Food is my love language.

Actually, acts of service is my love language.

It’s no surprise that I blend the two.

My first conscious exposures to food, other than eating it to stay alive, are of food as a way to care for and serve others. It’s part cultural and familial for me.

It’s common and often expected to serve (or be served) at least a glass of water when visiting someone’s house as a South Asian. I remember my mom pouring cha (chai), juice, or soda into the nice glassware, reserved only for guests, and placed on a tray alongside a small plate or two of something to snack on: a Gujarati snack such as chevdo or gaathiya and if not those then at the very least, Ritz crackers. My mom rarely let anyone leave our house without a sip or bite of something and these small gestures imprinted on me at a very young age.

My uncle used to visit almost daily and one of the first things my mom would ask is, “Cha muku?” Should I make some cha? Almost no one says no to a cup of cha so more often than not she would busy herself in the kitchen and I’d learned to do the same. Eventually, I’d rush to ask my uncle before my mom could, “uncle, cha muku?” and would return with some pretend cha in my white and blue tea set.

Over time I developed an interest in food. I love learning about food, thinking about food, reading about food, talking about food, hearing about food, seeing food, making food and obviously, eating food, too. I vividly remember watching cooking shows with Chef Emeril Lagasse, infomercials for a convection oven or America’s Test Kitchen. My favorite episodes of Zoom were the ones they made a recipe.

I Love Lucy started it all. I spent a lot of time watching the show growing up, the black and white color and fake laugh track being synonymous with my childhood. In one particular episode, Lucy makes a salad dressing that’s so delicious the others (namely Ethel), convince her to start selling it. She spends the entire episode making batches of dressing and being overwhelmed with production only to find that she’s really not profiting at all. I was definitely too young to care for the business she was trying to run but I was hooked on the salad dressing. Mind you, I’ve still only seen the episode in black and white and I still wonder how that dressing tastes. Is it a ranch? Is it a bleu cheese?

I’d been an avid reader since I was extremely young and to this day I remember a paragraph from one of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books describing a burger she ate with french fries. I don’t eat beef and assuming the food probably tasted like any other diner’s burger and fries, it likely wasn’t that exciting and yet I wanted it. Reading about freshly churned butter and how dried and smoked meats were prepared in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series were always the highlights of the books for me.

Reality TV cooking competitions and cooking shows continued to be in my background as I grew older, experimented in the kitchen, and developed my own niche in the family as a home chef. Technology evolved and social media outlets meant that I could share pictures of my food, get inspiration for recipes and most recently, spend hours watching ASMR and recipe videos.

I find the most joy in cooking for others. Throughout all of this, constantly influenced by food around me, I was emulating my mother: feeding others. I made sure to meal-prep extra food for my friends if they ever wanted it, I cooked with my friends and family members, I buy food gifts and send food over to those I can’t see in person. They often say that the way to someone’s heart is through the stomach and I agree. A good meal, especially one shared with loved ones, gives me a sense of peace and happiness I cannot describe. I continue to find ways to expand on my cooking to be able to give others that feeling, too – at least I hope I am.

My life is evolving and and my family is growing. I am excited to share my love through food with even more people. I am thrilled to know that I will be learning so much more about food with my new family. The years will go by and many things will change but the hospitality would always remain the same.

I say food is my love language because it is an act of service to feed others. I find ways to gift food. I enjoy spending time with others, with food in some capacity. I love hearing about how good my food tastes. I guess actually cooking food can be aligned with physical touch and I love actually cooking, too.

This is my space to share my love for food. Welcome to Bhaika Zaika.

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