Sayantani and her kiddo

The star blogger for the week is the most amazing Sayantani Mahapatra of the very popular blog Often considered the end word on bengali cuisine on the food blogosphere, Sayantani has no airs about her immense popularity and handles it all with utmost elan, just like she handles her food. Below is an excerpt from a very interesting and inspiring conversation with her:

1. Tell us a bit about yourself

Hi! I am Sayantani, a mother, a foodie, a homemakers and a true blue Bengali at heart. I studied designing and International Business and was working for quite a long time before my son was born. Now I work for our own boutique and looking forward to open our online portal very soon.

2. How did you start cooking? Your first dish?

My father is a state Govt employee and his work took him to places. Initially we traveled with him but later we settled base in Santiniketan for our studies. During this time my mother who is an artist started her handicraft business. When I was in my 9th She started traveling for work for longer stretches of time and I and my yonger brother used to stay home with maids. The maid was very caring and loving but was a bad cook and after sometime when we were fed up of the instant noodles dinner I decided to enter the kitchen for simple dal-chawal and fish curry. Gradually started experimenting more and developed a keen interest in cooking and baking.

Even as a kid I used to make tea for my parents. If I can remember properly my first dish was a simple boiled potato-egg and chutney sandwich that I prepared for my family when I was barely 10.

3. Your biggest inspiration?

Definitely my Mother and my grand mother or Dida. Dida was an excellent cook and till date people talk about her legendary cooking. It’s a shame that I was so busy in studies that never thought of learning from her when she was with us but trying to collect her recipes from other family members now a days.

But more than cooking what I learnt from then is to cook and feed with love. That’s the very essence of Bengali hospitality. That Bengali ason (sitting mat), Kansa’r Bason (huge copper plates and glasses) and Hatpakha (handheld palm leaf fan) were big part of our growing years. Have never seen anyone going away from our home without having something. That very thought of maa or dida looking after the lunch, serving us food, insisting on another serving of our favourite dish, or fanning us to keep us cool while we have lunch on a hot summer afternoon makes me warm and fudgy inside.

4. Your blog pleasantly reeks of your artistic background. Tell us more about your Shantiniketan days where you and Kamalika studied together.

Santiniketan definitely has a big influence on me or for that matter on anyone who grew up there. The various aspects and substance of art and culture were imbibed in me in my school years itself and carved me as a person. That very essence of Tagore’s teaching was to encourage a person to be what he is, was a big confidence booster for all of us. We learned to live with the nature and appreciate beauty in simplicity. Nature, its forms and Tagore’s ideologies are a big part of my designing aesthetics and one day I plan to launch my own line of products with that influence.

5. You had a fairly long stint in Japan. How did the orient influence your cooking?

I thank God every day for giving me this opportunity to stay for sometime in Japan and I must confess that am fascinated with everything Japanese. Its an amazing place where the most modern technologies and ancients beliefs stay together. Their very sense of aesthetics lies in balance, harmony and simplicity and food is no exception. Japanese food was sort of an eye opener for me that food could be that simple, that delicate yet that gorgeous.

I like to believe that Japanese food is very different in its texture and presentation from its counter parts in Orient. They give utmost importance to freshest ingredients and simple cooking techniques. Balance and everything in moderation is the key for them and these days I try to follow that. Am learning to respect my ingredients and cook them as simple as possible. Now a days salad is a big part of our lives and following the very thought that food nourishes our body and soul we like to go simple on it.

Last but not least I learned the art of making Bento or Lunch boxes. It’s a beautiful thought where Japanese mothers lovingly put together aesthetically appealing yet balanced meal for their school going children. It’s a fascinating art and I plan to make many bentos for my four and half year old in near future.

6. What in your opinion are the pros and cons of food blogging?

Pros definitely are the opportunities to learn more about food, culture and customs of different people from various parts of the world. It fascinates me and has enriched me as a person. But these days the blogging world has become very competitive and people do weird things to gain mileage. That way the very essence of blogging which for me is to learn, to share and to connect is getting lost.

7. Tell us about your reader interactions. Any memorable incidents?

I must thank Facebook for bringing me closer to my actual readers. All bloggers will agree with me that most of the actual readers hardly leave any comment on your blog posts but I connect with m readers who tiy my recipes and give me feedback. It’s a wonderful feeling. Every genuine comment is memorable for me but once a 50 something person thanked me for some old forgotten Bengali recipe which he was looking for quite sometime and finally found on my blog. It touched my heart.

8. Which is that one dish you enjoy cooking the most?

Weird but I love baking breads. Its so therapeutic especially when am angry J