TABLE: SURUCHI AVASTHI
INTRODUCTION: Suruchi Avasthi
Hi I'm Suruchi and I'm the recipe-sharer and food lover behind This Brown Kitchen, a site where I share the recipes and habits that fuel a happy and healthy lifestyle. I'm originally from Houston and have spent time in Austin, Minneapolis and am currently based in Sacramento, California. While I currently work full time in a sales analytics role, I've been writing and freelance food styling since 2014 as a creative outlet.
Tell us a bit about This Brown Kitchen.
I started my site back when I was finishing up college in Austin as a way to document different recipes that I was making from the various cookbooks I had collected. I kind of waffled back and forth on what exactly my goal and vision for the site was for a couple years, but when I moved to Minneapolis and away from my family in Texas, the dishes I was making all incorporated flavors that I grew up with, specifically Indian spices that my mom always had in her kitchen. (Clearly I was a little bit homesick!) It was then that I started focusing on how I could incorporate the spices and the traditional dishes into my regular recipe routine and the health-focused foods that I eat on a daily basis, while sharing that with people who read my site and follow on social media.
What initially inspired you to develop recipes and share them with others?
I've always loved cooking and trying out new recipes - I had gotten my first camera for a trip abroad and after coming back I was looking for an excuse to break it out and find a new subject. I first started taking pictures of things that I was eating and posting on my Instagram, then thought it might feel more structured to have an actual website. This allowed the small number of people who did follow me (hi, mom!) to have an organized place to see images, to read about why I was cooking and to learn more about my story. At the time I was basically just re-creating recipes that were already done in cookbooks and on other sites, but somewhere along the way I started sharing the things I was creating on my own.
Jump forward to when I moved in Minnesota. I started to find my own voice and brand and realized that what I really wanted to share was the flavors that inspired my childhood with others who may not be familiar with spices like turmeric and garam masala. I've found so much inspiration and joy from other food bloggers and I wanted to share my own story and hopefully, that might inspire someone else to get into the kitchen and cook with ingredients and spices that they might not be familiar with yet.
There are so many different products in the world. Are you selective about what you allow into your home? If so, what criteria goes through your mind when selecting items?
For sure! After moving so many times over the last few years, I've definitely pared down the amount of things that I have, which includes kitchen and dishware. I don't like having things in excess, so what I do have has to be a quality piece and something that will last for years despite where I might move. I'm especially particular about this when it comes to what's in my kitchen and the items I serve dishes with. I want pieces that are special enough that I can bring them out when guests are over but also something simple enough that I don't mind just using them for a quick morning breakfast at home on my own. (Which is why I love the Convivial pieces!)
Which Convivial items do you own and what three words would you use to describe them?
I have the Mini Hexagon Bowls, Riveted Salad Plates, Small Riveted Bowls, the White Serving Bowl, and the Hexagon Ring Dish. They are simple, classic, beautiful.
You share a lot of recipes with others via the internet - Are you someone who likes to share meals and cook for others just as much?
Totally! I think the greatest thing about food is that it does bring people together and gives us a chance to "break bread" and spend time with those we care about. I always think about how some of the best times of the year - holidays, birthdays, celebrations - all include a meal or spread that everyone gathers around. My brother and I make Thanksgiving dinner every year for our family and it's a great feeling knowing we're putting so much care into creating a meal for people to enjoy! Sure it may not always be something as grand as Thanksgiving dinner, sometimes it's just tossing together a cheese plate or cooking up a pot pasta and having my besties over, but being able to put a dish together and welcoming people over to share that with you is one of my favorite things.
What does a gathering at your place typically look and feel like?
I'm a super low-key person when it comes to having people over. I want my friends to feel comfortable and have a good time when they're visiting. Just picture everyone coming over, kicking off their shoes as they come through the door, grabbing a drink to sip on and hanging out around the kitchen island while the food is finishing up. Think low-lights, a couple candles to create a vibe, some good chill music, and great company. I used to think that entertaining had to be this big ordeal with all this set up required, but it's those small gatherings where you can just have a good time with people who you love that are the best times.
Why are you drawn to using Convivial items in your work/ process?
Artistically, when styling for a photoshoot I'm looking for pieces that are simple enough to be a part of the overall image without hogging all the attention, but also special enough to where it enhances the overall feeling of the scene. I picked up my first Convivial piece which was the Hexagon Ring Dish from one of my favorite shops in Minneapolis (Gray Home + Lifestyle), and while I'm aware that it's technically not a kitchen piece, there was something just different enough about it to where it would add something special to my styling. Not even joking, I'm pretty sure I've used that dish in about 100 photos! After seeing how I could use that first dish in my images, I picked up two of the Mini Hexagon Bowls to add to my collection. It's pretty obvious that my aesthetic and style leans toward the bright and simple, so to find pieces that flawlessly fit into what I'm trying to create was super exciting and I haven't found pieces anywhere else that have that ability to add that special something to a styled image.
CHAI WAFFLES RECIPE
1 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 1/4 cup milk - brewed with tea
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp coconut oil
1. In a large mixing bowl (I actually used the White Serving Bowl as a mixing bowl!) add all of the dry ingredients and spices, whisking to combine.
2. In a small bowl, add the wet ingredient and stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and combine until batter is smooth. The batter will be thick but that is okay!
3. Heat a waffle iron up to high heat, and scoop about 1/2 cup of batter into iron and cook according to waffle iron instructions.
4. Serve warm with syrup and toppings of choice, enjoy!
The Kale Salad pictured is actually a recipe from my site!