How ‘the gutless foodie’ Natasha Diddee turned her life around after her stomach was removed | more lifestyle | Hindustan Times
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How ‘the gutless foodie’ Natasha Diddee turned her life around after her stomach was removed

Home chef Natasha Diddee had her entire stomach removed, but turning a setback into a strength, she is experimenting with flavours and cuisines, creating new dishes along the way.

more lifestyle Updated: Mar 22, 2018 12:17 IST
Etti Bali
Etti Bali
Hindustan Times
Home chef Natasha Diddee lost her stomach to tumours, but her passion for eating and cooking is what fuels her.
Home chef Natasha Diddee lost her stomach to tumours, but her passion for eating and cooking is what fuels her.(Neville Sukhia Photography )

A home chef who doesn’t have a stomach, but is driven by her passion for simple, home-cooked food. This is exactly who home chef Natasha Diddee is. She became the gutless foodie (her name on social media platforms) and turned a setback into a strength. Here’s her story.

END IS ONLY THE BEGINNING

About five years ago, Diddee found out that due to prolonged stress, she had developed tumours in her stomach, and her entire stomach had to be removed. “Every single day, we face stress in some way or the other. We are taught a lot of things, but nobody teaches us about life. Plans happen but they fall through and because there is no backup, half of the people are flailing,” she says.

The Pune-based home chef took it as an opportunity to turn her life around and start living. “You can only draw strengths from yourself. You are the only person who can change a negative thing into something positive if you choose to. There was a reason I chose the term gutless foodie; I could have chosen something like gutsy foodie or anything. But I chose this, and for the longest time, people didn’t understand it. There was a great thought put behind it,” she says.

SEIZE THE DAY

“Something big has to happen in your life to go deep within and introspect. This is what happened to me. I lived a very shallow life [like most people] till then. I had a choice: I can either choose to move on to the next event in my life, or I can choose to make my life into something where I can help people,” she adds. The foodie cooks everything from scratch and photographs them on her mobile phone. Every post, every dish, has a story that she explains in the caption.

FOOD TRAIL

A child of mixed culture and heritage, and growing up in Mumbai, Diddee was exposed to different cuisines from an early age. “My father is half Punjabi-half-Parsi and my mother is Maharashtrian. In my school, there were children from different religions and cultures. Everyone used to get a dabba and we used to share food,” she says, calling herself a bhukkad (glutton). “I was a round child and I used to go to everybody’s house, ring the bell, and say, ‘My mother doesn’t give me food, can you please give me food?’ My mother had no idea of this!”

This mischevious streak is still alive. On a holiday in Hanoi, she made friends with a local street food vendor, and invited herself to his house for dinner. “You can’t change your DNA,” she laughs.

That Birthday Boy's Lunch Thali - Done 🎂 As you'll know, we're in Mumbai to celebrate my papa @ravindradiddee who's birthday it is. Clockwise : 1. That Khamang Kakdi/Salad We chopped cucumber very fine & mixed it well with fresh coriander, pounded green chillies, freshly scraped coconut, coarsely pounded peanuts, salt, lime juice & a touch of sugar. 🌿 2. That Coconut & Raw Mango Dal We pressure cooked skinless split pigeon peas in salted water along with turmeric powder & asafoetida. We tempered ghee with mustard seeds, asafoetida, slit green chillies, curry leaves, cumin powder & red chilli powder & added this to the simmering churned lentils. We then added raw mango slices, a touch of jaggery & simmered. Finished by adding coconut milk & fresh coriander. 🌿 3. That Freshly Steamed Rice The above combination is what I eat for my birthday meal & is cooked by my Mamma @neelam.diddee for me every year. I have never broken this tradition for over 35 years. It's sacrosanct. 💟 🌿 4. Those Okil's Rassewaale Aloo/Potato Curry We pressure cooked the potatoes in salted water till done & roughly crushed into large chunks. We tempered groundnut oil with cumin seeds, green chillies, curry leaves, ginger-garlic pastes, pureed tomatoes, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder & quartered tomatoes. We cooked this till the rawness left. We added in the crushed potatoes, water, fresh coriander & allowed to simmer till it thickened a bit. 🌿 5. Those wholewheat pooris/Deep fried breads 🌿 6. That lime😂 🌿 Oufffff complete beached whale mode after eating this🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️But so good!! We all cooked something in this thali for my papa to celebrate him. Aren't parents just the best? P. S. @beingbengt poured beer🍻 😂 🌿 🌿 🌿 #punefoodie #indianmeal #dhal #homechef #dal #thali #homefood #simplefood #indianfoodie #indianfoodlovers #quickcooking #creativefood #vegetarianmeal #incredibleindia #indiancuisine #foodforthought #gharkakhana #desiblogger #vegetarianrecipes #indianfoodbloggers #momknowsbest #shotononeplus @oneplus_india #vegetarianfood #aloo #puri #momscooking #mumscooking #indianfood #indiankitchen #indiancooking

A post shared by Natasha Diddee (@thegutlessfoodie) on

KNOWING THE BODY

Diddee is allowed to eat several mini meals throughout the day, except for rice. And although there is no food restriction, she has, over time, realised what suits her and what doesn’t. “I have my cheat days, but then my body reacts. I don’t have gastric juices anymore. My intestines have to do the breaking down and digestion. There is a serious syndrome called the dumping syndrome. My entire stomach, and the bends, were removed. So what I eat, goes directly into my intestine. If I eat too fast, or if I eat food that’s too heavy, my body goes through certain symptoms. I either start sweating profusely. I might even need to sit down and not move. Or I’ll yawn extensively. I might need to go to the loo and excrete it. I can get any of these, or all of these symptoms. That’s my cue ki bas ab zyada ho gaya. It’s been five years and it’s still not easy,” she says.

Does this come with any other side-effects? “Vitamin B is produced in the stomach; I don’t produce it, which affects my memory. I have to get a shot once a month for as long as I live. I heal myself through food,” she shares.

WHAT’S COOKING?

Diddee makes a lot of dishes, but it’s Indian cuisine that she swears by. “We have got such diversity in our cuisine. You go from one house to another, the dals would taste different. I’ll have to take 5,000 janams (births) just to learn Indian cuisine,” she says. Her comfort food is dal (pulses), any dal. “We all go back to our roots,” she adds.

This 70s child, in her own words, is not friends with technology. It was a friend who created an Instagram account for her, that now has over 70,800 followers. “I started a Facebook group thinking that I could revive lost recipes, but people don’t want to share. They would take the recipes, but won’t share their own,” she says.

The nomenclature she has chosen for her creations is not something you would normally come across. The descriptions and names of her dishes begin with “That chicken curry” or “Those stuffed chicken breasts”. This was a conscious decision, she says. “There are lots of experts in our field; everybody is a foodie. And then there are the purists who think that there’s only one way to make something. So I decided that instead of giving them names, I will keep it ambiguous,” she says.

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