All photos courtesy of Tara O’Brady
Seven Spoons blogger Tara O’Brady’s first experiences with food were varied, to say the least. But it all begins with her mother, an immigrant from northern India who’d settled in southern Ontario, Canada. She held sway in the kitchen, which served as the central hub for O’Brady’s large extended family.
“The kitchen was the place to hang out if you wanted to hear gossip,” O’Brady told Yahoo Food knowingly. Nearly every meal was taken there, she said, even on school days. O’Brady and her brother would walk home, scarf down some lunch, then scurry back to class. Their mother was always the one cooking, making sure that everyone was full and satisfied.
“Because I was first generation, food was really important,” O’Brady explained. “For my mother, it was a way for her to feel the comfort from the foods that she knew.” That meant dishes like spiced dal, flavorful basmati rice, and rich chicken curry. But North American influences trickled in, too, indicative in dishes like Buffalo wings, cheesecake, Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken.
“She cooked everything,” O’Brady said of her mother. “Our food was diverse and interesting — she had this curiosity. She would taste things, and want to try making them at home. I think I get a lot of that from her.”
O’Brady gets something else entirely from her father, who for her whole childhood captained cargo boats on Canadian waterways, carrying stores of iron ore, grain, and coal. He’d be gone for months at a time beginning in April, coming home only when the Great Lakes froze over. Sometimes O’Brady would visit him on the ships, where food came to play an interesting role.
“Meal time becomes very exciting on a boat,” O’Brady recalled. “We were getting to have ice cream almost every day because the cooks took pity on us. I had French fries for lunch. It taught me a lot about community because the whole crew comes together over food.”