Smita Deo: Passion and inspiration fostered an extraordinary imagination to write a cook book

Passion is the driving force behind success and happiness that allows us all to live better lives. Passion is a powerful force in accomplishing anything you set your mind to, and in experiencing work and life the fullest extent possible. Meet Smita Deo author of a cook book, “Karwar to Kolhapur Via Mumbai”. The book is well appreciated and gaining popularity. Smita finished her schooling from A.F. Petit Girls High School at Pali Hill Bandra, Mumbai. Her father was a businessman whereas mother is a homemaker from whom she has inherited her cooking skills. She dreamt to be an IPS officer but her father not agreed to be a lady cop. Then she decided to become a professional chef but again her father disagreed. His father was keen on to put her in textiles. Obeying her father’s wish she landed up in SNDT University for textile course.

During her college days she met Abhinay Deo and fell in love with him and got married. It may sound unbelievable but it’s true, she was unaware that Abhinay is a son of legendary film personalities Ramesh and Seema Deo. She called them as Aai and Baba, both are remarkable personalities. She is proud of her in-laws as they have kept the entire family united. She has learnt a lot from her mother in law and believes in her mantra “A way to man’s heart is through his stomach”.

Smita Deo comes from a prominent film family. Her father in law Ramesh Deo is veteran film actor who started acting in 1956 who has worked in more than 285 Hindi films, 190 Marathi films, 30 Marathi dramas with over 200 shows in his long career. Her mother in law Seema Deo is also a veteran actress and has acted in over 80 Marathi and Hindi movies. Smita’s husband Abhinay Deo is an Indian commercial director turned film director. His first movie was “Game” and second movie was “Delhi Belly” which were super hit. Smita’s brother in law Ajinkya Deo is a noted actor in Marathi films He is elder brother of Smita’s husband. In conversation with, Senior Journalist Sitaram Mewati.

Senior Journalist Sitaram Mewati

You being a wife of successful film family, how did you become a cookbook author? Passion is a powerful force in accomplishing anything you set your mind to, and in experiencing work and life the fullest extent possible. Every individual has its own space to surge in life and chooses to follow that path. Cooking was my passion and followed it from my childhood; at the tender age of 1o I was fascinated with it and so on. Though I come from a successful film family I have not been intrigued by it and I am really happy to follow my instinct. I have inherited many traditional recipes from my grandmother, my mother and my mother in law, which I have been cooking for the last 20 years and always being well appreciated for it. While I was documenting all recipes, I thought that I must share them with all my foodie friends and that’s how journey to write “Karwar to Kolhapur Via Mumbai” commenced.

Have you tried all your recipes before inducting in book?

Indeed, if you are writing a cook book you need to understand its nuances, aroma and its original taste to be precise. I have done thorough research and development on each and every recipe. I have tried out all my recipes ample of time and served to friends and professionals and have taken their opinions before including them in my book. You will not find any flaws in any of my recipe which I have included in book.

Who inspired you to write a cookbook?

Inspiration is the energy that keeps us going, that keeps us filled with meaning, and happiness, and excitement, and anticipation. There is always an inspiration, motivation and driving force behind you if you are specialising in certain areas but ignoring it for unknown reasons. My husband Abhinay and son Yug inspired me, authoritative force of inspiration of both, made my path clear and birth of a cook book happened.

What type of recipes you have included in the book (Enough choices for vegetarian too)?

It is a known fact that being in India you can’t ignore vegetarian people. One has to keep vast choices for vegetarian, so I did so in my book. There are traditional recipes from Karwar and Kolhapur with loads of vegetarian choices for my vegetarian friends. The book also includes popular recipe like fish curry, fried fish, vegetable gasis from Karwar, famous Kolhapur Tambda Rassa and Pandhra Rassa and many more to choose from.

Being a strict vegetarian how do you cook and write non vegetarian dishes?

Being a vegetarian does not put a ceiling on you and adhere to cook vegetarian recipe. I have met many leading chefs who are strict vegetarian but make finest non – vegetarian recipe too. Even though I’m a vegetarian but I enjoy cooking a non vegetarian meal. My love for cooking and feeding my family and friends inspires me to cook non vegetarian dishes and I consider myself to be very perfectionist in it. Yug and Abhinay eat everything that crawl and move and so to satisfy their soul through food I cook meat and they love them most.

Have you arranged prelaunch dining to try out your recipes? Who were invited?

Initially when I used to cook recipes from my book, my family members would taste them, relish and express their appreciation. Most of my friends have eaten and relished my recipe. Prior to launching my cook book I arranged traditional sit down lunch served on Banana leaves with proper floral decoration. Eminent people from food industry, bloggers and journalists were present. Indeed, everyone appreciated my gesture and relished my recipe. Besides, many family friends from film fraternity have also tried out my recipes at my home before launching of book who gave thumbs up to my efforts.

What made you write cookbook from Karwar to Kolhapur?

Every individual is destined to do certain things which are not visible until appropriate time arrives. I and my childhood friend had opened up a store where we were supporting Artisans and NGO’s all over India. It kept me immensely full of activity, but due to sustainability we had to shut it after three years toiling for it. There was a huge vacuum that I felt while I sat at home aimless. I always wanted to write a cook book but a different one. I wanted my readers and cooking buddies to experience my amazing childhood moments and so I wrote short stories around the recipes. My friend and guide Deepti Kasbekar also guided me through this process.

Is Karwar cuisine popular, then why it’s not promoted well?

Karwar cuisine is delicious and well appreciated in Mumbai household, but it has not appeared in large scale in Mumbai eateries for unknown reasons. Karwar recipe is in nascent stage but unquestionably it will be on food map of Mumbai. Keeping in view cuisines simplicity and delicious taste I have written this book to introduce this beautiful cuisine to everyone. I am confident that it will become known as leading cuisine in time to come.

It is learnt that many film personalities visit your home to relish your dishes? Can you name them?

As I belong to leading film family who have been in industry for more than five decades. Yes it’s true that many film personalities do visit my home to eat a traditional Karwari meal prepared by me. The Bollywood film personalities are big foodies and want to try out unexplored cuisine and my doors are always open for them. Being an Indian have a tradition of “Atithi Devo Bhav” and I make sure that they get to eat traditional Karwari cuisines prepared by me. I have friends who call me up who tell me what they want me to cook for them many a times. The satisfaction that I see on their faces after the meal, simply makes me joyful. There are top film personalities who visit my place but it is improper and unethical in my part to disclose their name.

What is the scope for Karwari cuisine?

The success of any cuisines depends upon their frequent presentation and promotion on large scale. Now a day’s people are trying various dishes when they read reviews and innovative presentation and authentic taste. The tragedy with Karwar cuisine is, it’s not promoted and presented well. I’m sure that traditional Karwar food has a great future because of its distinctiveness, freshness of the ingredients and simplicity with which one can cook these recipes easily. The amazing taste cuisine is the end result. I am leaving no stone unturned to showcase Karwari cuisine and I’m sure Karwari food will do very well. Indian foodies believe no boundaries to try out authentic cuisines which were untapped so Karwari food would be in limelight soon.

Why don’t you showcase Karwari cuisines in luxury hotels?

The success of local cuisines depends upon exposures in luxury hotels too, as many foreigners are put up there and try out new dishes. I am exploring all possible avenues for showcasing Karwari and Kolhapuri cuisines at big level that includes luxury hotels too. I am thankful to pioneers of the hotel industry who have shown willingness to hold Karwari food festivals. I am in touch with many hoteliers who are positive and I am optimistic that sooner or later you can see me showcasing Karwar cuisines in leading luxury hotels.

What are your future plans beside cook book?

I am very serious about promoting Karwari and Kolhapuri cuisines in big way. I am planning to start a catering unit where I want to serve fresh Karwar and Kolhapur cuisine. It makes me extremely happy to serve good food. So this is on my mind at the moment.