Modern Spice by Monica Bhide

Persuading my toddler to eat her vegetables is akin to offering a vegetarian a cheeseburger. “No, no,” she says emphatically in her sweet voice, as I yet again attempt to tempt her with peas, broccoli or carrots, the basics in the toddler repertoire. “No, no.” She gets down from her seat and then wanders around, returning to her toys. After a few moments, she looks at me as if to say, “Prepare something else for me, my dear cook.”

I always thought I’d have a child who loves all sorts of food as I do, not just the mac and cheese and fish sticks she’s grown to love and expect. But as with any toddler, mine is full of surprises.

One evening my husband and I were eating Indian takeout; we gathered our plates and forks and sat at the dining room table, our adorable toddler in her usual seat. While we were talking we noticed she was quiet, which is usually suspect. We looked over and there was my little pumpkin eating Indian food from my plate. We didn’t dare say anything to her, but quietly watched her eating peas in a spicy sauce, chicken tikka masala, biryani. At that moment, I realized that she does indeed take after me. I’d turn down plain peas, too, but welcome them with a flavorful sauce. What had I been thinking? She really does like to eat the way I do, with flavor and spice.

Rather than ordering take out Indian, my new mission is to make it homemade, which has always seemed like a daunting task, one not to undertake at home. But thanks to Monica Bhide’s cookbook, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen, in which she’s updated Indian cuisine and made it accessible for the home cook, I will now be making dishes like chili pea puffs, pomegranate shrimp and green chutney chicken in my own kitchen. Hopefully my 20-month old will enjoy her new menu.

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