When you specialise in writing about a particular cuisine, you tend to have the proverbial ‘finger in every pie’ or, perhaps more aptly for me, ‘a finger in every pilau’. I frequently get called ‘the connector’ – through discovering producers large and small, working with chefs and home cooks, and reviewing works by new and emerging culinary talents, I’ve developed a pretty darned delicious directory of foodie folks.
And to my mind, discoveries are better divulged. There’s little satisfaction in secretively savouring a super samosa or a perfect piece of prose all alone. Spread the word, spread the love. Food is about sharing; traditions, friendship, laughter; above all, fostering the sense of conviviality that always sits best on a well-fed tummy.
Sadly, though, too many people never get to experience the full joy of a full tummy. So much of my work is about food, it’s easy to forget that accessing it is a privilege, not the right it should so rightfully be. At first glance, charity Find Your Feet’s ‘Curry for Change’ concept seems a little strange. How can eating food help to raise awareness of those who go without?
But there’s huge appetite for the initiative. Find Your Feet is a tiny charity with a lot of champions, many of whom I’m delighted to say I connected for the cause. Like so many of the artisans and individuals I encounter, Find Your Feet works on a micro-level, yet has mega-impact. The charity is proud to provide rural communities in India and elsewhere with a hand UP, not a handout.
Joint efforts can achieve what solo endeavours cannot. The philosophy applies whether in London or Lucknow; to both advocates and aid recipients. Hearing how the charity’s communities had connected to effect change inspired me to help create a collective who could keep driving the dynamism developing in those rural communities – making my own effort to join the cause.
The ‘Curry for Change’ campaign does just what it says on the tin; using the food of the subcontinent available in Britain in order to revolutionise lives in both South Asia and further afield. Suggesting some spicy superpowers to champion the cause was a vast task; simply because I know so many fine, kind foodies who would bend over backwards to improve life for other individuals.
Those individuals include The Cinnamon Club’s Vivek Singh and celebrity chef Anjum Anand, whose high profiles don’t for a moment preclude giving charity high priority. Also Asma Khan, who gives so much time to helping others it’s a miracle she ever gets to eat, let alone dine on the divine food she serves at her supperclubs, and folks like fantastic food writers Monisha Bharadwaj and Chrissie Walker.
Add to that the artisans who have used their gourmet goodies to do good for Find Your Feet – Neeta Mehta of Sweet Karma samosas, Asif Walli with his Duke of Delhi super snack mixtures, and Jay and Roopa Rawal, those modern mithaiwallas trading as Devnaa – and we were in for some solid, super-spicy support. When Rekha Mehr brought her Pistachio Rose bakery company on board, I knew we were really in business.
To help home cooks cook up their very own curries for change, chefs were conscripted; characters like Ravinder Bhogal, Dhruv Baker, Anjali Pathak, and Ivor Peters – the self-styled ‘East-meets-West’ dandy known as The Urban Rajah, who regular readers will know oh-so-well. Indian restaurants including Benares, Cafe Spice Namaste, Cinnamon Culture and Roti Chai, meanwhile, cajoled customers to donate as they dined.
A broad range of bloggers put fingers to keyboard, too – inviting and enticing readers to lend support to the cause; each writer in their very own unique manner. Dan ‘The Curry Guy‘ Tooms courted the curry-house fans who follow him in flocks; Snigdha Nag showed off recipes she’d seen in demos and shared stories from the communities; Urvashi Roe gave the gyaan on getting involved; and Kavey teamed up with her Mum to impart stellar supperclub advice on the Mamta’s Kitchen site.
Though Find Your Feet, I made many new like-minded foodie friends, and happily used the legitimate excuse of our common interest in the cause to spend more time with old ones. The cherry on the cake, though, had to be the campaign celebration at Cinnamon Kitchen; the occasion when I finally got to shake the hand of charity Director Savitri Sharma.
Somewhat ironically, joining hands to help Find Your Feet’s developing communities has also helped develop our own in London. Little things like plugging the charity in my email sign-off and including a logo on my Twitter avatar have persuaded more people to join our crew and crusade. It’s a great group; enabling everyone to contribute to the very same cause in their own unique manner.
When it comes to ‘currying for change’, coupling this diversity of talent with a collective devotion to the diminutive charity is a pretty potent potion. What’s more, working with Find Your Feet has fostered our own connections and creative collaborations. We’ve helped the charity’s communities find their feet; those communities have helped us find ours. Now that’s real food for thought.
- For more information on Find Your Feet, and to donate or get involved, visit find-your-feet.org
- To learn about the ‘Curry For Change’ campaign, involved businesses, and information on hosting your own charity supperclub, visit find-your-feet.org/curryforchange
- If you’re on Twitter and would like to add a Curry For Change ‘Twibbon’ to your avatar, click here and follow @findyourfeet