“So, where are you from?” The question too many of us hear daily - has us questioning our origins and unsure of how to compact years of history and roots into an answer that can dissolve into the air as quickly as it was conceived.
“Short answer? Planet Earth. We all come from the same place and are all connected.”
If you really want to know, Sharada was born and raised in Seattle, WA. Her dad grew up three hours from Chennai and her mom was Sri Lankan but brought up in Malaysia.
For Sharada, having various origins has only led her to strengthen her value that yes, we may have grown up in different areas, but when it comes down to it, we aren’t so different after all. We have similar struggles and experiences that, if we choose to allow them to, can bring us all together. While some unite over conversation and others over music to bring comfort, Sharada relies on the power of cooking.
When her mom passed away, Sharada was just twelve years old. Her dad, being worried that she wouldn’t learn how to cook South Indian food, encouraged her to watch other family members in the kitchen. However, she admits that she wasn’t really learning anything by just observing.
As she got older, and joined what some would describe as the “rat race”, Sharada found herself in a stressful job with long hours, and food became a sort of therapy for her. An escape from the rest of the world, cooking gave her the ability to take control over that one aspect of her daily routine. Sharada learned how to cook healthy, traditional South Indian recipes under the guidance of the many cookbooks by Madhur Jaffrey, her cooking inspiration. Armed with her new learnings and her grandmother’s sambar podi (chili powder and coriander powder mixed), her worry of not being able to speak Tamil, her mother tongue, began to dissipate as she learned this new language. It allowed her to connect to her roots and heritage in a new way.
One day, Sharada decided randomly to post on her Instagram, a picture of a dish she had made (which one? we are dying to know!) and a few friends asked her for the recipe. She figured if just a couple people were interested, then surely more would be, too. And so one picture became many, which soon became Instagram Stories and YouTube videos. The more she shared, the more people became interested and began to look forward to her cooking. Soon enough, people she didn’t even know were asking about her ingredients and recipes. Sharada wanted everyone, regardless of cooking experience or cultural background, to be able to learn how to make simple, healthy and delicious meals like Egg Curry, Biryani, and of course, her now world-famous Saag.
As Buttermilk’s newest curator of Saag, Sharada describes her dish as zesty, bright, and versatile. For those who may not know, saag, often made from a mixture of greens like spinach and mustard leaves, is a staple Indian dish for many, and takes a new form in every kitchen. Layered in spices like cumin, coriander, and garlic, the Saag aroma is one that cannot be dismissed.
With this limited-edition Saag only being available for one month, I had to ask… what’s next for Sharada?
Aside from sharing her cooking with her sister and her Capoeira classmates, Sharada plans to take her passion to another level. Keep on the lookout for Mother Tongue, a soon-to-be physical space where community members can come together and eat good food, listen to good music, and have good conversation. Sharada believes that if you put good energy into the food you make or the words you speak, others can feel that energy too. Mother Tongue strives to allow anyone to share their experiences and remind themselves that yes, we are all in fact connected.
Pre-order Sharada’s Saag today. Only available for a limited time. Eat good food. <3
Kirenjot is a clinical researcher by day and Buttermilk enthusiast by night (and day). She is a foodie and an adrenaline junkie. Bucket list? Skydiving and learning how to make dosa.