It’s Sunday, which means it’s Meet the Gastronomes day.
Today you get the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite people, Rifka Verma. Rifka is from Mumbai, India and makes some of the best curry you could imagine. Her story is one that hits home for more of us than we let on, it’s a story of working to find something that fits. The trial of life really, trying to balance what we want to do and what we think we should do, all in order to figure out what it is we are meant to do.
Enjoy her story, time to meet, Rif.
You walk, you stumble, you fall – but eventually, you find the path that leads you to where you belong; here’s the story of how I found mine.
It was a beautiful Sunday. The winter sun shone through the windowpanes casting a warm glow on the kitchen table laden with enticing ingredients for our customary Sunday brunch – a tradition where my family would get together in the kitchen, experiment with new recipes and then sit to savour a delicious brunch, chatting and exchanging stories about the week gone by.
My sister, aged nine, was intently blending her pancake mix, chopping up ripe red strawberries and bananas for the filling. I, aged fifteen, whisked eggs for my patented Thai noodle omelette, while Mum and Dad bustled around preparing our favourite mixed vegetable Dalia (broken wheat porridge).
The passion for food has been at the center of some very delightful experiences we’ve had, tying us together as a family of foodies. I was raised in a home where creativity, experiments with food, and most importantly, quality time over the dinner table, were a regular affair. Eating in our rooms or in front of the TV was banned.
Growing up, I had very diverse interests that ranged from the performing arts (singing, dancing, acting, imitating accents) to learning multiple languages, literature, psychology, economics, world politics and the environment. Like every enthusiastic nerd in high school – I indulged in all of these activities, which left me perplexed about my future.
Both my parents were successful MBAs, working their way up the corporate ladder in the food sector, my mother as a marketing professional and my father as an entrepreneur. Fiercely competitive and wildly ambitious, I put pressure on myself to live up to my parent’s names and craft an inspiring story of my own.
After completing a Bachelor’s degree in Literature in India and spending two years working in public policy & advertising, I decided to do an MBA and take the entrance exam; only to realize that my skillset and interest may lie somewhere else entirely. While I love food, I have always been concerned about the idea of a sustainable food ecosystem; the impact food has on the environment & climate change, the perils of meat consumption, and nutrition for all the world.
I found myself asking a lot of questions pertaining to these areas when I started cooking my own meals during my sabbatical. Not only was I cooking, but I was also buying and growing my own ingredients (herbs etc). This posed a few questions in my mind- “Am I being a conscious consumer?” “Where is my food coming from?” “Were animals or the environment harmed in bringing this food to my plate?”
In deciding to explore further, I ended up with my own Instagram page, showcasing my home-cooked meals and home-grown ingredients. Subsequently, I stumbled upon Slow Food and the principles of “Good, Clean, & Fair” food that resonated with my own food values. By this time, I had started taking my Instagram blog and food photography very seriously, capturing beautiful pictures of my food and complementing them with useful information on various ingredients, their sources, and health benefits.
A billion and one business ideas popped into my head at this point; that’s when my weirdly wired, creative yet strategic mind found the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. (Did I mention I’m a wine addict too? Seems like destiny, doesn’t it?)
Cut to present day.
Slow Food. Pollenzo. Italy. “Good, Clean & Fair..” THE DREAM.
This year is going to be a year of rich and diverse learning that ranges from visual representation (photography, videography) and communication strategies to marketing and product innovation in the food sector and finally questions about sustainable food ecosystems that force us to reassess our food choices. I can’t wait to make the most of it. This, of course, coupled with great Italian wine, multiple tastings, and extensive travel across the European countryside and the world will make for an unforgettable experience that I am truly grateful for.
As for future plans, I see myself doing another masters in food policy & business (studying and growing old in a pile of books – I already have white hair at 25), which I can hopefully put to some use to save the world while channelizing my creative skills at the same time. (And secretly live my dream of bagging a Bollywood movie on the side, because let’s face it, I’m a drama queen and the Indian movie industry needs me.)
And that’s my story.
Like I mentioned she’s the best. A determined little spitfire in all the best ways.
All the photos she provided are meals that she has made. I know they make my saliva glands go nuts too. For more gorgeous picture of her work, and if your life just needs a little more Rif (who’s doesn’t) check out her Instagram blog @thefeistyfork. Her page is filled with her artwork of food.
Enjoy and stay hungry my friends.
-The Very Hungry Traveler