July 27, 2011
Writing a cookbook is a huge challenge.
But, finding creative ways to get rid of all the food when you're testing is often a bigger obstacle. Last year, writing a book on slow cooker Indian food had me swimming in dals, rajmah, and chicken curry. What to do?
After a few dishes went down the garbage disposal I turned to my community on Facebook and Twitter. Anyone that was interested could turn up on my doorstep with containers that I would fill with steaming and fragrant dishes. For free!
All they had to do was give me honest and balanced feedback on recipes. Feedback that proved invaluable. My buddy James took my mock keema and used it as a filler for his mushroom caps. That tip went into my book. My buddy Meg told me the spice levels were too low for her and her hubbie. It helped me up the spice levels on most dishes. And my friend Karen was just happy to eat anything and everything.
What came of the whole process was not only a place to send my food, but a way to develop more meaningful relationships with people that I might normally pass by with a quick nod or 'hello'. My neighbor Karen and I are close to this day...James became a good friend to my girls...and I was offered everything from free babysitting to help with getting rid of a dead squirrel in the back of our house when my husband was traveling. The experience was priceless. Through the year I must have fed up to 300 Chicagoans.
Now that I am writing my next book, Vegan Indian, I want to resurrect the whole taste testing process. But, there are a few guidelines as my list of potential tasters grows.
1. I must know all tasters in some personal way. Whether it's through a Facebook connection that I feel comfortable with..a phone conversation...or we've met in some way in the past. You're coming to my home to pick up food so I just need to feel comfortable. If you're testing for me, I'd appreciate it if you didn't pass along my personal information without clearing it with me first. Sounds obvious, but you'll have to live in Chicago to benefit!
2. Please come prepared. You'll need to bring your own containers. I only use glass in my home and if I start giving my containers often I don't get them back in time and am scrambling to put food away after a day of testing.
3. Don't feel that you need to stay. My favorite testers were those who picked up food, chatted for a few moments, and then left. Testing is a crazy, busy process!
4. If you want to come in...I don't mind, but I hope you don't mind taking off your shoes. We don't wear shoes in our home. It's cultural. We're Indian-American and I've lived in Japan and Hawaii.
5. Review the food within a week on this blog - in the comment section of the most current post. Part of the testing process is to put information out on the blog. This helps with that process. If you don't review the food in a timely manner, I just have to put you at the bottom of the tasting list. Sorry!:) You can also feel free to Tweet or Facebook about your experience.
6. Don't feel you have to write a lengthy review. I just want some general feedback. An ideal comment would list the dish tested and some thoughts on how you liked it or ate it. Was there something you did differently with it? One friend used my mango chutney over rice as a quick, low-cal dessert.
7. If you have food allergies or a dislike of Indian Food...this is the not the project for you!:)
8. Food is Fresh: I only offer my taste testers food that's been cooked either that day or day before. After that, I don't offer it up to anyone except my family.
9. Have FUN. The point of this is to have fun and spread the word about good food, indian AS apple pie, and my upcoming book. I hope once you try all these recipes you'll start to believe in the concept of the next book and share it with the people in your lives.
10. How do I sign up? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. It might take me a little time to get to you, but be patient and don't worry. There's a ton of food to be eaten!
OKAY...BACK TO COOKING. SEE YOU SOON!