that the trashcan has moved to Wonderland. Supermarket shopping is Mary Poppins buying diapers, food shopping is Darwin nosing around Galapagos. And for me, I discovered something and my life has been inspired ever since.
I discovered that food could be more than a physiologocal need, that the preparation can be therapeutic and the end result addictive. So now after all these years of scribbling my recipes on notebooks, I thought it would be nice to see them all in one place. Legibly.
Paper Grape is about food…
It’s is about making food with love for your loved ones. It’s about food that joy-rides on all your senses; tasting, smelling, seeing, touching, listening. It’s about food where the recipe explains how to discern the rasping, head-banging sizzle of raw meat from the gentle, rippling sizzle of rendered meat. Food that makes you squint and purse your lips together, because that always helps when you’re gauging the ratio of one big bunch of chopped parsley to one small bunch of chopped mint. Or the smell of too much lemon versus the smell of too much salt. It’s about making the food that comes from recipes with too many adjectives and hyphenated words. Some of it is about comfort food that’s been passed by grandmothers and mothers with instructions like “Just a handful, dear. Then a squeeze … and mix it. Smell. Now taste. Shoo? Does it need more salt?”
I realize it sounds baffling and incomprehensible. But somehow these instructions make the recipes wholesome and heartfelt. Like they were written by Mother Earth herself and whispered lovingly into the ear of every mother that grew geraniums to every grandmother that turned them into juice. It means that to be able to replicate the dish you had to master senses like a craftsman hones his skill. It means that there seems to be no point in writing any of it down because no one cooks like that.
Well, that’s what I’m trying to do. And the first step is just to get it down on paper. So I’m taking an evolutionary step out of my notebooks with scrawly handwriting and leaping towards digital posterity.