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Chick-lit author and her friends

Ruchira Hoon tells how was her dinner with best-selling debutant novelist Advaita Kala.
By Ruchira Hoon | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JUL 11, 2008 10:06 PM IST

Within minutes of meeting her, debutant novelist Advaita Kala declares she doesn’t cook. As an ex-hotelier, she hates getting into the kitchen at home, because “it’s like being back on the job”. Things might change, she says optimistically, since her book Almost Single has done well and she’s now flinging herself completely into her new vocation – the business of words. Until then, it’s her mother, the maids, take-aways and eating-out to the rescue.

Nonetheless, there’s a spread that awaits us at home. Shepherd’s pie — the house speciality — baked vegetables for the vegetarians, chicken coleslaw that is nice and chilled, a side salad with balsamic dressing and straight-from-the-oven garlic bread. “Our food’s always been very global. I suppose it’s because as a family we have travelled a lot, so our palates have adapted to the myriad flavours,” says Kala, adding: “And we all love and enjoy food.”

Part-Garhwali and part-UPite, dinner at Kala’s is normally a family affair. The family eats by 8 pm. If not together, then by the TV for certain. The menus, however, change everyday. “We could be eating kebabs and fresh bread one day, roti and seasonal vegetables on another. We also order in at times and of course dig into our favourite Shepherd’s pie,” she says.

There’s a bit of history attached to the pie. Kala recalls that even during her schooldays, her mother would lure her back home by holding out this delicious pie made with minced meat, potatoes and generous dashes of Worcestershire sauce as temptation. “It is the ultimate comfort food,” says the writer. The pie has, in fact, become so famous among friends that they have to make it for special dinners and sometimes even take it over with them.

Where did her mother get the recipe from? We don’t get an answer since her folks are out for the night. And as the mouth-watering smells fill the house, her friends take charge and regale us with stories from school: who the hottest girl in school was plus what the rest of the gang was up to…And then it’s time for dinner.

As we all troop into the dining room, Kala says she’s very particular about the way the table is laid. Attention to details like a pretty floating flower, matching napkins and crockery and the right kind of glasses are something she pays keen attention to. And it shows on the dinner table with it’s pretty French crockery. “That’s the ex-hotelier in me. Food should be a dining experience. I am particular about the right ambience,” she says .

But with the food set on the table, the table arrangement is in disarray. Our host looks completely frazzled. “Please tell everyone I tried very hard to maintain decorum, but my friends made it impossible,” she grumbles. And the food? It’s scrumptious. Second helpings of the pie and everyone’s up for the third as well. For dessert, hot imartis come our way which everyone ignores and then another house specialty emerges — chocolate pudding. Deep, rich and a little jiggly, just like how a pudding should be. “Even when I’m sick, I don’t want herbal tea or soup to make me feel better. It’s this hot chocolate pudding that does the trick for me,” she says.

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