It was a hot summer evening and I was making a list of things to take with me for my first time away from home. I was excited about my new job, living on my own and being ‘independent’. My list had all kinds of things - my favorite mug, my favorite blanket, the only tee that would give the comfort of a warm hug. Of course I wouldn’t miss out on mom’s delicacies. She ensured she packed a bag full of eatables and goodies with a clear message that I should be generous about sharing them.
Life is so exciting when you step away from your safe nest that you’ve had for years and then small things begin to make you miss the most bizarre things from back home. At that time, I was working for one of the biggest companies worldwide which was famous for its culture and free food and freebies. Many moons later, after OD’ing on pizza for dinner and Maggi for lunch and generally living the definition of cool life for a 24 year old, I decided to finally own up to my health. With exercise came some attempts at cooking which took home sickness to another level. Many calls to mothership later (not enough video recipes or video calls back then. No, no whatsapp either), I made a list of doable recipes with the many constraints that came with living alone at that point.
No matter what I did, they never tasted like they should or rather how food made by my mother tasted. I attributed that to my less than desirable cooking skills and moved to focus on other important things like shopping.
As life continued through marriage, a baby and a career, I heard this all around me - from friends and colleagues that food isn’t what it is in our respective hometowns. The color of our sabzis, the flavor of gravy, the fragrance of our favorite foods doesn’t match up to anything we grew up eating. My mother and mother-in-law would not like the texture of my coriander powder or found the chili powder I used too red. As I started paying attention to these things more, I realized the color of my chili powder is not meant to be like my favorite lipstick Ruby Woo.
With a baby at home, I realized myself paying more attention to everything I used at home - food ingredients, storage, home and personal care products and more. I could see that no matter what I picked up around me, especially food ingredients, was laden with some color, adulterant or was just so old and so processed that it was just some sad version of what it should be. Flavour was another aspect. My refined oil was flavorless, odorless liquid and I was scared of people around me in their early 30s and 40s talking about experiencing heart attacks.
I did what I could do - local market scouting, bringing bags full of stuff from my mother and mother-in-law’s house - annual masalas, papads, spice mixes and more. My shelf had multiple types of oils like those recommended by nutritionists - but all were refined. A little reading up on refined was enough to make me immediately move to filtered oils. But, it always bugged me that the most important thing - the foundation of our food is so difficult to access. Sourcing for fresh spices and quality filtered oils had become treasure hunting games. When I found something being chemical free or naturally grown, I found it to be lacking flavor or color or aroma because it was so old. Sometimes, I find products that have flavor and aroma but are treated. Why did I have to choose from flavor, freshness, aroma, authenticity and nutrition? Why couldn’t I have access to real, wholesome food as it was meant to be.
This passion to find the right kind of spices and oils for me, led me to explore and taste various varieties. It led me to reach out to people who grew things for flavor and taste and not just profits, who worked with heirloom seeds, natural farming and traditional post harvest practices. After multiple tasting sessions, traveling through Indian farms and wholesale markets alike, I found people who are as passionate about real, local and wholesome food as I am.
At Local Sparrow, the idea is to offer what I put on my plate to you. This is a massive commitment. A commitment I make with utmost confidence and pride. We begin with a set of curated spices and cold pressed, filtered oils. The team of Local Sparrow has an audacious goal of bringing fresh, same year harvests to you. We want to continue expelling oils in small batches and let you experience the natural changes in color, taste and aroma that each batch of oil seeds carry from Mother Nature.
The Local Sparrow community is all about bringing back forgotten flavors, aroma and authenticity back to the kitchen. This is also about deepening our bond with our varied and vast food culture and demystifying and simplifying our relationship with food.