& occasionally about other things, too...

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Cook / Book

Sang Kim

I envy those who cook, and I envy those who write fiction. 

I can’t cook, and I struggle every morning with my fiction writing.

I compensate for my deficiencies in the culinary arts by loving my food, and constantly experimenting.

My love for food is in inverse proportion to my ability to cook. I love food, I don’t cook.  

Over the last three years and some months in Toronto, I've have developed a palate for cuisines I couldn't possibly have imagined I’d ever eat when I was in India.

Primarily, this is because I didn’t even know they existed, or had read about them only in Vir Sanghvi’s food columns when I was in India.

I had Moroccan Tajine at a restaurant in downtown Toronto not too long ago. My friend told me that the meat was optional, but I did the right thing having it with meat. It added substantially to the taste and the aroma.

Tajine is a North African delicacy that gets its name from the earthen vessel in which it is made – not unlike the traditional method of cooking the masterpiece of Gujarati delicacy – the Undhiyu.

A few days ago, I had the Iranian Shole Zard – a delicacy that I’m convinced is a divine concoction that humans only accidentally discovered.

Some time ago, a group of friends had warm Japanese sake in small clay cups and we sat on wooden benches enjoying deep fried oysters with three kinds of sauce.

I compensate for my deficiencies in creative writing (and every day I discover new ones) by enjoying good writing, especially good literature.

Whenever I meet someone who is a natural at both cooking and writing, all I really want to do is just go back to bed, and never get up. 

And I make it a point to acknowledge their talents.

I recently discovered that MG Vassanji, the two times Giller winner, is also an accomplished chef – his Hyderabadi-style eggplant recipe is as magnificent as his prose.

Jasmine D'Costa makes exquisite chicken biryani.

That brings me to my friend Sang Kim.

Every time I meet Sang, I feel completely inferior.

He’s everything that I want to be and will probably never be.

This is how he describes himself on his Facebook page:  “Author, Playwright, Social Entrepreneur, Restaurateur, Accidental Chef.”

He is also the Co-Director of the Small Press of Toronto (SPoT), a bi-annual book fair at various venues throughout Toronto. 

Last month, I visited the fall edition of the SPoT fair to meet Sheniz Janmohamed, Doyali Farah Islam and Ava Homa.

I met Sang. too.

And he gave me yet another reason to crawl back to bed and hide.

He stood in the middle of the book fair, completely oblivious of his surroundings, and recited first of Rilke’s Duino Elegies.

In case you don’t know, that’s one long poem!

I was stunned; as, I’m sure, were Sheniz and Ava.

He later wrote to me, “One of my life's goals is to memorize all 10 Elegies - they say EVERYTHING.”

Sang also told me that he was working on a book and a television project called Cook / Book where he'll be interviewing Toronto writers in their kitchens and cook together.

Acclaimed novelists Katherine Govier, Austin Clarke and Joy Kogawa, have confirmed their participation in the project.

I believe Sang has also convinced Ava Homa to be a part of the project. 

It’s a book worth waiting for.


  1. You are a genuine main, as we say in the kitchen. Mayank, thank you for your always diligent humility. You are a main who will never be mistaken for some other main. I love you for your love of all things beautiful...

  2. This is lovely, Mayank! Thanks!
    Yes, I will be part of cook/book project and I am glad Sang included me. I agree, Sang is impressive and you are too.

  3. "Every time I meet Sang, I feel completely inferior."

    I can not cook. I will probably never perfectly hard boil an egg. Thats as far as my kitchen skills go.

    But for other reasons. I can whole-heartedly agree with this statement.