My passion for health and healing through tasty food started when I was a preteen with a mission: I’d zealously banish sugar from my diet for long stretches at a time, I wrote a high school paper called “One Man’s Meat Is Another Man’s Poison” on the horrors of factory farming, and I experimented with gluten-free baking before there was such a thing called gluten-free baking (rice flour was just about my only choice back then). My family was gluten free as far back as the eighties, when my dad consulted with the fabled Dr. Samuel Getlin, of Trenton, New Jersey. Dr. Getlin, who lived in the worst part of town and only saw patients in the dead of night, advised my dad to give up wheat if he knew what was good for him. (Dr. Getlin also told my dad to dance for ten minutes every hour, and I believe his advice saved my dad’s life.) Denim jacket art portraying bands of the time was big back then; while Neil Young graced the back of my jacket, for my dad’s birthday one year I colorfully decorated his with the long list of the rock-star supplements (l-glutamine! zinc! B-50!) he faithfully took every day.
Years later, with many dietary forays under my belt, while at Penguin Books I was assigned to work on the second edition of The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Rebecca Wood’s groundbreaking tome. My first conversation with Rebecca gave me a glimpse into the world of traditional and medicinal foods from the perspective of a whole foods pioneer. The seed was planted, and that was my initial inspiration to enroll in cooking school at the Natural Gourmet Institute and create that life in food I’d aspired to. My work over the years stems from this auspicious phone meeting, and Rebecca and I recently wrote a book together, The Whole Bowl: Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Soups and Stews, published by Countryman Press.
With my chef’s training certificate in hand, I left office life forever. I initially worked as a private chef for New York City notables while making my way into the world of cookbooks, first editing, then testing and developing recipes, and eventually writing my own cookbooks. I now regularly work with celebrities and TV show producers to help put their visions onto the printed page. Rizzoli published my book Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen: 100 Recipes Featuring the Bold Flavors of Fermentation in 2014. Sally Fallon Morell described the book as “just what you need to add ‘culture’ to your life” and Sandor Katz concluded his foreword with the words “this book can be your passport to the fermentation revival.”
After a lifetime of living in New York, in 2009 I realized my very specific dream of moving to Brattleboro, Vermont. Brattleboro is a localvore’s heaven, where the local farmers’ market, serving a population of thirteen thousand, has more organic produce options than New York City’s Union Square Greenmarket. My love of fermentation and traditional foods are nurtured here, among a solid community of fermenters, a lively Weston A. Price Foundation chapter, and earnest and creative organic farmers, a large share of them role-model-worthy women.
A few years ago, my husband, Nash Patel, and I set up Dosa Kitchen, a farm to food truck located in Brattleboro, Vermont. Our mission is to share the bold, fresh flavors of South Indian cuisine using the sustainable and local ingredients Vermont is famous for. Nash and I are currently at work on the Dosa Kitchen cookbook, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2018.