Her name translating to wisdom – Rethinking cooking as a medicinal purpose and value
Food is not everyone’s cup of tea as a pastime. But we are in a new world where setting trends is not just trendy, but it gives a purpose to a detached world. I believe if we take away the theatre from the plate, we lose our audience. And in this six-part edition of our home cook series, I have seen the same attachment with all of the interviewed cooks – the eyes are one way that we consume food.
We should not limit ourselves to just one dish – and you cannot stick to just a favourite dish, because otherwise it will be boring not to like the unknown. That’s what our next home cook tells us about.
Meet Sonya Brown, a qualified fashion designer and make-up artist. She has called Melbourne home for the last seven years. Sonya is from Northern India, which is known not only for its architectural heritage but also for its rich culture and food. So, food is embedded in her DNA.
She made her debut in the kitchen almost six years ago when her husband Bobbi Brown handed her a knife and chopping board. Since then, she hasn’t looked back and has learned to be patient – learning, testing, failing, and learning again to blend her spin on each dish.
Before we go further about Sonya, let us take a pause and introduce you to the ‘Indian Food Australia’…
Magnificent Six Foodies of Melbourne
Affair with food by home grown foodies
Inviting you to meet the 6 upcoming talents of the Facebook group ‘Indian Food Australia” making their debut -G’day India talks to them about their food and love for food.
COVID, from the lockdowns to the COVID-normal post-lockdown, has changed everybody’s lives. Businesses, from art to media, felt the brunt of it; everyone just stopped. It was an unattractive proposition and there was this palpable sense of loss in the air. But it was amazing to see resilience in people. It was as if everyone was in sync with each other and a huge race came to a sudden halt, giving time to ponder.
There was no warning, nothing, as if someone has pushed a temporary halt button with a never-ending expiration date for this mad race we called life. For many, a career change was forced, and for many it was a redemption.
In March, the editor of The Indian Weekly and G’day India decided to do just that by bringing the community closer to fill the void. A foodie group called ‘Indian Food Australia’ was formed on Facebook by Gurbir Sethi, a confessed foodie who wanted to keep the community engaged during this isolation – and also because every morning, the only question that would sizzle after breakfast in his household was “What’s for lunch?”
Ten months on, Indian Food Australia has grown to 4.7k members. It’s a strictly private group but we have seen exciting culinary triumphs from some cooks. They turn at least three to four people away on a daily basis because they can smell their honesty about food. It’s a no-nonsense group of likeminded people who worship food.
But then there are six out of these 4.7K members who have repeatedly shown persistence and consistence with their great talents for the love of food. Call it their calling, as for them 2020 has been one giant leap for them to re-invent themselves. So here are their stories. I hope you enjoy reading about them as I certainly enjoyed writing about them.
The class of 2020 is full of tasty, sassy storytellers – and food connects them with their families and friends. Blending their mothers’ techniques with modern antiquities, our six home grown foodies are precious jewels. From medicinal purposes to the five love languages of food, they flirt with food on daily basis in their kitchen, teasing us with photos to the point that we are drooling on Facebook.
We have learned one thing during this pandemic: we are certainly excited for food and foodies, and we won’t stop writing about it – life is too short for that. Gurbir Sethi started the group for his wife, Manjit Sethi, because he wanted to create a place for her gastronomical affairs – an affair that he is proud to associate with. And with that, I conclude with a quote (or more a question) by the man himself, Gurbir Sethi: “Do we eat to live or live to eat?”
This is our story for bringing you the Magnificent six, now let’s take you back to Sonya’s story….
According to Sonya, not only is cooking therapeutic, but the food that we ingest is like medicine to our body. From the womb, we need nourishment and nutrients – and nature has these in abundance. With that thought, she would like to prioritise and rethink cooking as a medicinal purpose or value. This is what she would like to teach her future kids, as that’s the way it has shaped her life. It would be priceless for her if they too could inherit this belief and value.
From time to time, I have seen this across the board with all six of our interviewed home-grown foodies of the ‘Indian Food Australia’ Facebook group. They are all in sync with the idea that we all eat with our eyes. I cannot agree more with Sonya: a beautiful food is as beautiful as a plate of food. She dresses each of her plates as well as she does make-up for her clients.
When asked what the fondest memories of childhood have been and eating for her, Sonya doesn’t give me a definite answer; she has not confined herself to anything as her speciality. Instead, she just relishes food, and her slice of spice is the flavour that attracts her to food.
Her motivation to cook and share her food on the ‘Indian Food Australia’ Facebook group was simply because she’s been flirting and eating with flavours since childhood. She’s been an optimist since that first chop of vegetables six years ago, embracing the pleasure and happiness it brought to not only her, but also her husband.
Then her friends demonstrated that feeling of awe when she posted those first pictures on Facebook. Like with her make-up and clothes, she has flaunted and taken advantage of social media to create exposure for herself and her business. During COVID, it has just become that important to stay connected to that world.
Sonya is not limited to cooking special dishes; she is open to all kinds of food, and any cooking that takes her to a happy place. To her, cooking takes no basic techniques and there’s no need to adapt to someone’s style of cooking to create a dish. The knowledge of food is never-ending, and the challenge is simply to cook. Likewise, she doesn’t have any special ingredients; she will cook with anything and everything, as long as it inspires her. It’s all about fun and play for this foodie. I agree with Sonya – that is all that food is.
But Sonya doesn’t see cooking as a hobby. To her, it’s a daily ritual. Turning it into a business is something she is not thinking about at the moment. For her, food is all about happiness and mood.
With that, Sonya remarks that she doesn’t have one memorable dish. She eats what she pleases. As a progressive cook, if she has to pick one, it will be the Thai green curry. One needs to be certain about the food one eats – but it is not that important to be certain of what one wants to eat, as it can be anything.
Sonya is a hunter-gatherer; she is still on the hunt for her perfect treasure of a dish, and for this foodie we wish her all the best. May the gods of food give her an abundance of knowledge and skills, so that one day she can go on to become a famous designer, make-up artist and an influencer within the foodie world. I can only think of a quote by the late fashion designer, Pierre Cardin: “The clothes that I prefer are those I invent for a life that doesn’t exist yet – the world of tomorrow.”
By Nandita Chakraborty