The journey from kitchen ignoramus to cookbook author is an exciting one. Read all about the journey and the Everyday Healthy Vegetarian cookbook from the Saffron Trail blogger.
I had to take a local train to Kalyan and then a 30-40 minute ride in a State Transport bus to reach Goveli. It was in a small hospital here that I was posted for my mandatory rural internship that followed final year MBBS.
There were 5 of us doctors sharing one tiny apartment in a nearly ramshackle building, where all the hospital ward boys and allied staff (and the intern doctors) were put up. We had two options for food — either get our thaali from a ward boy’s house in the building or prepare our own food. The first option was convenient, given that we had to work crazy hours in the hospital and attend to any emergencies that came in at night.
The food they served us had one main ingredient.
Red chilli powder.
I was never used to too much spice. Consequently, two meals down and my stomach lining almost curled up and died.
Our lot decided that we could not go on like this. At this rate, we would easily empty the entire stock of Gelusil in the hospital ourselves.
We got portable gas stoves, some basic utensils and provisions. Two of the doctors were good cooks. I still remember the mixed vegetable curry one of them made. Her secret ingredient was to flavour it with Maggi masala. I thought she was a genius.
I was a culinary ignoramus and my saving grace was tea. I would help the group with chopping and clean up whenever I was off duty. This was my way of making up for not cooking.
When I look back at my journey from that tiny dingy rural kitchen where my designation was dishwasher, to writing a cookbook, it is with part amusement and part joy.
I started my food blog in 2006, purely to record my experiments in the kitchen. Being an impulsive cook, I would never know what I had put into a dish if I ever had to repeat it. The name ‘Saffron Trail’ was also impulsive decision. I happened to be making kheer that day and the saffron in the pot of simmering kheer left a fragrant trail around the house. Saffron Trail sounded romantic and poetic. And I went, “okay, we have the blog name sorted”.
I surprised myself by not getting bored of blogging. If I can survive anything for 6 months, then I am in it for the long haul, or so it seems. Come March 2018, my blog will complete 12 years of being, which is quite a ripe old age for something on the internet.
Within a year of blogging, I was lucky to get noticed and to get an offer from a reputed publishing house, to write my first book. This was 2007. I went to Madras to meet the publishers to discuss the way forward. Despite two of the best mentors assigned to me, this did not take off. I was at a low point in life. Cooking and writing about food was the last thing I wanted to do. I did continue my blogging though, because there was no deadline or pressure in blogging those days.
I also continued with the regular freelance writing assignments that I had taken up since 2006. The editors I worked with have contributed a lot into making me the writer I am today. Regular writing under their guidance ensured that discipline, dependability and fact checking became second nature.
Over the next few years, we moved cities twice. Blogging, in general, became big business. I started taking it seriously, conducted cooking workshops regularly and also worked with a lot of brands that fit with my sensibilities.
In 2015, things were chugging along but there was this sense of acute dissatisfaction and the urge to do something more. In May, I decided that I would devote the rest of the year to writing a proposal and pitching my idea for a book to some of the publishing houses.
Little did I know that there was an opportunity of a lifetime waiting round the corner.
Even before I could start working on my proposal, on June 1st 2015, I got a mail from a commissioning editor at Hachette India, asking me if I would like to write a book.
I had to pinch myself.
The process started and it took exactly 2 years and 6 months to come to fruition.
Well, a year and three months nearly to narrow down on the one idea that both the publishers and me agreed on. And another year and a quarter to bring the book to its finish line.
The 105 recipes in this book are all brand new recipes created specially for the book. I started with a list of over 200 healthy ingredients after researching many nutrition books. The next stage was creating recipes which included some of these ingredients and testing them out. Most cookbooks have a course-wise division (breakfast, snacks, desserts etc.), but I wanted to stick to a more nutrition centric classification of the four main food groups that we should eat daily.
That is how I zeroed on Good Carbs, Eat the Rainbow (all fruits and veg), Protein Punch and Healthy Fats. All the recipes I was working on had to fit into one of these categories to qualify.
As the starting point of every recipe was a bunch of healthy ingredients, all of them fit the ‘healthy’ bill, but not necessarily super delicious. It is difficult indeed to stick to a lifetime of healthy eating if the food doesn’t make you happy. Each recipe had to pass the “Will I make this again and eat it?” test. So rest assured, while these recipes are all healthy, every effort has been made to keep them interesting and delicious.
Looking at most of our urban Indian households, most of us do not stick to one cuisine all through the week, which is why in my book, the cuisine ranges from Indian inspired to Mediterranean to Asian.
This is not a fancy cookbook. I promised myself I would not use kale or quinoa or anything that would push the book into hipster category. It is for everyone, beginner or hands-on cook, men and women, who want inspiration to cook healthier meals at home using everyday ingredients. It makes an excellent gift for a family member or a friend who wants to embrace a healthier lifestyle.
We announced the preorders open on 13 December 2017, and the response has been tremendously encouraging. My book hit No. 1 on the bestseller list in Amazon in the Food & Drink category, which my publishers say is quite unheard of for a cookbook from a non-celebrity.
The books have started reaching my readers’ homes from yesterday and I felt like today was a right day to do this heartfelt post about my journey and express my gratitude to every single one of my blog readers. Whether you have landed on my blog via Google search for a recipe, or you have been my ardent fan, reading every one of my posts since the last 12 years, I owe my book and every bit of my success to you. It is via The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian, that I want to give back to you something that will help in steering you towards a healthier and happier life.
For all the details about the book, number of pages, chapters and other information, check my book page here.
If you have any further queries about my book or would like to explore collaborations, feel free to email me on saffrontrail(at)gmail.com or ping me on Twitter @saffrontrail.
Thank you so very much!
Where to buy The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian