Manam Vanam: In conversation with Barkha Cardoz

Manam Vanam: In conversation with Barkha Cardoz
Note from Alak Nanda:

Barkha aunty was one of the people I randomly messaged on IG one day. She was so thrilled to hear that I was running this little biz with amma. I sent her PODIs, she sent me chef Floyd Cardoz's masalas and cookbook. It didn't stop there. She has been an avid supporter and it has truly been such a joy to not only have her in our corner, but also to see her build life anew after such a great loss, after chef Floyd Cardoz's passing in March 2020.

Around the world, many people in the food and hospitality industry feel his absence and we're happy to support Barkha aunty in her continuing work to keep his legacy alive through the Cardoz Legacy organization. Learn more at https://www.floydcardoz.com/ 

Barkha aunty has also generously shared wise advice since the beginning. I appreciate her so much and we're honored to launch this Manam Vanam series with her. 

 

Barkha Cardoz 

 

What does food mean to you?

 There is no meaning to food in my life. My life is food.

So it’s strange, I'm sitting and thinking of the one big fight Floyd and I had when we first got married, I think it was pretty much the only fight we had. It was because there was some conversation happening and I said to Floyd one day “why you getting so upset? it’s only food” and I still remember his face flushed and him being angry, and Floyd never got angry, he was so upset and he goes “let’s just make one thing clear, this is not just food. This is me, this is who I am, this is my life. I don't eat to live, I live to eat”.

And over the 30 years of being around Floyd, this is who I have become. I have become that person who says - “what is food? Food is everything, food is joy, food is sorrow, food is love, food is hunger, food is giving yourself space to breathe, food is the language you speak, it’s everything. It just encompasses every, every nook and corner of your being and it just transposes and transforms into what you need for that day to be ok. It gives you hugs, it helps you heal, it just brings love to your table, it takes you to someone else’s table with joy, there are no words to describe food, it's just everything. 

What is your life's biggest lesson so far, that you'd love to pass on to others?


I always knew that I was a grounded human being, that I was conscious of my surroundings, other people’s feelings, life, it’s ups and downs. There was a lot of gratitude, a lot of belief, a lot of awareness that our journeys are written and we are just here to fulfill a bigger picture, a bigger...I don’t even know...what the word is, it’s almost like there was a bigger purpose that we were sent for.

And all these years I lived my life with my head down with gratitude and saying you know life will show me the way. Then March 2020 happened and once I came out of that fog, I don’t know if anyone gets out of a fog like that, but whatever clearance I saw, whatever light I saw at the end of the tunnel, whatever sunshine came my way, there’s a very very clear message that I got.

And that is - today, now, this moment, be aware, be present, own your moment, own your day, own your now. Plan for tomorrow, I’m not saying don’t think about tomorrow, but don’t let tomorrow or yesterday absorb you so intently in it’s space, in it’s tight grip that you forget to breathe now, to be in the now. That’s all we have, that’s all that’s real and I have consciously, consciously made an effort to take in and absorb and give thanks to the now because it’s special. And the only thing that’s real is now.

 

What is your favorite dish to cook for someone else? and why?


There are actually two things that I love cooking, one's for Floyd and I'll always make it for Floyd and everyone else is lucky around him that heard so much about it and because of him - we'll get to eat it, that is my mom's Sindhi mutton - (sindhi) seyal gosht. That I made for him every time he traveled and came back home. Especially when he went to India and ate Indian food every single day over there, it was still the one dish he came back home for is my seyal gosht. Just something that I cherish not so much as learning from my mom but the fact that I made it for Floyd. And it was just amazing and just so sweet to see him so happy eating that. And I cherish those memories.

The other thing that I love to make and you'll get a laugh out of this one, is it's a Thai chicken curry that I make, I use a can, the red curry paste can. And I make it for my boys. it's so easy and it's such a beautiful, forgiving dish to make because the paste is so wonderful and my boys love it.

And not only them, my nieces and nephews also just come home for that, they crave it, so it's like a dish that I'll make for the kids when they come home and also days when they come home and I know that they're here for a short time but I'll make a big batch of it and I'll pack it and they'll take it home to their homes and they'll eat it. So these are the two dishes that I know I'll never stop making because it's just associated with so much joy in our homes.

 

 What comes to your mind when you think of South India?

South India, god's country. That's what that is, one of our best, most, most memorable vacations as a family was a Christmas new year that the boys were probably, I think Peter was middle school so Justin was in elementary school and we had gone to visit family for Christmas in Bombay and for new years we went to Kerala.

I had never been to Kerala before and just that whole experience of being there, spending time on the backwaters, meeting such amazingly kind human beings and just being, just spoilt rotten with the fresh catch, amazing food, flavors, hospitality. But what sits with me most is the ocean, the beauty of the ocean, the tremendous feeling of how small we are as human beings compared to nature and the beauty of nature.

And also how well and how kindly people of the south respect and honor that space and what nature, what the earth provides us. And how they not only take care of it but respect it and use it. It's just beyond words. It's just a place that fulfills your heart and soul and makes you feel so complete and at peace.

 

 

PODIs are so special to us; we're delighted and honored you've gotten a chance to taste these PODIs, what is your favorite among them?

I love these three, it's strange, you are asking the parent to pick their favorite child and that's hard. But these have a special place. 

 

 Can you share how you like enjoying them?


The first thing that I did when I got the PODIs was I made a batch of dosa. I had batter at home and I made dosa and I had a little bit of each one of them on the side to just taste the flavor profiles with the rice flavor from the dosa.

And then of course, we went on to the boys being home one weekend and i made fresh steamed idlis for them and I mixed some of the PODIs with some ghee and made them just put it one their plain idli and eat it just to show them the differences in the flavors.

I have to say, watching the boys, even though their experiences with Indian flavors and spices, but to sit there and try each one of them, they didn't need to speak. It was their eyes that spoke and there was so much music and joy in their eyes and it was just beautiful.

So yes, my dear you have a home-run on your hands with all of these and I'm just so proud to see them being accepted and being enjoyed by not just my boys but by people all over. Because you've bought a part of home, of India to us and we don't have to get people to make them for us, pack them and hope that somebody in customs not know what it is and throw them out. You've taken all that fear factor away and we know that they are just a click away to come into our homes and our lives.

~

 Learn more about Barkha and chef Floyd - watch this heartwarming video

 


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