The moment we set our eyes on one of the initial photographs posted on their Facebook page, The Lifestyle Portal became a fan of Soulful Spatula in an instant.
It was like love at first sight – looking at the dollops of heavenly Rassagullas (sorry, the Bengali in us does know how to wake up every now and then)!
That was the time we wanted to feature Soulful Spatula on our website and guess what, we even thought of the title – ‘The Soul behind the Spatula’ while brushing our teeth one fine morning.
Yes, many a great ideas do emerge from the loo – remember ‘Eureka!’ 😉
We fell in love with the sheer simplicity and sincerity that just comes through in the way Mumbai based 33-year-old Swati Harsha presents her art of cooking in front of the world and the photographs do just the trick!
An MBA in Marketing and having worked in advertising before donning the cap of a full-time stay at home mom to one of the cutest little princesses, this naval wife offers her family and friends an easy and an uncomplicated way to cook some really delicious food.
We tried Chili Honey French Fries or Potato Fingers that were an instant hit at a party and all credit goes to of course – the Soul behind the Spatula – Swati Harsha.
The Lifestyle Portal caught up with her about her love for cooking and the journey so far…
More than the inspiration there was this strong will to do something about her passion for food and cooking as she would occasionally try out new recipes and take pictures too.
“Often I would get distress calls from friends and family for recipes and I never seemed to have a problem sharing the recipes to the last ‘t.’ As the quality of photography improved, the recipes and photos came together to make Soulful Spatula on June 8th 2012,” smiles Swati.
Any formal training?
Swati admits to have had no formal training in cooking, but her ‘first adventure’ in the kitchen dates back to when she was 9 or 10 years old. She recalls, “I ended up with a yum dish, a bad burn and a huge blister (but that’s a story for some other time).”
She further adds, “I wouldn’t say that “I know” many cooking styles because there are things that I’m still trying for the first time. But without trying to sound modest I would say that I always had a natural flair for cooking and that helps with all my experiments and trials.”
At The Lifestyle Portal we second that and are soon signing up for being the ‘official taster’ at Soulful Spatula.
There’s always something about the name, how it sounds and how we pronounce it. For us, we think that Swati has got the brand name ‘Soulful Spatula’ – bang on.
As if a divine reminisce of Nigella Lawson’s and Donna Hay’s cooking blended to perfection in your dreams. Are we having some ‘sweet dreams’ already? You bet we are!
“Two things I was clear about right from the start, one – I didn’t want my name in there and two I wanted the name to convey that the page was about food. So while my cousin was helping me put the page up all the brainstorming led to Soulful Spatula; so the credit goes to her!” adds Swati.
This has been the first time that the person we have featured on The Lifestyle Portal is so happy and honest about her challenges. We think it’s so very brave and it seconds our view of the sheer sincerity of Soulful Spatula.
If you don’t believe what Swati had to say, then take a look:
“Whoa!! I love this question. The challenges are aplenty –
- I’m a mother of a 2 year old – I really don’t have to explain myself here. It comes with all its trappings.
- I’m a home cook with no professional qualification and a limited pantry.
- The hobby is cost intensive.
- My photography gear consists of my Digital DSLR only and sunlight is the only light I have (or prefer to shoot in). The day its cloudy I cant cook and click.
All this leaves her with a window of 2-3 hours in the afternoon while her little princess is asleep and the sun is up bright and shiny (sounds like mum reading a page from our favourite fairy tale book).
She further adds, “Also I try to keep my list of ingredients simple which keeps the costs in control and also helps me get more audience. People want recipes that are not mundane but have easily available and everyday ingredients. Above all each time my posts get liked and read I feel even more motivated to continue to do what I am doing.”
What makes Soulful Spatula so unique?
The way Soulful Spatula came into being there was barely anytime to plan and make it unique.
Swati wanted to have an outlet for the passion that she has for cooking and food. The objective however has always been to make it fuss free and frill free.
To put up recipes that largely do not involve any fancy ingredients or procedures or equipment or are too time taking.
“What I put up are not just my recipes but also my experience while making them. One thing I have always wanted is to convert non-cooks to cooks and that can be achieved only if cooking doesn’t seem a daunting task. So I think Soulful Spatula is simple, relatable, has easy to follow steps and I would like to believe that people like what they see,” smiles Swati.
Oooh we love this line, “The photos are the temptresses which obviously have to be followed by successful recipes. I am somewhat of a late bloomer when it comes to photography,” admits Swati (but we don’t believe her! Pretty little liar, you…)
She recalls, “Until a few years back I couldn’t even hold the camera properly. I still cannot take photographs of people, but food is another story. Hidden talent that even I got to know about at the age of 32. So, like food I keep the photography also simple, just covering a few key areas.”
Here are some simple yet common sense tips (that we most often forget) on food photography by Soulful Spatula:
- The light has to be perfect.
- The food should have height as well.
- The picture has to reflect the true colours of the ingredients for example spinach has to appear emerald green and not dirty green.
“I compare every frame to the actual set to see how close they are to each other. I am also not much of a garnish person, so I truly believe – if it’s not meant to be eaten, it shouldn’t be on the plate. So there you go – all “secrets” of my photography revealed,” from the brave Soul behind the Spatula. (We don’t recon many people who would so willingly share their secrets so openly! Would you?)
Memories of food
“I have very fond memories of being part of the elaborate preparations for Holi. We would all gather in the kitchen for marathon gujhia making sessions consisting of three generations – men and women, young and old. We all had our jobs cut out for us. Half of the gujhias got eaten right then and there out of the wok, smoking hot,” remembers Swati.
She feels “I think the will to cook is disappearing. So many people I meet seem to consider cooking a liability. I however feel being able to cook is as important as being able to brush your own teeth.” (how true…)
Five major food mistakes
Swati tells us how we knowingly and unknowingly create some of the biggest blunders when it comes to cooking. Here’s a quick look why:
- We complicate the food
- We loose patience – “You can’t rush through cooking. You have got to give the oil a chance to heat up and the onion to cook” – affirms Swati.
- We drown the fresh ingredients into loads of spices and oil thereby making all dishes taste the same
- We assume – “it looks nice, tastes great must be complicated”
- We stick to tradition – we don’t try, don’t explore and don’t experiment
We’re ardent fans of the gorgeous animation film ‘Ratatouille’ where Remy the dude of a mouse wanted to become a chef and his role model Chef Gusteau taught us ‘Anyone Can Cook!’ – to tell you the truth, it was Remy the mouse that inspired us to be brave and try cooking with a whole new outlook.
If you’re not one of the fuzzy mouse loving animation fans, then maybe what Swati says will convince you…
“I strongly believe that there’s a cook hiding in all of us dying to get out – yes even those who “hate” to cook.
It’s just like when someone is starting to read, I tell them to start with simple, fast paced books and once they get hooked they can graduate to more complex and time taking ones.
Similarly if you have an option leave the daily boring cooking to someone else and once in a while pick up a recipe that is simple and yet interesting, try it. My promise to you is that you wont fail,” adds Swati and this makes us wonder had we mentors and teachers with a similar attitude no one would be ever afraid of math! 🙂
This actually helps, since you don’t have to look for ingredients at the last moment and the likely hood of missing out on a critical one gets minimised.
If you’re following a recipe, just stick to it. When we try and incorporate two or more recipes together we end up with a disaster.
There are hundreds of Facebook pages and blogs telling you their first hand experiences with a certain recipe, just pick one from them – how simple!
Swati shares her hopes and dreams for Soulful Spatula which we sincerely hope comes true (with of course, us appointed as the ‘official taster’).
“I intend to take baby steps but I definitely want to establish Soulful Spatula as something more than just a page on Facebook. A couple of ideas have been going around in my mind for some time now – I could cater small parties of 2 to 20 people. I have simple yet interesting menus – starter to dessert. Or get into food photography. Let’s see how and when I am actually able to take that step forward, but I long to do something more.”