Blog Turns 2 Years | A Very Special Giveaway!

Yes, my blog turned 2! I have just completed 2 years of my blogging journey. We celebrated at home with the Z-Sisters, who went a bit overboard with their excitement. Big Z made an ice cream cake by mashing and crumbling two flavours of ice creams. She then made a huge mountain of ice cream, sprinkled Choco chips all over it and served mini scoops of ice creams in tiny shot glasses (below) – apparently the entire family, excepting Li’l Z, is trying to lose weight! Then for the photo-shoot, they planned the ‘look’ of the shot and used my bedside table to get the perfect night lighting. I showed my gratitude in return by scolding them for having messed up the bed side table after all, they were expecting me to do this. I rolled in laughter when Li’l Z said – ‘ I hope your blog likes the ice cream cake that Didi made’! Two years might not sound like a very long journey, but for me, this indeed was a long one. A journey that was filled with many mini Oscar moments – for each of which I had prepared long, over the top Oscar speeches, re-writing them several times. Today’s post would have been perfect for stitching all the speeches together and blurting them out like a whole bundle offer. Instead, I decided to scrap them at the last moment. I’ll keep that ‘long’ speech for the day when my blog turns 20!Who says that I’ll still be blogging after 20 years? I do. I am absolutely sure about this. Blogging has given me much more personal gratification than my chosen career in advertising. I have also given myself to Blogging much more than I have done to anything in my life. I have interacted with people with whom I have never even met before. I have received emails from people who have wanted to see me because they felt nostalgic, homesick and felt that my writings had touched them by connecting them to their own roots and culinary heritage. I have met people from so many nationalities and culture and they have all willingly opened up their homes and kitchens to me. Along with the food that we have eaten together, out came their food stories, kitchen secrets and even personal tribulations.

Blogging has also given me the opportunity to travel to many places, visit kitchens of various restaurants, learn about different food trends and topics, meet brilliant chefs, cookbook authors, writers, celebrities, bloggers, travellers, enthusiastic school children, college goers, homemakers and passionate foodies and also non-foodies, who are not interested in food. Excepting the last category of people, I have connected to most because of the common bonding that we share – our love for food and travel. Interestingly, I have even connected to the last category, not because of the recipe that I have written about a particular food, but because of the stories that have built around the them.

A reader writes to me saying ‘I hate cooking. I hate mashed potatoes. But I read your post on mashed potatoes many times because it reminds me of my childhood days when my mum used to make it after we would come back from our holidays’! Another reader invites me to her ancestral home in Bangladesh because of the emotional aspect that I have touched upon in a simple Daal/Lentil Soup recipe – ‘the story of this side and that side’ (the consequence of India’s Partition with Bangladesh). Another reader left a comment ‘Ishita, didn’t know someone could write about herself SO MUCH! I spent more than 30 minutes reading your ‘about me’ page! And it IS interesting!’ Another invite comes from Hong Kong – ‘Let me know if Family Ishita ever stop by Hong Kong, I would be more than happy to lead you on a gastronomic tour.’

Recently, I met up with Jonathan. He had read about my feature of Bengali Luchi and Kasha Mangsho on Ahlan! Gourmet (Luchi Featured In Ahlan! Gourmet | My Ode To Phulko Luchi!) and had written me a letter. Letters like these are the reasons why I have to keep on blogging… excerpt from it… ‘Dear Ishitadi, I read your feature on the Ahlan! Gourmet column and was amazed by your love for Kolkata and the true Bengali food. My mother hails from Bengal and my dad’s from HongKong, a mix of cultures run in my blood. And during my visits to Kolkata, I found love among the people and food. It is truly beautiful. Amar Bangla! Sonar Bangla! I remember hearing this often in Kolkata.I have visited Kolkata during the Durga Puja too… I would love to talk about Kolkata and Bengali food. Do you know of any Kolkata restaurant here? ‘ My quest for Kolkata restaurants here in Dubai is because of readers like Jonathan.How have I have changed in these 2 years?
• Lovely comments, emotional feedbacks – there are too many, each adding up to my mini Oscar moments. And more than the countable ones are the uncountable ones, where the readers don’t leave any comment but can narrate each and every post that I have written. I have had strangers walking up to me in parties and asking me whether I am the same Didi/sister who writes on food. Contrary to what I would like to believe (the very attractive, irresistible, super slim culinary travel blogger), I have become the rolly polly stand-in sister or the mother or the daughter in many people’s life, guiding them through Meena Bazar in search of that Bangladeshi grocery who delivers Bengali fish. Also that food blogger who might be able to help find some random restaurant to celebrate a special occasion or shout out loud for any achievement that Dubai may boast of. And definitely the one to seek to, when you need to know all about the Things to do in Dubai!

• I’ve found a bunch of foodies from Fooderati Arabia, whom I like to call Food Paparazzis (above). These bloggers have similar repeated thoughts (about food), feelings (about blogging), ideas (about why blogging on food give us solace), sensations and obsessions (photographing the food and dissecting it for digestion and the camera). We blog on different food matters – some write recipes, some review restaurants, some earn from food, some only spend on food. Now I don’t depend on my cricket loving or a fashionista friend to read my food or travel posts!

• Connecting with more and more foodies all over the world virtually, has made me feel complete. I have interacted with many international food bloggers and celebrity chefs that I had always admired. Pure food connection and celebration here, no hanky panky, no random chit-chat – only food talk.

• I’ve become a social media junkie. Although I don’t let social media rule my life, but I do let it take me far and wide into the virtual world. From not knowing what Twitter was even a year back, I now eat, click, tweet, instagram and sometimes facebook my experience LIVE. Though the ever-increasing numbers of followers does me super proud, I know that these doesn’t necessarily translate into actual readership for the blog. I have learnt a few life’s lessons here. One can purchase LIKEs on Facebook, and I yes, I have once purchased about 1, 500 LIKES. I realised soon that the profiles of my followers didn’t match the subjects that I write on (not that hot males and females and body builders or hackers can’t be serious foodies, but in my case, they were not). So discounting those 1,500 LIKES, some of which must have surely become UNLIKES by now, today there are more than 6,000 followers on FB, who I have gained through my daily interactions and my constant food quests. And my quest on Twitter and Instagram is still on.

• I’ve started writing on food and travel in different media publications and that explains the monetary infrastructure that supports my stance in keeping the blog non-commercial. But with that comes the pain of  ‘planning’ all my eatings and outings. Previously, I would eat and write spontaneously – for example, Phuchkas in Kolkata or Momos in Tiretti Bazaar. But I realised from my recent US trip, how pathetically synchronised my trip was to what I could write in my blog or pitch elsewhere. The Z-Sisters weren’t allowed to eat anything but Clam Chowder Soup in San Fransisco and we only ate Middle Eastern food from the food kiosks in Manhattan. Now, please can someone commission me with a write ups on these?

• Down the line, I have started getting invites for Food Events, Restaurant Launches, Food-tastings, to contributing recipes and writing about food and travel. Most of the times, I feel that these invites are an indirect way in which the restaurants and hotels promote themselves at no extra-cost, with each blogger sharing his/her experience on social media. I mostly accept invites where there are ‘no obligations what-so-ever to write’. One cannot write a review on the basis of a media event. Period. At the beginning, it felt nice when these invites started pouring in and it seemed like a great way to connect and network. But now I have realised that these events don’t ‘fit’ my blog and if the passion is reflected in your blog, people – both readers and people working in the food industry alike, would naturally want to genuinely connect. I like to attend blogging events or food events where I can learn something, write about something or will be experiencing something new (like the one at Lafayette Gourmet, where I cooked Kolkata Biryani or when I attended an exclusive dinner hosted by the celebrity chef Silvena Rowe). I choose to write about things and places that I want to write about and if and only if something inspires me and I’ve had an experience that can be written about. Each post is based on my own experiences and and my own independent opinions and the disclaimer at the end of the post mentions whether I have been a guest or the amount I have paid for my meals.Collecting heritage recipes and travelling… The blog started off as a result of a self introspection and my quest to find about my own roots and culinary heritage after having lived on foreign shores for so long. I have been able to showcase a few of them – Notun Gurer Payesh/Rice Pudding, Gajorer Payesh/Carrot Pudding, Hot Garlic Pickle, Tok Palong/Sour Spinach Chutney, Frozen Aam Pana/Green Mango Pulp and many more. I have written food essays – Pickles – Mother (-in-law) Of All Pickles, Rôshogolla| Bengali’s Own Sweet, created fusion Bengali recipes – Shondesh/Sandesh Pudding and have made many traditional dishes for the media. There are many places that I have visited (a few travel posts here… Srilanka, Thailand, Nepal), many people I have written about – some of whom I’ve known dearly – my Lady Friday – Bikol Express & The Romanticism Of The Mayon Volcano; my Dida (maternal grandmum) – Notun Gurer Payesh; my Thakuma (paternal grandmum) – A Tale of 2 Cities & Naru/Coconut Jaggery Truffles; my Ma, my Mum-in-law – Pickles, Mother-in-law of all Pickles, my Marwari friend Seema – Gulab Jamun Rabdi . They have equal weightage along with the celebrity chefs that I have written about or the strangers who have affected me – the Abandoned Women Amidst Many Prayers in Mahasthan Ghar, Nepal or the Tharu Children in Chitwan. There are hundreds of stories still lying in the hard disc of my Mac, along with many many pictures, yet to be told.The first glimpse of the snow-capped Himalaya as we ascend - Buddha Air peeping through!Important: What haven’t yet come my way but I’m hoping that it does!
• A book deal from a publisher who knows that my story is not going to be limited to one time zone or time frame or geography or region or country and culture – I have a story that weaves through all these.

• An ‘experience’ show on TV, where I am a traveller and I travel through regions, pick up nostalgic threads from different people, explore a day in each one’s life and realise that special memories, relationships and almost everything relates to food.

• A ‘concept restaurant’ which gives the feel of the city that I come from – Kolkata. A fine dining gourmet restaurant, which will come alive with sound, sights and taste of that city. Traditional yet a stylised essence of Bengal which is true to its rich heritage.

• And some more concepts that I don’t want to divulge on!

A very special Blog Giveaway to celebrate the birthday!
It has always been my blog dream to organise giveaways for every post of mine so that at the end of reading a post, the reader too, gets to enjoy an experience that I have had. Many people have asked me whether I have any financial gain out of these giveaways. I don’t. I approach restaurants and hotels if they would like to organise a give away for my reader. Sharing my own experience and extending it beyond a written blogpost – that is my vision of making ‘reading IshitaUnblogged in 3-D’! For instance, now. I had been wanting to celebrate my blog’s 2nd birthday in a very special way with my blog readers and I had an opportunity coming up this week, to meet MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor myself this week. Now 2 of my lucky blog readers get a chance to meet him at a Master Cookery Class in his flagship restaurant Signature, courtesy Melia Hotel, where he is going to launch a new menu. I have met this chef extraordinaire before and though he needs no introduction, may I just warn you a bit? His million dollar smile can be more than just charming, so be prepared.

A chance to meet and greet (plus photo op) with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor!

Date: 24th October, 2013; Timing: 1pm to 3pm
Venue: Signature Restaurant, Melia Dubai Hotel
The contest closes 22nd October midnight, so not to much time left!

I have been very humble in this post, never for once have I showed off my blog. Clichéd – but yes, I feel truly blessed with all the blog love that I have got (some brick bats are there too and no, I haven’t deleted them). When I started my blog, it was simply to share my journey with a few people. I knew I wanted to go somewhere with the blogging, but wasn’t very clear. But now the blog has a direction. I hope that all of you who had been reading my blog for so long, will support me in all my future endeavors. No, I’m not opening up a fashion franchise for sure, until and unless it is edible fashion (scandalous yes, but a great idea, though not an original one). I also hope that a lot of new readers will join me in my journey henceforth. Do enjoy the special blog giveaway – your moment with Masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor and please don’t forget to share them with me. I promise to keep sharing my journey as well. One thing is for sure – like Li’l Z (below), I too feel that l am the fairy in my own story and my journey has only just begun*!

Unblogging it all… Ishita

*PS: I told you I was humble!

Disclaimer: Please note that this is not a sponsored blog and all the opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.

10 most popular posts in my blog so far, some of them being my personal favourites:

Traditional Bengali Cuisine | In ‘Slight’ Details

Things To Do In Dubai – Like A Tourist In My Own City

Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant | Capturing A Hidden Gem In Jumeirah. A Video Too!

Baan Ma-Yhing Restaurant In The Fishermen’s Village | Recipe of Thai Red Curry As We Cook ‘fresh catch’ Baramundi! 

Shorshe Bata Maach – Mustard Salmon In This Case | A Detour From Thailand To Wish Shubho Noboborsho!

Asha Bhosle | Cooking With Her, Listening To Her & Sharing Her Recipe!

Sanjeev Kapoor | Talking To The Chef Extraordinaire

The Abandoned Women Amidst Many Prayers | Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal 

Rasgulla Macapuno On TV & Shubho Bijoya to all!

Locavorism, Friday Market & Tok Palong/Sour Spinach Chutney


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