All photos courtesy of Tara O’Brady
Seven Spoons blogger Tara O’Brady’s first experiences with food were varied, to say the least. But it all begins with her mother, an immigrant from northern India who’d settled in southern Ontario, Canada. She held sway in the kitchen, which served as the central hub for O’Brady’s large extended family.
“The kitchen was the place to hang out if you wanted to hear gossip,” O’Brady told Yahoo Food knowingly. Nearly every meal was taken there, she said, even on school days. O’Brady and her brother would walk home, scarf down some lunch, then scurry back to class. Their mother was always the one cooking, making sure that everyone was full and satisfied.
“Because I was first generation, food was really important,” O’Brady explained. “For my mother, it was a way for her to feel the comfort from the foods that she knew.” That meant dishes like spiced dal, flavorful basmati rice, and rich chicken curry. But North American influences trickled in, too, indicative in dishes like Buffalo wings, cheesecake, Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken.
“She cooked everything,” O’Brady said of her mother. “Our food was diverse and interesting — she had this curiosity. She would taste things, and want to try making them at home. I think I get a lot of that from her.”
O’Brady gets something else entirely from her father, who for her whole childhood captained cargo boats on Canadian waterways, carrying stores of iron ore, grain, and coal. He’d be gone for months at a time beginning in April, coming home only when the Great Lakes froze over. Sometimes O’Brady would visit him on the ships, where food came to play an interesting role.
“Meal time becomes very exciting on a boat,” O’Brady recalled. “We were getting to have ice cream almost every day because the cooks took pity on us. I had French fries for lunch. It taught me a lot about community because the whole crew comes together over food.”
But despite the role eating played in her life, O’Brady didn’t cook regularly until much later, when she was living with then-boyfriend, now husband, in Ontario. Although O’Brady tended to go all out for dinner parties, everyday cooking was another matter entirely.
“I could make something fancy to impress my in-laws, but what do you do when you know how to cook, but you don’t know what to cook for dinner?” she said. Complicating matters were her and her husband’s different culinary heritage. “My background is Indian, and my husband is English and Irish, though they’ve been [in Canada] for generations,” she said. “How do we find a middle ground for what our cooking will be?”
Around that time, O’Brady began noticing recipe sites pop up on the Internet: blogs. She thought, “Why not give it a go?”
That was 2005. In the intervening years, O’Brady has blogged the meals she cooks for her family, which now includes two young boys. The rigor of recipe testing and documenting every dish indeed made her the kind of everyday cook she’d always wanted to be: one just like her mother. Cooking for four different sets of taste buds helped, too — it taught her to find a comfortable cooking rhythm that draws on both her and her husband’s backgrounds.
“We cook a lot of Indian food in our house — the kids love tandoori chickens and kabobs,” O’Brady said. She also embraces dishes from her husband’s side of the family, like a long-cherished apple cake, Canadian butter tarts, hearty stews, and big roasts.
Blogging also had an unintended consequence: it turned O’Brady into a food star. Seven Spoons has gone on to become one of the most popular food blogs on the web, with thousands of followers on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. O’Brady also recently authored a cookbook of Seven Spoons recipes, which came out this past April. She now writes for the blog full-time, plus takes on freelance projects that come her way because of it.
“I’d love to continue what I’m doing,” O’Brady said of the future. “I personally get gratification from recipes — I am fascinated by recipes. I love getting into them and learning how they work. Cooking is not some big scary thing. It makes my day to share a meal with people, and I’d love to keep doing that.“
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