She chose her favourite pastime as her profession 27 years back. Cooking classes were in vogue even then in Kerala, recollects Nalini Verma, who runs ‘Cinnamon’, a cookery class at Panampilly Nagar and ‘Nalini’s Academy’ at Iyyattumukku. For the culinary expert who picked up the art of making delicacies from Tarla Dalal cookery classes, Mumbai, sharing her knowledge with those who need it was a natural move.
The most fulfilling moment of her life came by 15 years ago. Till then, for Nalini, the only idea of a cooking class was to diligently impart her knowledge to the likes of wanna-be brides who are clueless about kitchen tactics or to housewives who consider it more or less a hobby. Besides cooking, she shared with her students titbits on flower arrangement and interior designing. The turning point took her by surprise which prompted her to think about venturing beyond her otherwise quotidian life.
“As part of a government scheme, I got an opportunity to teach a self-help group to begin a canteen. I taught them the basics of cooking,” she says. “That experience lead me to think about utilising my skill in a better way,” she adds.
From there on, there was no turning back for Nalini. Inspired by the impact it created among the economically backward group, she started taking up more such projects. “I understood the difference it created in the people who were in dire need of a job. Either by starting a canteen, or a tea shop, or a pickle-making unit, with a meager investment, they could be self-reliant,” she says.
And for various panchayats, within and outside the district, she started training more and more people. “Starting an organisation of one’s own does not only include making food. I used to give training in various other aspects including food preservation and accuracy in making.”
At ‘Cinnamon’, Nalini teaches high-end cooking, that includes making pizzas, pastas, continental dishes and other foreign delicacies. Surprisingly, she is training her self-help groups also to cook these dishes. “These days when almost everyone is exposed to Western tastes, these people cannot cater to ‘nadan’ tastes alone.”
Over these years, Nalini has interacted with different kinds of people, from various strata of the society. She says, “I have travelled extensively to other parts of the state. Eight years ago, I visited to a fishing village in the interior of Alappuzha to train the fisherfolks. It is an experience that I forever cherish. The people there, especially women, had a hard time when they could not get enough fish from the sea. Scope for an alternate employment instilled hope in them.”
Nalini says the activities that she does now makes her feel content. “Contrary to how I felt before, now I have the satisfaction of being able to return back something to the society,” she says.
Nalini has also been giving cooking classes to foreign visitors for a while.