Most kids are enchanted by stories of castles and fairies. I grew up hearing about my maternal grand moms’ culinary expertise. The meals served in courses by a butler, the silver-service, freshly baked confectionery at tea-time & dessert after every meal! My takeaway was- what and how you eat are a reflection of your standard of living!
That being the foundation, I watched my mom transform her home-science degree into a flourishing cake business. I participated by making templates and suggestions. I shattered her dream of sending me to Le Cordon Bleu by pursuing a post graduate degree in economics! My academic stint in England also gave me the opportunity to learn more about “Continental” food. I tasted and learned recipes that had been coming down generations, courtesy my English aunt. These casual experiences molded my cooking style for life.
Resisting the urge to make this an autobiography, I will skip the chapter in my life when I worked with an economic think tank in Delhi to advise the government on trade policy. Prince Charming swept me off my feet and I landed up in Mumbai. In the process of trying to impress my new social circle, I inadvertently started doing ready-to-serve food for parties under the banner of “The Picnik Basket”. I even baked on request. My handmade fudge developed a fan following overnight. Despite the overwhelming response, I never considered myself “in-business”. This was my sabbatical. The wide travels during this phase only widened my culinary horizons. Grocery stores, delicatessens and restaurants were the high point of all my vacations. Street food and fine-dining experiences excited me equally! The husband was always a great accomplice! The Picnik Basket slipped into a natural hibernation as motherhood dawned.
The turnaround happened when my son started eating solid foods and I began my quest to maximize the variety and nutrition he got. It became impossible to do this without exposing him to processed foods, class II preservatives and high levels of sugar and salt. I started making things like marinara sauce, peanut butter and mayonnaise from scratch. That’s when I realized that I could replace a lot of bottled stuff in my larder. After a lot of research, experimenting and tasting, The Picnik Basket was reborn. We now make multi-purpose spreads and sauces- both sweet and savory. While we guide you on the different ways in which each product can be used, the beauty of it is- you can innovate with them yourself too! We even customize the packaging for bulk orders. For me, The Picnik Basket is a vehicle to not just spread good taste, but also awareness about wholesome eating. Either because of a lack of time, or cooking skills, people often resort to more “convenient” packaged foods. In the coming months and years, we hope to provide fresh alternatives to more and more commercial products, and to expand our geographical outreach. We now deliver pan-Mumbai, and should be in Delhi soon!
On a more personal note, I love the work-life balance that working from home enables me. It gives me tremendous comfort to be “around” my son, even if I am not always “with” him. It isn’t always easy to keep yourself motivated and focused- especially when you are living in a nuclear family. Because of the nature of my work, I am often busier at weekends, when my husband and son are home. I choose to burn the candle at both ends to ensure we get some family time, or make it up to them later! We have all learnt to accept this and be mature about it. Yes, even my two and a half year old! On the flip side, it makes me proud to see my toddler relishing his vegetables, smoked salmon and Thai curry..the twinkle in his eyes when I make him try a new food! My little triumph. I know the road ahead will have its challenges..some I can anticipate, others will catch me by surprise- but hey, we all live & learn!
My biggest lesson – life does give you second chances..sometimes, even without you asking! Follow your heart, and the world is your oyster!