Food memories: Q&A with Karishma Pradhan
At Primary Beans, we see food as a powerful source of connection, memory, and love. So we’ve invited some of our favorite creators to share their own food memories, and the recipes and people who inspired them. Food memories is a rotating collection of stories from our favorite home cooks, chefs, and bean enthusiasts, featuring all your favorite beans and showcasing recipes, tips, and bean magic from around the world.
Meet Karishma Pradhan, an incredibly talented recipe developer who speaks our language about mastering the basics for easy and flexible meals at home. She's the founder of Home Cooking Collective– a place where home cooks can learn technique-based cooking through guides, workshops, and recipes. We were thrilled to chat with her about her path to becoming a recipe developer, how she's embracing her heritage as an Indian American, and how she defines her cooking philosophy and style, no matter the cuisine.
Tell us about your earliest memories in the kitchen.
My mom cooked almost every night in our kitchen. As a toddler, I would peer up at the counter and watch her flip chapatis on a hot griddle. Some days, I helped my mom snip green beans or pleat modak (sweet Indian dumplings). At the age of 11, I had garnered some basic cooking skills, like boiling water for pasta or making grilled cheese. Then came the summer between sixth and seventh grade. Out of sheer boredom, I started watching Food Network, and by the end of the season, I was fully engrossed.
That Christmas, my brother gifted me my first cookbook, Everyday Italian, by Giada De Laurentiis. Once a week, I started preparing a meal for my family from her cookbook. I continued learning and experimenting with food through cookbooks, tv shows, and online recipes through middle school, high school, and college. Fast-forwarding several years, I turned my love of cooking into a career where I now focus on recipe development and food photography.
At Primary Beans, we see cooking as an act of mindful living. How has food and cooking helped you learn more about yourself and those closest to you?
Growing up in the United States as an Indian American was a confusing experience, to say the least. Cooking provided me the tools to explore and appreciate my cultural heritage while also forging my own identity. Additionally, cooking and sharing a meal with others is an incredibly special way to learn about other cultures and discuss ideas.
Where do you find your cooking inspiration?
Everywhere. I find inspiration from restaurants, cookbooks, magazines, dinner parties, family gatherings– you name it. I have a deep desire for lifelong learning, especially cooking. After trying a new dish, I find myself analyzing the individual ingredients and techniques long after the meal is over. I tuck away any ideas in my notebook and revisit them each quarter to brainstorm new recipes to test and experiment.
Inspiration also comes from working with whatever ingredients I have at home. Weeknight dinners become my playground, a low-pressure environment where I can try cooking with an unfamiliar vegetable or a new flavor combination.
We both share a love for cooking guides. Why is teaching technique important to you?
When I started cooking, I had to follow a recipe exactly as instructed to produce a successful dish. I understood how to cook, but I didn't understand the "why." Any time I veered away from a recipe led to a disaster. Eventually, I began to see connections between recipes, patterns and techniques that provided the building blocks to a delicious meal.
Cooking techniques, based on both science and intuition, can fundamentally transform the way you cook. It's the difference between following a recipe and creating your own recipe. These techniques allow you to peer into your pantry and come up with a dish on the fly, saving you time and energy. There are millions of published recipes but fewer guides explaining the "whys" behind those recipes. To me, these guides fill a critical gap in the world of cooking education.
Additionally, most of the cooking education that exists today focuses on the preparation of Western foods. But time and time again, I hear that friends and family feel intimidated by non-Western cuisines, such as Indian cooking. So, I think the more that I can create resources that help break down these concepts into simple techniques, the more comfortable folks will feel experimenting in their own homes.
What's your cooking philosophy and style? How did you begin to define it for yourself?
I'm all about cooking with bold, bright flavors and utilizing what you already have at home. With the proper techniques, I think you can create a delicious dish with limited equipment and ingredients. And, most importantly, cooking should be fun. If you have the time, give yourself some space to cook creatively, play around, experiment, and learn.
From my own experiences, once I began to ask the "whys" of cooking, I started enjoying the process more. I became curious about every ingredient and step of a recipe, and the more I learned, the more I felt a natural urge to be in the kitchen.
Favorite way to prepare beans?
Low and slow is the way to go for me. I love simmering a pot of beans on the stove, flavored with lots of herbs and spices, to create a rich broth with tender beans.