He may be relatively new on the scene, but Nik Sharma has taken the food-writing world by storm with his fresh insights, exciting recipes, and beautiful food photography – and his debut book will be our featured #ckbkclub book throughout the month of June.
The Bombay-born molecular biologist swapped a career in medical research to devote his time and talents to his twin passions: cooking and photography. Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food, sprang from his blog ‘A Brown Table,’ and cleverly melds recipes and ingredients from India with the tastes and sensibilities of the American Midwest and the West Coast (where he now makes his home).
Nik describes his book as, “a guide to bringing new flavors from different culinary traditions into your own kitchen and making them work for you.”
Part of what makes this book stand out – apart from the gorgeous photos and the exciting recipes – is that it is very personal; Sharma doesn’t shy away from some difficult details about his life. He writes openly about struggling to be accepted as a gay man in India. He also writes about online racial abuse he suffered in his adopted country, the US, when he began publishing photographs of his own brown hands for his blog.
Fortunately for readers of his blog, and his two cookbooks (The Flavor Equation, published in 2020, is coming soon to ckbk), Sharma decided to carry on despite the ignorance of the trolls: “I put out my best work with the hope that people would see beyond the color of my skin,” he writes.
Simply put, Nik’s recipes are, “a collection of flavors from my two worlds – India and America.” It is the skillful and conscientious approach to melding the ingredients and techniques of his two worlds that move the recipes beyond traditional Indian dishes; his dishes cross continents and combine cultures.
Sharma also has a deep understanding of flavor – not surprising given his science background (a topic he delves into more deeply in The Flavor Equation). His Flavor Glossary lists ingredients somewhat unconventionally, by taste from hot to floral.
Taking the time to explain why he has chosen to season a particular dish is helpful too. At the end of many recipes in the book, Sharma adds a note called The Approach – essentially, the thought processes that he goes through when thinking through a dish, a topic he discusses in detail in the book.
Sharma’s debut book repays the time spent savoring and cooking from it – and it will undoubtedly influence the way you think about the tastes and flavors you put together in your own kitchen.
Listen out for Nik on a forthcoming episode of Gilly Smith’s Cooking the Books podcast.