Live to eat, eat to live, love to eat, love to cook : The Lébu Food Manifesto

Creating food is creating joy, cooking a great dish , sharing a great dish and eating it, its all I need to live & to thrive & to dance around joy in the middle of my kitchen


You spend your life in a box. All of us love boxes,we all love labels. We wake up , we do what we are expected of and we go to sleep.  Sometimes too afraid to get out of that box. How long can we live like this?

Leave the take-outs for some other time

Food is everywhere. We are bombarded with images of food, of restaurants , of brands, of boxed things, all around us, with APPs making it easier to order. It’s great. It’s easy. It’s convenient. Its settling. And we settle. We settle so much. We live in a box when it comes to food sometimes. The more options we have , the more it feels like we are burying ourselves in that box (or ‘take-out’ containers). We are exposed to more than ever before when it comes to food and we do try a lot of things. And yet we don’t create as much the generation before us did. We aren’t cooking as much. And I feel that we should.

I am guilty of ordering in more than I would like to admit. I eat out too (though significantly lesser than anyone I know).

But I feel great to come home to a completely home-cooked meal from scratch. I also feel great when I cook a meal at the end of  a hard day. I like eating fresh. I like buying local. I like creating something I am craving without going crazy, actually scratch that I actually do go crazy sometimes.  I like to see the look of pure elation in the eyes of my friends and family when I make a holiday feast.

Cooking as an expression of ‘You’

I like to have a connection with my food. Food is not the end of hunger to me. It is surely not just sustenance to me. Food to me is the manifestation of my mood, I feel happy; I eat, I feel sad; I eat, I feel angry; I eat. Cooking to me therefore is the expression of my inner self. My parents throw elaborate dinner parties. Back when I was growing up, I would love the way the house would smell before a party, the furniture freshly dusted, some sort of perfumed room spray aroma hung in the air. The cooking would start from the morning of the party, my mom making the various dishes and my dad helping in cleaning the house, straightening the cushions, mixing the cocktails. The air palpable of something exciting. The guests polished off everything , taking 3rd & 4th helpings, wowed and commenting on the taste. Usually there would be a signature dessert that my Mom would have created or a signature appetiser or cocktail that my Dad had created. I used to love those evenings. As I grew up and moved away, and spent a long period being single in my 20s & living on my own. Those days , I would think of a day when I could host people  like my parents used to. With my limited cooking abilities and even more limited budget I would sometime cook for my flatmates, often elaborate dishes that took time & effort but was fun, always. Now, living with my husband, I feel it is one of the best parts of adulthood, being able to cook for others. Now a whole day of cooking does not deter me. I get up at 5 o'clock on the day of the parties or cook almost non-stop for two days when I do my Lébu Suppers , and yet the process of creating & cooking makes me feel creative and curious.

I feel a connect to my past , my present and my future. My place is secure , my place is here, I feel myself, I like the version of myself that I create in the kitchen.
I want others to feel this connect with food. The people who build their lives around food are my favourite people. Please excuse the millions ones who insist on calling themselves ‘foodies’. I am talking about people who are thinking of food all the time, those who love to eat but also love to create

Those who deconstruct dishes in their mouths to understand what was in the recipe. Those who know that cooking something special for someone is the best way to their heart. Those who go great lengths to find that perfect dish that will make their day , those who will eat local when traveling even if its means going great distances. You guessed it ! I am the person who walked 10 kilometres in the middle of the night in a foreign country to eat a dish I had heard about , before the restaurant shut down.


Respecting the origins, where food comes from

No food is yours , no food is mine. A cuisine or a dish or an ingredient is native to a country, geography or region , its good to adapt it and mix and  match it and make it your own. But it’s important to cite its origin, where it comes from. Why? you ask? Because it contains a whole history, it contains a whole culture, it contains the struggles of people , it contains the stories of difficulties faced for an ingredient or a crop to grow. For example the English came and colonised India, and the initial intent of which was a domination for the spice trade, not only did the origins get lost , it continues till date to affect the original farmers who grow this in India as the spices they grow are sold at 200%  mark-ups online and in international markets, its still not fair to them. When making a dish which uses spices ,try to name the country from where it is or where it is native to. It also helps preserve the cuisines and dishes that are getting lost and educates natives of that country who are not making or eating them anymore.

Inspiration from the world, using local ingredients as much a possible:

When you buy local ingredients, ingredients grown indigenously, you support the environment because food does not have to travel great distances to reach you so that energy is saved , you support local farmers and their livelihoods

You also make sure that local ingredients are in demand and are not lost. That said, I sometimes cannot resist buying a local ingredient when I travel. But I mostly go buy it at the local market (farmers market if possible),like the cheese home-made by a lady in Bhutan with no shop, or the chillies my husband brought from the local market in Vietnam .I buy it fresh & have to pay excess baggage fees often (I don’t buy packaged & branded goods from supermarkets unless it’s something super rare). I often re-create dishes from other cuisines using local & Indian ingredients (since I live in India) because all food is great food.

Food is not independent , food by definition is an amalgamation of influences.

Everything I have seen or tasted comes together

Flavours come together to form a morsel , a morsel of happiness, a morsel of joy, a morsel of cultures, a morsel of memories and a morsel of traditions old and new. Food to me is a diaspora of everything coming together, the places I stayed , the places I have travelled to. Everything I have tasted, everything I have seen , every conversation I had, everything comes together when I cook.

I love the mess created with food as much as I love a well-laid table

Cooking is messy, when you see a well-laid table with food arranged in beautiful pots and dishes, you don’t see how it was made, you don’t see the mess it created, you don’t see the hard work, you don’t see the hours spent behind the stove, you don’t see the days it took the cook to come up with a menu which takes into account the guests’ tastes, you don’t see the joy of creating something and the cook’s happiness when the guests take the first bite and visibly enjoy it.

Time is always not in my favour, but I don’t believe in compromising on flavours

But I also know that sometimes we just want to sit back and want food to be made with the least effort, without sacrificing on flavours, without sacrificing our cravings. Time should not be a factor in making great food. You should be able to create great flavours even if you don’t have time.   And you truly can.

I created Lébu Suppers to celebrate food together

Sometimes great food takes time.Sometimes sitting together for a meal is great. Sometimes enjoying dishes created with great care, with influences from different experiences can be a great place for conversations. That’s why I created Lébu Suppers- a home restaurant & pop-up to enjoy food created from influences of personal heritage, cultures and tastes from everywhere I have lived and travelled to and cooked with only one purpose, to encourage all of us to see food as a point of connect.

What I am saying is You can do it. All of us can do it. All of us can cook and derive joy from it.

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The people who build their lives around food are my favourite people. Please excuse the millions who insist on calling themselves ‘foodies’. I am talking about people who are thinking of food all the time, those who love to eat but also love to create