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Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

I'm just going to drop notes as I go along, here in London.

At 74, Britain's favourite celebrity chef, cookbook author and actress Madhur Jaffrey (pictured left), who now resides in New York city, proved the perfect inspiration I needed at the recent Singapore Writer's Festival, with which to rekindle my scattered writing ambitions to an eternal burning enthusiasm.

Stilll, every bit the sophisticated dame, the actress once famed for studied roles as in 1965's Shakespeare Wallah with Shashi Kapoor, talked of her life and her 2-year printed memoirs, patiently cajoled into publication by her british publisher and aptly titled Climbing the Mango Trees; with an engaging sardonic humour, topped up by a straight-laced no-nonsense approach to her outlook on life.
One got the impression of a school teacher with a sharp tone of voice, guaranteed to make a student listen with attention.

Never one to tire of working in a career compiling kitchens and studios, and this fuelled by an unexpected passion discovered only in her 20s, Jaffrey had outlined her plans for next year which sees a strenuous filming schedule in Texas, several more television appearances in the UK and another cookbook to line the shelves. Jaffrey, who cited her love for serious art and alternative cinema, had also listed the Indian director Aparna Sen, as one of her favourite film-makers.
My heritage:
It makes me feel slightly abashed at the thought of story plots, drumming in my head, still not written.
But it was Madhur Jaffrey's talk of food that reminded me in a thrilling way, of my heritage. My mother is Sikh and my father a Malayalee from Kerala. It lies at the tip of South India. I am Malaysian by nationality. My father stills hold a faithful Indian citizenship. Although maternal Malaysia cradles my baby heart, I do not feel linked to my mother's land, the Punjab as I would feel exceptionally close to my father, his family and homeland in spirit, no matter where I am.
Jaffrey had said that the Keralites are extremely fond of pepper. She stressed that from ancient times, they eagerly punctured their recipes with a generous outpouring of pepper. It appears that today, the Malayalee Indians need pepper in most of their dishes to feel a complete satisfaction over a meal. I never realised this, thinking that it was always coconut.
I was fascinated as in later years, I had myself begun to develop an avid passion for the condiment.
Once I even smuggled a little bottle in my handbag to take to restaurants and cafes everywhere, determined that the food I ate would not be tasty unless I measured a secret dashing on the side.
I love any recipe that's called Black Pepper this or that...particularly chicken. I adore the taste.
One of Borneo's favourite export produce is pepper and I remembered buying a lot of it while I was there.
This morning at a favourite London hotel, while sprinkling pepper lavishly all over my scrambled eggs, I suddenly remembered.
How strange that I am much closer to my father's homeland, its history and his people, than I realise.


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