I was extremely lucky to have a very fulfilling childhood. I grew up in Lahore-Pakistan in the 90’s. Our ancestral home is in a village about 120km south of Lahore. I opened my eyes in and spent my childhood with people from all walks of life; this contributed to in-built social awareness and also filled my heart with an abundance of love. Social gatherings with tons of delicious, simple and local food were a norm in my life from as far back as I can remember.
My Baba (father) was the orchestrator of a million wonderful memories and of who I am as a human being. He ensured that our lives were meaningful, there was never any monotony. He taught us how to be humble, giving, loving, selfless and modest yet poised, aware, educated, socially aware and ready to face the world. My mother complemented his ambitions beautifully.
My life has always been embedded with diversity. I went to school in Lahore, which was a perfectly imperfect city. Bustling with life, colours and racing to compete with the modern metropoles of the world, while retaining its rich and eccentric cultural heritage. Lahories are the most serious foodies I have come across. The city provides uncountable opportunities to enjoy food; from the simplest of street food to modern international level restaurants. Contrastingly, the air and life our village was much more simple, pure.
We always had access to an abundance of fresh produce. So, our palette was very seasonal. I have memories of playing and running through the fruit farms with my siblings and cousins. We would sit next to a tube well (a well with a turbine used for irrigation) on a cool but humid summer evening and eat paratha and mango achaar (pickle). To this day I can close my eyes and taste the tart flavour of the unripe mango against the cold buttery flat bread. Baba also made sure we travelled well. We religiously visited the breathtakingly beautiful northern areas of Pakistan every summer and also many foreign countries which exposed us to different cuisines.
Food, Sufi music, travel and education are the most integral part of my memories. We lived a ‘real’ life yet were allowed to romanticize with our feelings, thoughts and ideas. The perfect backdrop for my love affair with food had been set.
My Baba and husband are the two most important people in my life and they are the best human beings I have come across. My husband echoes the qualities of selflessness and hospitality that were strong traits of my father's personality. Hence, cooking, serving food and entertaining has always been on the top of my priority list.
I moved to England after marriage. We were both very young and wanted to complete our education. I started university in London. Although worlds apart Lahore and London had characteristics in common: food, a welcoming atmosphere and a richness of culture, all virtues of great importance to me. My childhood had made me strong and secure, so I blended comfortably into the cultural melting pot that London is. Walking through a river of strangers everyday made me feel comfortably at home.
London inspired me to explore flavours and ingredients further and I continued to cook away. I would not be who I am without my love for and attachment to food. I read the law at a university in Bloomsbury and worked for a law firm in Moorgate but realised that my passion was cooking.
We have a little girl now who loves to eat. I want to be able to help her create beautiful memories around food and through this medium help you explore your own food story.