As many of you know, I’ve been pretty excited about the Five Morsels of Love cookbook. So much about it has resonated with me: the beautiful story behind the book itself, the vivid narratives of a family that one encounters between the pages, the incredible legacy left behind by one treasured lady. What makes it special is also the the joy I feel at seeing food I grew up with celebrated in this manner. Maybe I’m overstating a point but opening the pages of a book and seeing the very things we had on our table, which were far far from mainstream, is quite a revelation.
I’ve been cooking from this book quite a bit—sometimes for just F and I, others for friends invited to dinner. Mostly I just riff a bit on a recipe to get to a result I remember just visually or by its taste, occasionally I consult my my mother asking how she does a particular dish since her techniques are just a bit different. This process has been a way of re-visiting my past as well—each time I make a particular dish, it brings up memories of how we ate as a family, what my mother made when and what food meant to each of us. It allows me an examination of food and love and connection from my current adult vantage point back to my childhood.
A few weeks ago, I contacted David Meves of Club Michel to ask if he’d like to host an evening with food inspired by the Five Morsels cookbook. He was pretty easily convinced and a few days later, we had a menu, a serving concept and a date. Fast forward to 10 am on February 15th and there I was, peeling vast mounds of onions and slicing and chopping them into various containers for each of our dishes. In contrast to serving all our dishes at once as is usual with Indian cuisine, we decided to do three courses with a palate cleanser in between and a dessert, to allow diners to focus on one or two dishes and not mix too many things together.
With over 70 guests and a long list of dishes, the day was a bit of a blur but also so much fun: everyone in the kitchen was in a great mood. Tony (in the photo below with the beanie), who had come in straight from a painful dentist procedure (but you’d never have guessed, based on his mood) put on some Indian chants, David’s inherent calm helped keep my nerves under control and Kerstin, a friend and colleague stepped in to assist and was also our official photographer. Our team continued to grow through the afternoon—Sidney was also in the kitchen (below, right)—and evening, and it sort of had the vibe of hosting a giant dinner party for friends.
Putting the menu together was no easy task, given the number of options we had. But knowing roughly what I was looking for helped narrow the choices—I wanted to something more unusual, dishes that celebrate and elevate ingredients like chilli, tamarind, coconut, ground coriander that make Andhra food so individual. The result was a combination of dishes both familiar and new: raw mango and bananas featured, as did homemade rotis and rasam, which is a thin soup-like dish that we eat at the end of our meal and served that evening as a palate cleanser.
The evening was not without its criticism: some people didn't take so well to the banana, and one gentleman told me he ate much better at home (I completely missed my chance to invite myself over to sample their delicacies!) and there was one request for a glass of milk to temper the heat (!!). Overall, the mood was mellow and relaxed, people stayed late on a Thursday, chatting and laughing, and the Champagne David poured us was just the thing we needed after a long, busy day and night in the kitchen.
If you’d like to pre-order a copy of Five Morsels (the second edition is on its way!) please drop me a note via email. I’ll be in touch as soon as the copies reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Images: Kerstin Halhbom I Menu: Vatsala Murthy