I’m an unabashed foodie. Mention a Michelin Star and my ears twitch like a curious canine. New restaurant opening? Sign me up to the reservation list. A tingle runs down my spine when I spot the glint of a Japanese chef’s knife, meticulously forged out of Damascus steel from an obscure prefecture in Japan using ancient handcrafted techniques. How fascinating to witness chefs push boundaries on what is possible in the world of gastronomy and to experience that vision presented as a morsel to tantalise the taste buds. However, there’s something I must confess.
I suspect it’s a confession you harbour as well. Let me explain.
It’s not about the food. And you are entirely correct, the glaring contradiction is not lost on me. I mean, the very definition of a foodie is to be all about the food. This begs further inquiry, if it’s not all about the food, then what is it actually about?
You will not be surprised to hear that I spent an inordinate amount of time ruminating on this very question. To tackle this conundrum I used the First Principles Thinking technique. Favoured by everyone’s favourite or most infamous billionaire, Elon Musk, First Principles thinking sometimes referred to as Reasoning from First Principles, is a problem-solving technique that directly questions all assumptions and deconstructs complex problems into their fundamental “first principles”. It’s a pragmatic process to work through tough problems, I highly recommend it. The answer is unsurprisingly innate to all of us.
It’s about connection.
Food, at its essence, is a cultural connector, a portal to the past, a tether to traditions, and a conduit for emotions. It’s the flavours of my mother’s secret-recipe curry that bring back the warmth of her embrace, her laughter resonating through time. In every dish, there’s a narrative, an untold story of the hands that prepared it, the hearts that shared it, and the moments that became memories.
The best food memories I have are not just about the taste, but they are nostalgic reminders of past experiences and emotions. A single bite can trigger a flood of memories, transporting me to moments long gone but never forgotten. If I close my eyes, I can almost taste the soft buttery rotis straight off the tava (a flat round griddle pan used to cook rotis and other Indian flatbreads), cooked by my mother in her tiny kitchen, which stirs my soul more than any culinary masterpiece. When I savour a plate of aromatic biryani, each spoonful carries the essence of generations, the aromas of spices that have travelled across time and space.
As I reflect on my love for food, I realise that it’s not just the ingredients that make a dish exceptional; it’s the stories, the memories, and the connections that enrich each bite. It’s the family recipes whispered from one generation to the next, the communal gatherings around shared tables, and the sense of belonging that flavours every mouthful.
Food, for me, is not just sustenance for the body; it’s nourishment for the soul. It’s the bridge between cultures, the keeper of traditions, and the vessel that carries the legacy of countless moments. So, as I embark on my gastronomic adventures, whether exploring a Michelin-starred restaurant or savouring a humble home-cooked meal, I’m not merely consuming food; I’m partaking in a timeless journey through culture, memory and humanity itself. I invite you to journey with me with the recipe for the quintessential Indian bread, Rotis.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups freshly boiled water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup of oil
- Melted ghee or butter for brushing
Prepare the dough:
- In a mixing bowl, add the flour, salt and oil
- Gradually add hot water. Be very careful as the water is very hot. You can use a fork to bring the dough together. You may need slightly more or less water, so add it little by little until you have a soft, pliable dough
- Knead the dough for about 7-10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic
- Set the dough in the mixing bowl, cover it with a clean damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes
Divide the dough:
- Divide the dough into 12 equal-sized balls. slightly larger than a golf ball is a good option
Roll out the rotis:
- Making perfectly round rotis takes practice. Don’t worry too much about getting them perfectly round, they’ll taste just as good no matter the shape
- Take one dough ball and flatten it slightly with your palms to form a small disc
- Using a rolling pin or a clean wine bottle in a pinch, roll out the dough into a thin, round circle. Try to make it as thin and even as possible. You can sprinkle a little dry flour to prevent sticking while rolling
Cook the rotis:
- Heat a tava or a pan over medium-high heat. You want it to be hot when you start cooking the roti
- Place the rolled-out roti onto the hot tava and cook for about 30 seconds to one minute on one side until you see bubbles forming
- Flip the roti using a spatula. It should have some light brown spots on the cooked side
- Cook the other side for another 30 seconds to one minute. You can press gently with a clean cloth or spatula to encourage puffing
You can brush the cooked roti with a little ghee or butter for extra flavour.
Place the rotis in a covered dish and serve them fresh and hot with your favourite curry, dhal or any other side dish of your choice.