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Flexible approach Mita Kapur
Mita Kapur is in her corporate demeanour — formal suit, rimless glasses stubbornly perched on her nose, her hair clipped up into a no-nonsense ponytail. As the head of Siyahi, a Jaipur-based literary consultancy, Kapur divides her time between authors, publishers and literary events. This part of Kapur wafts through her book, “The F-Word” from Harper Collins, yet is never the resurgent face of it. There she smacks of the archetypal daughter-in-law/wife/mother chasing the contentment of feeding a family with nourishment.
She bemoans the peanuts and potatoes that roost on the table at her husband's house, urges her daughter in the United States to give up pita chips for carrot sticks and is lost in the delicate layers of the kebab.
“The F-Word”, like its author, is multi-faceted — a food book, memoir and even a travelogue. Kapur, apparently, never wanted the book to be one of clean identities. It rolls out her life, mostly one of abundance with “typical Punjus — they can't see beyond food” and run by “an army of Bahadurs”. What lifts it from the sedate are tales from everyday that leads naturally to a recipe. And there is a mighty range of them in the book, from quintessentially Indian to Oriental and Continental. About her genre-defying work, Kapur says, “I wrote instinctively. I didn't give much thought to the structure, whether it is memoir, travelogue or food book. I just wanted it to sit on the non-fiction shelf. I enjoy writing about food and recipes, and wanted to share stories.”
Though “The F-Word” blurs genres, it is determined in its purpose. Her recipes reflect an eclectic range, yet cast away the exotic. She keeps the small town in mind where ingredients can be a bother. For Kapur, cooking is an “emotional exercise” that lays down a route specked with euphoria, anger and disappointment.
“I want to do away with the misconception that cooking is a chore and secondly want to show that the Indian kitchen has evolved to be really eclectic,” she says. For Kapur, “the social angle” of the joint family is important. “I have been part of a joint family for the past 21 years and it is a total party; subconsciously I wanted to discuss that.” Kapur is almost romantic in her approach to cooking. She writes, “Cooking is not a mundane activity — you move the soul and spirit of the people you feed. It is a sensuous communication, which should speak of love and caring…Don't cook because you have to, cook because you want to. It is an act of deep respect.
Kapur's approach to writing is never clinical. She scoops in recipes from relatives, chefs, halwais (and even village cooks), colours it with tales, legends and facts, peppers them with real life chapters and lays them bare.
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