- Sonya Patel
I believe I got my passion for business from my father, a serial entrepreneur from a long history of commerce in his family.
But my love of food and all things cooking is definitely from my mother. So it’s only fitting with Mother’s Day right around the corner, I introduce you to my mom – my inspiration and first teacher.
Like many Indian immigrant women who came to the US in the mid-70s, my mom came here when she was 21 years old right after marriage. In traditional Indian culture (expecially back in the 70s), having a wife who can cook was definitely a thing…to the point where girls would take crash courses in cooking either from a local woman in their town or at home to ensure her new family was well fed after marriage. (Think SAT prep but for marriage!)
My mom knew the basics for a familial Indian meal, which she learned from her mother – daal (lentils), roti (flatbread) and subji (vegetable dishes). But that was about it! Food is a big deal in her my mom’s family and she was exposed to many different regional cuisines as a child growing up in an industrial colony. She’s still very proud of the fact that she ate “cornflakes for breakfast” – definitely not a thing in most small towns back then!
When she came to America, she mom would experiment in the kitchen just like most passionate foodies do. She learned to create elaborate and dishes like rasgulla, samosa, kachori at home – foods that were generally reserved for restaurants in India! When I asked her about how she figured out the recipes for making those dishes, she said, “Whenever I would eat something I liked, I would try and figure out what was in it and recreate it.” (Imagine cooking without Youtube or Pintrest!) She still can’t follow a recipe if her life depended on it!
Some of my fondest memories of growing up are watching my mom cook. She’s like a kitchen ninja balancing multiple pots, spices, and other ingredients in perfect harmony – without a recipe or cookbook in sight! I’m still amazing by her homemade rasgulla (balls of homemade paneer that are steamed and then soaked in a delicious rosewater). She and I share a love for this dish and I rarely ever eat anyone else’s ;)
We have our own styles and signature dishes (and rarely cook together), but I will be forever grateful to my mom for instilling me with a love and passion for food.
My mom will always be my inspiration and first teacher.