Welcome to IshitaUnblogged…
Hi! This is my culinary travel blog featuring Dubai, Kolkata & the world beyond. Culture, history, food and travel stories, inspiring recipes, chef talk, dining reviews and nostalgia unfold here amidst humour, soul-search and visual stimulation. And oh! How could I ever forget? With 2 kids in tow!
You may want to read more about what this blog entails and it’s disclosure policies mentioned briefly in this post, in a more elaborate FAQs format. In that case, do skip this paragraph and jump onto the ‘a bit about me’ section which talks about my personal life and the idiosyncrasies that have shaped up this blog. And if you are still continuing here – a very warm welcome to you! I hope that you will spend some time browsing through the blog and leave behind a comment (or two!). My blog started way back in October 2011 as a creative expression for myself, purely out of passion and had no commercial intention.
Three Four Five Six Seven years hence, I have built a career out of this passion by co-founding FoodeMag, a registered food-travel-wellness emagazine and website, which I also edit. Over the years, I have built a lot of credibility on this blog and my emagazine with sheer hard work, honesty and creativity. This blog and my job at FoodeMag, have given me unique opportunities in terms of meeting people and to travel as part of bespoke media trips, and if I have shared any of these experiences in this blog, it is my prerogative to do so and because I want to share with my readers some of the unique behind-the-scenes experiences I may have had. Because of the nature of my job, I may have been paid to work with a brand or my trip or dinner may have been hosted in some cases. To maintain transparency and authenticity in this blog, I only write about food and travel stories that inspire me and feel will inspire You, my readers. This blog is still my meditative space, brings me solace and keeps me grounded as this is where it all began… because it connected me to You. Mostly, I write about experiences that I have personally paid for, but there are a few times where I have written about my experiences where I have been hosted (masterclasses or a bespoke staycation). Every blogpost has a disclosure at the end stating whether my family/myself have been hosted or my bills have been self paid or not – if I have been offered any media discounts for my family/myself, or whether a brand that I am writing about, has been a paid collaboration with FoodeMag. I personally reply to each and every comment that comes my way in this blog or via my social media channels – although, I admit of being guilty of overlooking emails occasionally. I tend to mark the latter to respond later, as I feel that emails need a more formal response – only to find some of them vanished! Please feel free to nudge again if I haven’t responded to you (request you not to WhatsApp unless its an emergency). I am also pretty social with an engaging and a niche audience of 35K+ (94.4% real followers according to the social media audit firm igaudit.io), so feel free to connect with me… over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and on YouTube!
am an started off as an independent food & travel blogger, and now… this is my journey beyond
When I started this blog in October 2011, it was with the intention of sharing my personal food and travel stories with like-minded readers – I simply wanted to write. Down the line, as the blog became popular, I got invited for food events, restaurant launches, food-tastings, media trips, contributing recipes, and to write on food and travel in various media publications. Generating content for a blog like mine not only takes tremendous time and effort, a lot of these invites don’t always align to my interests or to my audience. Today, If I accept an invite, it is either on behalf of FoodeMag and I do communicate to the PR beforehand, that while I may share my honest experience on my social media channels, I may not document them in my blog. For being able to write on my blog, the experience has to inspire me and relatable for my audience. I choose what posts to write and each post is based on my own experiences and outlines my own independent opinions.
Over my blogging years, I’ve connected to many of you at a personal level and have had the opportunity to meet up with some of the leading regional and international food bloggers, well known personalities in the food industry, chefs and celebrities – both virtually and otherwise. I’ve been enriched with these experiences and feel humbled with the comments left by you in my blog and in this blog. The blog has also had it’s share of press and media mentions…. and I can only feel gratitude as to how a blog that started as a personal documentation of my experiences is now, literally taking me to places. Today, the blog not only connects me to real people, it also gives me the opportunity to explore beyond my blog in the following capacities:
a bit about me
We love to travel and we don’t really care how we look when we travel… as is evident from our ruffled hair, sand-brushed cracky cheeks and squinty stares in the above picture – from our
Srilanka Nepal USA Ladakh Cambodia Jordan trip this summer. And we love to eat when we travel. We refers to my husband (referred earlier in this blog as S, but now has resurfaced himself with his new avatar – the Bearded Biker, since he bought himself a Harley Davidson after he hit his forties) and myself with our two little girls whom we address as the Z-Sisters (even outside the blog!). Big Z is going to turn 8 this May, has turned 8, has turned 9, has just turned 10/11/12 has turned 13 this May and Li’l Z is going to turn 3 in March, has turned 3, has turned 4, has turned 5 years, has turned 6/7/8 has turned 9 in March.
I love clicking pictures.
And I’m trying to pull Big Z, I’ve pulled Big Z into my team by having gifted her a small Canon ‘aim and shoot’ on her 7th birthday. She’s fallen into my trap without realising it. I am told by my family and friends that I drive them up the wall when I am with my camera/smartphone – a trusted Nikon SLR (and currently a Samsung Galaxy too) currently a Huawei P8 an Iphone 8. They have learnt to tolerate me gradually over the years. But my obsession to click pictures could well be an undiagnosed case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)! [Updating a bit here in May 2014]… My MacBook and iMac, both crashed on the same day wiping away a lot of pictures that I had collected over the years. This extreme tragedy elevated me from the digital geek that I had become (when I couldn’t enjoy my Turkish ice cream because my smartphone had died and I couldn’t take a selfie) to a spiritual foodie (it’s okay to write entire food posts with pictures taken in the smartphone, the Nikon can wait). In 2015, the lens for my Nikon SLR got smashed in Ladakh due to extreme pressure fluctuation at various altitudes and bit of rough handling from my end. It left me pretty devastated. In addition to this, the non-availability of wifi for most of our 10 days road trip pretty much transformed me from the addicted clicker I had become to a more restrained clicker. Unfortunately, it also turned me away from my traditional camera by enticing me to the convenience of a smartphone camera. Today, I practically do everything on my iPhone – from editing images to creating movies. I am also learning to live every moment without the need to ‘click’ every moment I live. What hasn’t changed in all these years however, and through my many transformations, is my blog. It is my virtual home and is still very photo heavy. The focus is still on my style of content. I practically dwell here, unblogging it all. Just like music unplugged, here… it’s me – Ishita, unblogged… ever since my first blogpost!
a bit more about me
i struggled quite a bit to make this ‘bit’ as small as possible – however, if you skip this part you will still get the essence of the blog
The following are some of the idiosyncrasies in us that you have the right to know and which will only help you, in-case we happen to be sitting next to each other while travelling in a plane:
• If you have the window seat and I don’t, then you must necessarily look out of the window all the time. Otherwise, you don’t have the right to be sitting by the window. I’ll pester you with ‘Nice view isn’t it?’ till you end up saying ‘Would you like to see the view yourself?’ and swap places
• If the food served to you is different from mine (even though I have been served exactly what I have ordered from the menu), I will necessarily be staring at your food, since at this point I might think that you knew exactly that your food is going to be better than mine
• My magazines and newspapers would necessarily be lying on the floor
or would have been torn into multiple pieces by the Z-Sisters. [Updating a bit here in May 2016]… the Z-Sisters have become really dignified travellers and are simply happy that we are travelling. I still haven’t changed much. So bear with me if I borrow magazines and newspapers stacked in YOUR seat pocket even though you probably haven’t finished reading them
• I like taking out my handbag from the overhead loft every half an hour to use hand moisturiser, lip balm, chewing gum and my travel itinerary list – in exactly that order. It is to make sure that I have included everything that has to be seen and done, in the place that we are visiting. As per all the travel guides and websites and my blogger friends‘ suggestions. I could keep my handbag on my lap or under my feet – but I find it very big and very uncomfortable
• I look at people either through my camera lenses or through my senses – ‘Do they appear the way they sound? Does the face tally with the name of the person? Does the surname complement the name?’ etc.
SO, EITHER I WILL STARE AT YOU BECAUSE YOU WILL BE A FABULOUS SUBJECT FOR MY PHOTOGRAPHS OR I AM BOTHERED THAT YOU LOOK DIFFERENT FROM WHAT I EXPECT YOU TO APPEAR That was before. Now, the first thing that comes in my mind – is he/she a food blogger? If yes, then it’s perfect. Both of us can go on with our own virtual lives of clicking pictures of our food, share over social media, without the need to actually interact.
LASTLY, I WILL BE STARING OUT OF THE WINDOW EVEN IF IT IS DARK!
If you are still interested in the other members in our family, then here are two more bullet points:
The Z-Sisters will definitely order apple juices and when they are being served apple juices, they will opt for mango juices. Nowadays, the Z-Sisters order fizzy drinks against my wishes all the time. And I look expectantly at the steward/stewardess as if it’s their sole responsibility is to put sense into passengers’ children – after all, parents also need a break from parenting
• S likes to catch up on movies and his sleep;
if he falls asleep he will definitely snore. Nowadays, it’s me who snores while sleeping. Not sure whether that’s true though but I reach my destination energetic and all charged up, so why bother?
I love art museums and hate children’s parks that have millions of rides. I refuse to pay for my headache and body pain that comes in the name of roller-coaster rides and bumpy cars.
Big Z hates them too. But, Li’l Z is gradually showing promising nerves – hence entertainment parks may have to be considered as future holiday destinations. Big Z is also into roller coasters these days.
S loves architectural ruins and historical places where you can still hear the cannons boom. His shopping typically consists of T-shirts, spices and liqueurs from the local markets. He is fond of buying bulky folk art – specially the art forms that are dying. As for me, I like buying local jewelleries – the junk type, cookbooks on the local cuisine… but we are slowly resorting to fridge magnets as travel souvenirs with the space at home slowly becoming a constraint. The Z-Sisters demand to buy everything they see. [Updated in 2015]… Currently, we try to plan an annual bike trip where the entire family looks forward to following S’s exciting road/motorbike trips.
how does food come into the picture? blame it on my Bengali genes,
The most important companion in our travel is food. It’s futile to even try justifying the highest expenditure in our holiday bills – the food expenditure. The four of us can travel far and wide just to experience a particular culinary delight. What to eat and where to eat comes first in our holiday planning, followed by everything else. I make detailed notes of all the special spices that go into the making of local dishes and S scours the local groceries or food markets for local spices of the particular region that we are visiting. Big Z likes to experiment too with food and has started to show a keen interest in cooking and baking. Li’l Z
loves to take everything on her plate! too loves her food and is proving to be a great travel companion.
This food fetish can be blamed on our inheriting the Bengali genes. I am a true-blue Bengali or a Bong, a term that immediately upgrades a Bengali into the funky, ubér-cool category! Born and brought up for the most part in Kolkata in India, food has shaped my personality and my character. My Bengali genes are surely to be blamed for my relentless creative pursuits and my unsatiated taste-buds. I am glad to have found a food soulmate in S, my Bong husband. However, his high schooling in Delhi has transformed him into more of a Delhite Bong rather than a Kolkata-bred Bong like me . And we are so happy that we have been able to pass on similar genes (atleast the ones that determine the taste buds) to the Z-Sisters, despite their education in a popular British school in Dubai. The proof is in the pudding, or in their case – the craving for Jhorna Ghee when served gorom shaada bhaat/ steaming hot rice!
Our food preferences are contradictory. S demands everything spicy while I like to savour the flavours. An example of S’s love for spiciness – he’s brought back a few Bhut Jolokia (certified by Guinness World Records in 20017 as the world’s hottest chili pepper, 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce!), from his 10 days bike trip to NE India and have planted them in our garden! Eating and cooking is a therapeutic and a soulful experience for our family and it’s the most exciting conversation in our lives. I am also a confused eater. Confused, because I don’t know what I love to eat, what to order (there are far too many food options available in this world) and I always end up eying what others order!
little hands, big hearth is our travel inspired experiments with food
My childhood in Kolkata as well as setting up homes with S in different cities like Kolkata, Colombo, Frankfurt and Dubai – have shaped our cookings and moulded our taste-buds. Post holidays, we are on our own food trips at home – experimenting our newly acquired expertise on the local cuisine fused with our regular cooking, thus, inventing new dishes which are mostly eagerly anticipated by family and friends. Since we come from Bengal, India, there’s a lot of experiments on Bengali cuisine – both traditional and fusion. We also cook a lot of Filipino food (yes, that too!), courtesy my Lady Friday who hails from Bicol, a region in Philippines known for it’s spicy cuisine. And coming to Desserts – this is probably the most important food discussion in our family and amongst friends as Bongs are well-known for their sweet tooth!
as i sign off
From the time I have started penning down our culinary and travel journeys, this blog has continuously evolved. However, the essence or the blog philosophy has remained the same. Travel, food and photography are genuine passions for me and I take a lot of effort and time in trying to make the site visually stimulating. S and the Z-Sisters have also had to sacrifice a lot, along with my friends and others in the family. ‘DON’T EAT before I take pictures!’ or ‘FREEZE the spoon in your mouth – that’s a perfect ice-cream dripping shot!’ or ‘Can you please cut my vegetables – your nails will look perfect in my photographs!’ are some of my benign requests that people close to me have been forced to become used to. All images (unless it is stated otherwise), content and graphics belong to me. Please… please don’t use any of them unethically or without acknowledging. I welcome all your suggestions to make the site more interesting, so do keep connected.
As we travel with bag and baggage, cookies and camera chargers, chomping away local savouries and penning down new recipes, my trusted
camera iPhone tries to capture everything and every moment all the memorable moments – both tangible and the intangible ones… the cold tickle in our toes while walking on the grass or the fire-alarm-provoking spunk-spice drifting out of my kitchen.
All these and more, with two kids in tow!