Nimi Sunilkumar is not a household name. But she has fans all over the world, including foreigners. A food blogger and a cookbook author, this Munnar woman’s works were even featured in the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany.
Her cookbooks – ‘Lip Smacking Dishes of Kerala’ and ‘4’O clock Temptations of Kerala’ – not only detail about the traditional delicacies of Kerala, but also take you on a voyage through the culinary history of the state. Her books have also won her the Gourmand World Cookbook Award, which is often considered as the ‘Oscar’ for cooking.
A native of Ponkunnam in Thrissur, Nimi, a B.Tech graduate, has always been passionate about cooking. But she thought about making a career out of it only after marrying Sunil Kumar, a businessman in Munnar. According to Nimi, it was Sunil who molded her into a seasoned chef.
Nimi was convinced that good food should be a treat to the tongue as well as the eyes. Hence, she took up photography classes to capture the colors of the lip-smacking dishes she made. “There is an amazing color combination in Kerala dishes. Just think about our sadya. It has a charm that can fill our stomach as well as our hearts,” says an excited Nimi.
In 2009, Nimi published her first book, ‘Lip Smacking Dishes of Kerala’. Nimi makes sure that she includes only the traditional recipes of Kerala in her books. “If you ask about the dishes of India to a foreigner, they would say about nan, daal and paneer. No, that is not enough. The world must know about the original recipes of Kerala,” she says.
Nimi takes cookery classes in her Munnar kitchen for foreign tourists. According to Trip Advisor, Nimi’s cookery class is one of the 40 most attractive things in Munnar. The classes can be booked online.
Nimi also works as a dietitian at Tata High Range School, Munnar. “The children of our generation does not like to eat from home; they prefer bakery snacks over homemade meals. We need to cultivate a healthy eating habit among them. The mothers can do it by incorporating some minor innovations into these traditional food items to make them appetizing and appealing. Most of our traditional dishes are steam cooked. For example, puttu, idi appam, ottada and ari pathiri etc. This is an excellent method of cooking to retain the nutritional value of the food. We should never allow them to disappear,” says Nimi.
“We also have numerous indigenous recipes in our culture. Each home has its own unique taste. Even when they make the same thing – be it biriyani or chutney – each housewife makes their item unique by adding a personal touch of their own. I remember an old woman who used to call me from Northern Malabar. Over the phone, she has shared with me many unique recipes like thari pola and kai pola. When I paid her a visit later, she had fallen prey to amnesia, remembering nothing. My eyes welled up when I sat beside her, watching helplessly as she struggled in vain to recall those recipes. Forgetfulness destroys not just some fond memories, but erases the cultural history of a land or a nation,” she concludes.
Nimi’s books in fact take up the role of a defense force fighting against our forgetfulness.