Mistresses of Spices and Masters of Kitchen | Neeti and Supradip


1. Introduction
2. Objectives
3. Week 1
4. Week 2


5. Week 3
6. Week 4
7. Week 5
8. Bibliography


This book is a summary of the 5 week course on food
and our journey of its perception. I have stressed
more on its relation with money. This book will take
you on a pictorial cum descriptive tour of our
experience. Hope you enjoy it!


The objective of this course was to look into the
various impacts and discoveries and inventions with
food as a medium. Is it only about profit? Or is just
about hunger quenching? We discovered our
relationship with our traditional food and hence with
the ancestral family traditions. I think in this world of
junk and fast food we have also forgotten our staples,
its amazing taste, essence and importance.


It was the first hour of the first day of the first course with forty students. The list of the
number of books we had to make was a deadly beginning to an amazing course. I don’t
really know how to cook but it definitely excites me a lot which is why this was my first
choice. Even though we were given a chance to change the course, I decided to stay as I
was too eager to take up the challenge. There was this different energy flowing through
me. Everyone talked about how difficult it would be and somehow it just didn’t seem
discouraging. When Neeti started talking about the family recipe book I had already
started imagining what I was going to put in it. The whole illustrated book was ready in
my head. New ideas kept coming.

The exercise that followed was the 1
ice breaking exercise for the class. Initially we were
working in an orderly manner but soon everyone wanted to speak about the different
dishes prepared in their own state. I noticed that not only food items but even customs
and traditions of different states were similar. We discussed and discussed and discussed
and soon we all wanted to taste all of it. It was so surprising that a generation so fond of
fast food and junk food loves traditional food. I also saw that the main ingredients of the
staple food, of a particular region, were the locally available grains and spices.
Later, in the evening, when I called my mom and asked her which dish she loved and
what the recipe was, she literally gave me a very detailed description which made me
realize that it’s not as difficult as I thought it was. I actually tried making snacks for
myself that evening. I’m sure it was more filling than the same dish made by someone
else. I made everyone taste it and soon I had discovered a new reason for happiness.


The next day ‘food fest’ was the topic of the day. To set up a stall and sell things needs a
bit of study and research. We need to know how an individual’s environment, lifestyle,
age-group and location affected his food habits. The majority of the kind of people in the
community must be known. Accordingly we chose the dishes. Since our group had
members from different states it was a bit challenging and confusing for us to decide on
a particular dish. Every dish we spoke about sounded interesting but with it, it carried its
challenges and risks. Finally, we decided to make elle jaon, which is a Goan dish (also
called goan pancakes). After the dish, came the costing. Apart from the cost of
ingredients, time required for preparation, labor work, electricity, time of service and
30% profit was also to be considered. We were working professionally now. All of us
were thoroughly excited to just go buy the ingredients and start preparing. We couldn’t
wait for Friday.
The journey began. From the smallest of things required, to the paper plates, to the
presentation items, everything was bought. We didn’t just go to one shop and buy. We
went to various places, checked prices, weighed and considered and the bought all our
items. Our dish didn’t require making of many things so we left it to the next day.
There came the day we were all eagerly waiting for. The morning looked brighter than
usual. It was our first time. We knew mistakes would be made yet perfection was the
goal. We didn’t show but I could see there was this slight nervousness within everyone.
‚Will the visitors like the dish?‛, ‚Will we cover all our costs‛, and all such questions
lingered in our minds. We had arrived earlier than usual to set it all up. We divided our
work as per the skills of the members. For instance, the ones who were good at
illustrating were given the work of making the posters and the rest made the food
preparations. The final cost was decided in the morning itself. 2 rolls for 25 it was. The
food preparations went on even after 12 noon. We had to clear it all up and make our
stall presentable. It was time we put up our best. It was beautiful how each one
contributed to the presentation.
There, we saw our first customer. All of us were trying to explain what it was and we
kept cutting each others’ lines. We finally sold it. I could feel the immense happiness deep
within myself when we sold our first plate. Initially there were fewer customers and yet
we were panicking and stumbling in every step. All of us were just waiting there at the
stall, not knowing what to do. By and by we calmed down and took responsibilities.



One person made the wrap; one rolled coconut filling in it and served the customers,
while the other two managed money and attracted customers. Soon the batter started
getting over. There were smiles, but we knew there were a lot more to be served. I
immediately took all the ingredients required and sat in a place where the customers
couldn’t see me. Making the batter wasn’t my cup of tea. I being a vegetarian naturally
didn’t know how to beat egg. I kept making my group members test it. Another challenge
was that it had to be made with bare hands, i.e. I couldn’t use the spoon to stir it. It was
finally made. I took 15 minutes but I was happy that I was successful. There was a time I
knew I wouldn’t have done it but that moment there was a different kind of energy in
me. I was ready to face all kinds of challenges. It was while making the batter and then
switching roles to rolling the filling and serving it, that I saw the art in making food. It
was that very moment I understood the magic that was spoken about in the movie,
‘Today’s Special’. I fell in love with the process of making food. The smiles on people’s
faces and the appreciation for the dish were enough to satisfy my heart. All the efforts
seemed worth it.

This was not it. Adding to the awesomeness in the end was filling our stomachs with the
delicious multi- cuisine food and the profit. It was a tiring day but totally worth it.


Saturday was kind of a day for celebration. We all gathered early morning, all tired and
wanting to sleep. We were to go to a museum, janpat loka, 70 kms outside Bangalore.
What came next was a bit surprising. The moment the bus started moving; we all got
excited and merrily sang songs. In no time we reached our destination. Janapada Loka or
"Folk world" is an institution that is dedicated to preserving and propagating the rural
folk culture of Karnataka. It is a part of the Karnataka Janapada Parishat and is situated
in Ramanagara district on the Bangalore-Mysore highway.
It is set up on a 15-acre (61,000 m
) campus, where rural milieus from Karnataka have
been recreated. It also houses a wide array of rural artifacts depicting the essence of folk
literature, music, dance, festivals, sculpture and lifestyle. It is the brainchild of the folklore
enthusiast, the late H. L. Nage Gowda.
Janapada Loka provides an opportunity for rural artisans, musicians and craftspeople to
showcase their art and provides a platform for marketing these works of art. Books,
DVDs and CDs relating folk arts are also sold. The main attraction of Janapada Loka is
the folk’s arts museum, which plays host to artifacts belonging to the folk culture, along
with different instruments of music, agriculture and farming.
On the Janapada Loka campus, there are multiple sculptures related to the folk culture of
rural Karnataka, which display the artists’ keen eye for detail.
It provides an opportunity to see the folk traditions of Karnataka in a single place, while
promoting and preserving the folk culture. (Wikipedia





We saw amazing antique items, sketched the ones related to food, had an amazing
traditional style lunch in a traditional style restaurant, shopped and were on our way
back. I was introspecting upon everything that I saw and did in that little space. I was
trying to relate everything when I noticed that the museum was preserving everything. As
in, yes it did have amazing artifacts and a traditional looking architecture that added to it
but also the food and the way they served it was, in a way, preserving Karnataka’s
culture. Firstly, they served in banana leaves; secondly, they served only Karnataka
specialties; thirdly, they were so accurately trained that everything they did was planned:
their uniform, the way they carried the food, and to the extent that, they knew which
part of the leaf contained what food item; and fourthly, the smartest part, they did serve
other food items as well but at exorbitant prices. Most of us would buy what we
normally buy at other restaurants, had the prices been of the same range. What makes it
their specialty and probably also make a lot of people explore their kind of food is this
strategy. An amazing one I would say. In the end I would say that a tiring week called for
some rest and holi celebrations!




The Thali
The Thali: The amazing Indian thali that had varieties of dishes from all over India.

It was a big goal, compared to last time where we all had different stalls, and to achieve
that we needed to be very organized. We couldn’t be doing our own things and planning
everything differently. Oneness, coordination and a solid plan was mandatory. Therefore,
the first step we took was to decide good dishes. Dishes that would attract customers but
the challenge was that they should be nutritious food. Attractive but junk food is what
we find everywhere. We have this weird mindset that nutritious food isn’t tasty and
probably that is why our consumption or our want for a healthy diet has gone down. I
think that this was our main goal, namely making our customers, which were mostly the
youth, believe that food that is healthy not necessarily tastes horrible; and to promote the
consumption of traditional or staple food. Also, the dishes were to be such that one
didn’t really find them easily in the surrounding area.

We made groups according to our regions and decided on the vegetables and condiments
that would come into it from every region. We laid quite a lot of stress on the colours
that would be present in the thali and the nutrition that we would be providing. We
wanted to make it a complete balanced diet with an amazing variety of taste. After our
first success, we were expecting quite a few customers but didn’t want to take risk as the
price was pretty high this time. It came out to be 150 for Non-vegetarians and 140 for
Vegetarians. We started planning it for 30 people.
Initially, we couldn’t sell many tickets (not even 10) as the ‘nutritious’ dishes didn’t
attract many customers. They wanted to choose but we wanted them to buy all the
dishes. I remember one of


the facilitators telling me, ‚The vegetarian menu is not my kind. I wouldn’t prefer eating
‘these’ things. And I don’t eat non-veg. so I’m sorry. Next time.‛
We needed a marketing strategy. Here, was the learning. This was the most important
part of our success: ‘The Strategy’. Our customers had probably had terrible taste
experiences of the dishes that we involved in our thali. It was our responsibility to make
it amazing; but how do we make them believe us? We weren’t professionals. So now we
played a trick. We changed the names of our sabzis to make them sound more delicious.
I realized one thing at this point: that it wasn’t only the taste of the food that made us
want it, the sound of it, the smell, the sight of it, everything mattered. Everything added
to its flavor. I realized that we eat more with our minds than our mouths. Just by
changing the name from aloo-methi to sabz hariyali we sold 63 tickets. I also had a
person coming up to me and saying, ‚Oh are you the one selling tickets for the fest?
Even I want one‛. I was both surprised at, and amazed by the miracle the words had
Once we all came back, all excited about the number of tickets we had sold, we divided
ourselves into groups and were allotted responsibilities. Groups for cooking were made
but the ones serving; cooking on spot and the ones managing the crowd wasn’t done. We
sorted all that out. There was this sudden excitement. Everyone was ready to do
everything. This was a hint to a great success.
On the other hand, we still thought that we would make food maximum for 70 people as
the thali is too expensive for the students and they wouldn’t want to but it but our
facilitators had complete faith in us. They knew how to get the best out of us and they
made us believe that we could serve 150 easily. Frankly, I thought it was stupidity and
that we would be wasting a lot of food. Trying to be optimistic, we bought ingredients
for respective items for 150 servings. Last time all of us had gone separately and bought
our own ingredients and hence ended up paying a lot more. That was a mistake that we
improved this time. One person from each group went with the organizing committee to
buy the required material. Because it was so much in quantity, we got it at a whole sale
Now came the difficult part: The Preparation. Our group was to cook aviyal. It is a dish
straight from Kerala. A dish full of vegetables and most importantly it’s a dish which has
coconut. Not many of us like dishes only filled with vegetables and moreover with added
coconut. Hence, it was our soul responsibility to make it worth the price. Anything goes
wrong and we would be serving bad food to our customers, since we wouldn’t have the
time and money to make a second batch.

We sat till two in the night cutting vegetables and cooked it from 7am to 12.30 pm the
next day. It was a tough job I must say. The quantity was enormous; but totally worth it.
It tasted amazing. The final touch was adding curd. Unbeatable was the word. That
satisfaction, that relief, is incomparable. Cooking does involve a lot of patience and
confidence in your work, otherwise you will just be messing it up.
In college, we created the atmosphere, got everything ready, did a demo round, helped
each other and boom it was a huge huge success. Our peers who didn’t know how to eat
without a spoon happily ate, the ones who didn’t know how to sit on the floor and eat,
happily sat and the best part was we had a big number coming on spot. Yes, there were
drawbacks but it was definitely something we would never forget. I realized other than
taste, smell, thought, what also matters is how others respond to it. Because the ones
who ate the food loved it and because the others saw they responded positively, they
Outcome: Appreciation and Criticism.
- last minute requirements
- we didn’t have enough food for people who had booked initially since we allowed
too many on spot customers
- the synthetic taste of the lemon juice
- Used utensils were left unwashed
- Ingredients left behind - Lot of wastage


 We should have allotted someone for last minute requirements
 We should have had a proper idea of how many can we take in to supply all of
them or we could keep them in waiting or we could count the number of booked
customers and keep that much food for them.
 Since everything that we made or did gave an organic feel, we should have taken
care of the nimbu pani as well. We added lemoneez instead, as we had to make it
in a huge quantity. Well, that extra effort would have just completed it well.
 Yes, I understand we were all tire but just leaving things behind and making
someone else work for it just created a bad impression. Moreover 2 kgs of aata
and around 2 kgs of maida was wasted.



Langar is the term used in the Sikh religion or in Punjab in general for common
kitchen/canteen where food is served in a Gurdwara to all the visitors (without
distinction of background) for free. At the langar, only vegetarian food is served, to
ensure that all people, regardless of their dietary restrictions, can eat as equals. Langar is
open to Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. The institution of the Sikh langar, or free kitchen, was
started by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak. It was designed to uphold the principle of
equality between all people regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or
social status, a revolutionary concept in the caste-ordered society of 16th-
century India where Sikhism began. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of
langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all
humankind. "...the Light of God is in all hearts.‛

After the Second Sikh Guru, the institution of langar seems to have changed, somewhat,
and meat seems to have been excluded from this institution. The reason cited for this by
historians is the accommodation of Vaishnavite members of the community.

My experience
7am on a Sunday morning we had to reach the gurudwara. An appropriate dress up was
mandatory. We were to wear either salwar kameez or at least a kurti with a dupatta or
some sort of cloth piece that would cover our heads. We reached there a bit before seven
as we were all excited about the new place where we were going to cook. I had already
done this before during gurunanak jayanti when the crowd is 5 times more.
Anyway we first went to the main temple, took darshana, sat in silence for some time
and then moved to the main kitchen where the food was to be cooked. One thing was


told to us: at any cost and t any point of time we were not to let our heads remain
uncovered. It was a kind of respect to food its provider.
We started with making chapattis. Hardly any of us could make round chapattis and
hence we were quite nervous. But the members out there were pretty helpful, friendly
and understanding. They literally taught us how to make it, how much pressure to put
and how big the ball of dough should be. This is one specialty about these people i.e.
they know how to handle new helpers. The reason being that every Sunday there are
quite a few new pupils wanting to help in some way or the other. Either they help in the
kitchen or they help in cleaning the whole area up or otherwise

they would clean the utensils. The best part is that anybody and everybody who wishes
to help can step in and do only what they wish to do.
We kept switching roles between making the dough, cutting it into small pieces and
making balls, rolling puris/chapattis or frying/roasting them. I saw that they were
enjoying teaching us. They liked our company. There was this lady who impressed me
a lot. She handled everything all alone. She had a solution to everything from the
smallest to the most challenging. All tricks were known to her; truly’ a result of
experience and creativity. That moment I said to myself: that’s how a leader should


Other than the way we conducted ourselves, the disciplined and coordinated manner of
doing everything and the cleanliness, there was one thing that caught my attention. There
was this soft, soothing music always going on in the background. My mom always says
that one must cook with all happiness and positivity. Any negative energy ruins the
goodness of food. I think that is why we had the music. It totally fit into the atmosphere
and filled a kind of positive energy in us. I didn’t feel the tiredness. In fact I didn’t even
realize when the time passed.
Talking about the gurudwara and the ones who devote their lives to it, I would say it’s an
amazing work: A work that gives you so much satisfaction, so much love and also a lot
more happiness. They served so many without expecting anything in return. They cooked,
cleaned and served all by themselves. Something similar to the thali serving that we did
the other day. Im sure the kind of satisfaction they get is somewhat similar to what we
felt that day. Yes, here there is much more co-ordination, it is very well disciplined and
also the quantity is much higher. One thing I noticed was that the food was hot even till
the last plate which didn’t happen when we served our thali. I think that is something we
should be taking care of.



Akshaya Patra
The Akshaya Patra Foundation commonly abbreviated as Akshaya Patra is a non-profit
and draws organisation in India that runs school lunch programme across India.
organisation was established in 2000 A story of compassion is the stepping stone to the
beginning of The Akshaya Patra Foundation.It was one of those life-changing encounters
of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada when he saw a group of children
fighting with street dogs over scraps of food. This heartbreaking incident brought to fore
the determination that: No one within a ten mile radius of our centre should go hungry.
In June 2000, this inspiration was given the form of The Akshaya Patra Foundation to
feed the children of Government schools with a thoughtful and conscientious vision
of ‚No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger.

Below is the summary of findings of the impact studies:
1. Increased enrolment – The mid-day meal acts as a great incentive for children to
come to school. As more often than not, this meal becomes the child’s only meal
for the day, it also acts parents to send their children to school.
2. Increased attendance – Children look forward to coming to school every day
because of the mid-day meal. As the Akshaya Patra meal caters to the regional
palate it further suits the taste buds of the children them to attend school.




3. Increased concentration – A stomach full of freshly cooked nutritious and healthy
mid-day meal keeps classroom hunger at bay and increases the child's
concentration in class.
4. Improved socialisation – As the meal served by Akshaya Patra can be consumed
universally by children of all caste and community it has fostered the habit of
eating together. This intermingling has increased the unity among children of
various religions and castes. It has also helped in removing divisional hierarchy in
terms of social standing thereby enhancing a sense of equality among all children.
5. Addressed malnutrition – Through the mid-day meal Akshaya Patra is striving to
meet the nutritional requirements of children such as energy, carbohydrates,
proteins and fat for school children.
6. Empowered women – Women have been employed by the Foundation in different
capacities in operations and other functional areas. Women Self Help Groups
(SHGs) have also been appointed in De-centralised kitchen set-up for the cooking
and managing the processes involved in mid-day meal preparation under the
guidance of Akshaya Patra’s standard operating process. This opportunity has
doubly benefited them by boosting their self-esteem and improving their social


Baba Ghanoush
Baba ghanoush also appears as baba ganush, baba ghannouj or baba ghannoug
) is
a Levantinedish of eggplant (aubergine) mashed and mixed with olive oil and various
seasonings. The Arabic term means "pampered papa" or "coy daddy", perhaps with
reference to its supposed invention by a member of a royal harem.

A popular preparation method is for the aubergine to be baked or broiled over an open
flame before peeling, so that the pulp is soft and has a smoky taste.
Often, it is eaten as
a dip with khubz or pita bread, and is sometimes added to other dishes. It is usually of
an earthy light-brown color. It is popular in the Levant (area
covering Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine and Israel).

A similar dish is known as mutabbal in the Levant.

 1-2 globe eggplants (totaling 2 lbs)
 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
 2-3 Tbsp roasted tahini (sesame paste)
 1-2 garlic cloves (more or less depending on how garlicky you want your baba ghanouj to
be), finely chopped
 1 teaspoon ground cumin
 Juice of one lemon - about 2 1/2 tablespoons
 Salt and cayenne pepper to taste
 1 Tbsp chopped parsley


Preheat grill. Poke the eggplants in a few places with a fork, then rub the eggplants with
1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Grill over high heat, turning as each side blackens. Put the
charred eggplants in a paper bag, close the bag and let the eggplants steam in their skins
for 15-20 minutes.
2 Scoop the eggplant flesh into a large bowl and mash well with a fork. Combine the
eggplant, minced garlic, remaining olive oil (about 2 Tbsp), tahini, garlic, cumin, 2 Tbsp
of the lemon juice, the salt, and a pinch of cayenne. Mash well. You want the mixture to
be somewhat smooth but still retaining some of the eggplant's texture.


3 Allow the baba ghanouj to cool to room temperature, then season to taste with
additional lemon juice, salt, and cayenne. If you want, swirl a little olive oil on the top.
Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.
Serve with pita bread, crackers, toast, sliced baguette, celery, or cucumber slices.




In the last week we discussed all our learning from the previous weeks. We
also did vendor mapping in a stall near our house.





Manpreet Singh
Ayush Bhingare
Ankita Choudhary
Monica Narang