A lot of Pakistanis grow-up with a dream to study abroad come back and serve Pakistan, this dream how ever gets lost or fades to an extent that loses its existence, in the streets of where the acquire their final education. Most of these once passionate patriots, decide to go with the flow and keep all the facilities that their new home has to offer, telling themselves there is nothing that they can do on their own that will change the fate of a nation.
What they forget is that Rome was not built over night, it requires the effort of many to make something BIG!
Sumayya Jamil with her love for Pakistan understands how every little thing that she does, improves or at least tends to improve the image Pakistan is currently facing with. When they say Pakistan you can hear them gasp under their breath and feel that uncomfortable air around them; We, Pakistanis are going through rough times but we have a lot more than blood-shed, terrorism and political instability; we have a rich history!
When you really love something your eyes sparkle when you speak of it. And when Sumayya talks of Pakistan, her eyes have an utmost glow to them! She is committed to let the world have a taste of Pakistan, and find that our cuisines are not the same as Indian Cuisines we have a separate identity of flavors and food as a whole.
Today Sumayya was on Masala Tv with her ever mouth-watering recipes, and the show was going live!
How did you get into cooking professionally? And then how did you get into blogging?
Sumayya Jamil: “Oh it happened over years, it’s a long long story”, laughing as memories tickled her. She started once again this time with her life in Pakistan. Cooking has always been more about preparation than eating itself, she said. Sumayya is of the opinion that in Pakistan food is the main connection between people, it is what family re-unions, and the casual most hang outs are all about. “I studied Law and became a lawyer; I got married seven years ago and moved to United Kingdom. While I was in Pakistan, I did more western food than eastern but having moved miles from home I started to miss our flavorsome cuisine, I got more patriotic as I felt home sick; I had never learnt much from my mom (Our local recipes), I re-called the recipes from my mind and did them with a twist”.
She comes from a very patriotic family, with a firm belief that food is a way of re-branding Pakistan. Sumayya wants to let the world know that Pakistani Cuisine cannot just go under the wrong label of ‘Indian Cuisine’. “The most annoying bit was nobody knew the difference. I just had to take the ownership of our food and flavors”, she said with her eyes sparkling.
Pakistani cuisine has different flavors, a fusion of South-Asia, we track back our Food history to the Mughals, and people who had migrated to Pakistan were left-over of generations of Nawabs and Mughals. The people, who lived in Pakistan, also had a rich history but the flavors were WILD, these migrants refined everything
A basic difference between Pakistani and Indian Cuisine is the fact that Pakistani Cuisines are very meaty, where as the India Cuisine feature more vegetables suiting their vegetarian lifestyle. Sajji, Nihari and Chargha is very much Pakistani.
Ownership of Pakistani Cuisines has become almost a purpose she lives for, she writes and teaches to cook for the very reason. According to Sumayya there are two differences between foods. The subtle differences and the blatant differences, she is focused more on blatant differences. Her blog called ‘Pukka-Paki’ is so because she is a very proud Pakistani. Paki meaning someone pure where as Pukka referring to how much pride she takes in being a Paki. In short Pukka-Paki was the perfect name for her blog. She writes not only recipes but also of food crisis such as issues of sustainability and over fishing, anything to do with food.
“To start with the posts were mostly nostalgic, had to do with my dadi, nani and my school memories. I wanted to strike a chord universally with my narrations. I later started with food writing.” She spoke about her blogging. In between all of this, her contract with the law firm ended, and she decided that she wants to pursue ‘food’ as her career. “Though it has been a heavy cut on my pay check, but I don’t think I am ever going back. I want this to go on forever”, she said expressing her love for what she does.
Do you think of it as a hobby still or as a business/career?
Her blog ‘Pukka-Paki’ has given her more dimensions into food, enhancing her love for food by folds.
Pitching for magazines in UK is not very easy, but her niche being Paki Food got her to write in top magazines. This was a milestone for her writing career, Re-branding Pakistan and representing Pakistani food for its unique qualities. She started ‘Supper-Clubs’ for foodies, these are more of parties that people pay to be at.
I noticed you do a lot of cooking classes and workshops in London; do you think it would have been harder to do so in Pakistan being a woman?
What do you think of the cooking scene in Pakistan? So many cooking shows and chefs, are we over-commercializing it or are we actually bringing good content to people?
Sumayya: “Pakistan is a heaven for foodies, they say let’s dine at okra but I always say NO! Let’s go to a ‘dhabba’; that is where the real food is. No one wants to promote our food, we should take ownership of our recipes. Pakistan is a place with great respect and love for food, if a shopkeeper is having his lunch you do not expect him to leave it and serve you; The boss will eat with the clerk, that’s the beauty of food in Pakistan. It’s a pleasure to see this phenomenal bond grow. The strongest bond that you can have is a cuisine; I want my daughter to wake up to a paratha, not fish and chips. ”
I see you as an entrepreneur, but we see very few Pakistani women like you, turning your hobby into a profession, what advice would you give to other women who want to do the same?
Sumayya: “There are many businesses that can be set up, and many women are already running a few successful ones. Basically you start off with a product that random people will appreciate and more than this appreciation are willing to pay for it. Branding catches the attention. If you plan on starting a business you must remember that ‘Branding’ and ‘Authentication’ are a must. Your product should be well perceived and be with a unique selling point. And do not forget you must be thrifty since you need to make money from your venture, the first year is always in loss but do not give up. Making the right decisions at the right time is what makes a good entrepreneur. It’s all about being really passionate; hard work comes when you really want to do something. Personally I hate the word entrepreneur, it’s a word that has to do with capitalism and I hate capitalism.” She ends with a smile.
You also collaborated with Madhur Jeffrey, how was your experience working with her? How do you compare the cooking scene in India versus that in Pakistan?
Sumayya: “Madhur Jaffery is incredibly humble, down to earth and one of the most phenomenal ladies. The best part about her is that even with the reputation she enjoys, she is still learning, in fact always ready to learn new things. The greatest thing she ever gave me was an explanation of why I cook. I cook because it’s nostalgic, because it connects me to everything beautiful in life.” Sumayya smiled, continued “Oh the remaining part is a tricky question, since I stand to mark a line between Paki and Indo flavors. India has more flavors since they have so many cultures with in a country, and they are represented by people like Sanjeev Kapoor and his fabulous recipes. The food scene in India is amazing but the best part, Pakistan has caught up. Now the thing is we need to stop catching up, and establish our own separate identity. We got to have a bit more of national pride, push ourselves a bit; we are patriotic but not proud Pakistanis. It is all about celebrating our food and culture; we have a lot of talent almost like worms bursting out of a can and the best part is we are a fresh slate; anybody with talent can make it to the top.”
Don’t forget to check out her blog Pukka Paki