Bulbul Mankani is a gem of a person I have the good fortune to count amongst foodie friends. Born in Delhi, Bulbul grew up in many countries and cities and recently moved north to look after her mom. Just prior to that she was teaching at a film school- whistling woods international. Trained in food at IHM, New Delhi Bulbul only really cooked for the first time at college and then everyday for three years after. Over the years she has worked in the hotel industry and in media (television and advertising), having directed a 39 part TV series on food called Shahi Dawat, a show on the royal cuisine of India..... A while ago I interviewed her on her cookbook for an article. Thought I would share it here!
RMG: Why the Bolly wood Cookbook? What inspired you? Why did you choose the subject you did to write about?
BM: Funnily, there was no inspiration, my publishers wanted a book that combined Bollywood and food - as both are favourites in Europe presently - and they asked me to come up with a book... So I would say the subject chose me! And my training in food and film helped
RMG: How did you become interested in cooking? When and how did food and its exploration become important?
BM: I come from a foodie family- in good, bad, rich, poor times there was a lot of great food cooked and eaten.... One side of my family are Sardars from Rawalpindi and they enjoy this full blooded meaty cuisine.... the other side is Sindhi with their highly disciplined eating... I used to watch some cooking as a kid but the first time I really cooked was at college and boy did we cook- almost 8 hrs everyday!!
RMG: How did you set about working on this book? Did you travel, meet the celebrities whose favourites you featured, actually cook with them in their own kitchens?
BM: The toughest part was to get the celebrities to participate! Once they agreed I would interview them, the ones I knew from before actually cooked and showed me their skills but the others shared their food stories and told me about their favourite dishes. I then took the recipe from their mom's/ uncles/ aunts/ khansamas (cooks), tested them and wrote the chapter on each of them.
RMG: Would you share some of your most pleasurable moments during your
research, interactions with celebrities, tastings?
BM: Most of the actors were great to meet and talk to. I think one of the fun things was meeting them in their make up vans on film sets and talking about food for hours.... it was really such a heady mix. I love food and films and they came together in a great way... I travelled to Amravati to meet Nandita Das and I remember the lush orange trees for miles and she was such an easy natural person.... I think each one of them was a pleasure. Most were very passionate about food despite the need for fit bodies. Not all cooked themselves but they all knew their food. I discovered Manisha Koirala is a great cook and hostess. I tasted her Italian cooking and it is good. Shabana Azmi is articulate and funny - a great raconteur... as is Rahul Bose.... both do not cook at all but know their dals!
RMG: What's your favorite recipe from your book?
BM: If I have to choose just one it has to be Junglee Mutton, the recipe shared by Rishi and Neetu Kapoor - it was unusual and truly represents food born by necessity.
RMG: What's next on the menu? What can we, look forward to next from
your kitchen/pen? I know it is a little soon, but do give us a hint...
BM: I had written a film script set in the food world and am turning that into a novel. Plus working on two cook books- one on Ayurvedic cuisine and another is a food travelogue....
RMG: What do you have to say about the lack of food representation in Indian Movies?
BM: True, our cinema misses out on this aspect completely- except for the odd dinner table sequence- even a film like Bawarchi did not create enough food moments.
RMG: Favourite foodie movie? Why?
BM: Like water for chocolate- its sensual and had that premise that food carries our emotions
RMG: What were some of the things you were uncompromising about as regards to your book, that you think should be given more attention in other cookbooks? (Language, recipe testing etc)
BM: Recipe testing and description - a lot of books assume you know the ingredients or spice mixes and one needs to appreciate that books travel all over the world I keep the lowest common denominator in mind... so i explain how to make all the subset ingredients/chutneys...
RMG: I found you through your blog (a great tool since I was looking for you) but in general do you think a blog/website is important to promotion? And have you done anything special with any bloggers to promote your book?
BM: Like you an accidental food blogger found me and promoted the book plus ran a contest.... I love blogging but am lazy about it.... I think it’s a great way to promote the book.... so I think it should get linked to sale through a internet purchase....
RMG: Anything you would have done differently?
BM: I would have attended the food photography sessions, we were on a tight time schedule so I could not be there...and the photos are sometimes not accurate...