1.Tell us something about you? And how would you describe your site to new readers?
Hello folks, thanks for taking time to know about me. I’m Meera Seetharaman, a native of Chennai (India) that shifted base to the United States a decade ago. A very fun loving person with varied interests, happy (but tough ) wife, proud mother of two lovely children, full time software professional by day and an enthusiastic food blogger by night – that pretty much summarizes who I am. I grew up in a food loving family that was served by the best cook ever on earth – my mom. So undoubtedly, that’s the root of my culinary skills and passion for food. I’m a vegetarian by birth and choice and I take pride in it. Photography, event management, teaching, writing and traveling are some of my other interests besides being a foodie. I’m also big on building relationships and constantly expanding my network. My people are my strength, my friends are my biggest assets and my network is my power house.
My blog, 7 Saffron Street is a platform where all my passions come together, take shape and grow continually. It took off initially as a typical food blog that captured recipes with some basic photographs. Over the years it has evolved into a fine gallery that caters to the interests of a wide variety of audience. Food is still the main line there, but I share travelogues, family stories, outputs of my photography experiments and much more.
2.When did you start blogging and what has inspired you to do so?
I’ve been a fan and appreciator of good food right from my childhood and I’ve always had the interest to learn about food. Entertaining people with my food gives me immense pleasure. Whenever I have people over, I plan the meals quite meticulously and take effort to craft custom menus that’ll delight my guests. I try to get creative every time and bring to the table recipes from a variety of sources – my own, family/friends, favorite blogs, TV shows, magazines etc. I really needed a place where I could capture and preserve my culinary knowledge and recipes for myself, my family/friends and also pass it along to other people that’d be interested in it. So I decided to launch 7 Saffron Street when I took a short break from my full time job in 2012.
3. The photos of your recipes are one of the highlights of your blog. What are the elements that go into each photo?
The story that I want the picture to convey is the key element for me that drives all other elements such as light, styling, choice of props and composition. For example, if it is a traditional food from my mom’s kitchen that I wanted to showcase, I’d look for a moody light, choose rustic/vintage props and frame the picture in such a way that it brings out that feeling/story entirely. A party or festive food however will need to be thought about in an entirely different way. So, like all good photographers the story is my starting point and the principal driving factor to all my images.
4. Have there been any mistakes along the way that you have learn t from?
Absolutely, learning is an everyday process that’s ongoing and I believe that mistakes are not only stepping stones towards success but they also give a structure and definition to the learning curve. One of my key learning's is to give and get. The more you acknowledge others’ effort and appreciate their work, the more you’ll get in return in the form of fame, followers, friendship, help, encouragement, recognition, opportunities and so on. Small genuine gestures you show towards others will be reciprocated and do wonders in accelerating your growth.
5. Name three ingredients you consciously avoid or eliminate even when the recipe calls for it ?
I’m a believer of ‘including everything in moderation’ mantra. However, there are a few things I try to avoid in my cooking. Gelatin is a big no as it is derived from animals. I try to stay away from canned food also. I used to cook with canned tomatoes several years ago, but that has changed quite considerably now.
6. Are there any ‘7 Saffron Street’ trade secrets about cooking that are still hidden from the public eye?
Absolutely nothing. I’m all about sharing my methods, tips and tricks with my audience generously and help them be successful in their cooking ventures. I don’t find a reason to not share my secret sauce with them. A happy ‘them’ is a successful ‘me’.
7.Out of all the methods of cooking, which is your personal favorite?
I bake, grill, broil etc. often, but gas range/stove is my best friend. I started to cook even before I was a teen and gas stove was the only cooking appliance that we had in our simple kitchen. Gas stove is so versatile and I’ve grilled (with stove top grill), broiled (roasting on direct flame) and even baked (creating dry heat with sand in a pressure cooker) – all these in my teen years.
8.What is the best compliment you have ever got as a food blogger?
In the food blogging world, interactive audience are typically women as far as I have seen. There are a good number of men that follow my blog and react to my photographs, but it is rare to see them try out a recipe and share feedback. I was thrilled when a couple of boys tried out my ‘Tawa Paneer’ recipe recently and also took the effort to post their compliments on the blog. Such feedback take you to the top of the world and give you tremendous satisfaction and encouragement.
9. If you could have any four people, from any where in place, over for dinner, who would they be?
My parents and my two brothers. It has been ages since we all sat on one table and dined happily together. My mother has gone very far away and the rest of us are so distant from each other that it makes the possibility of us getting together quite remote.
10.What do you do when you are not cooking or blogging?
I have a very demanding full time job that keeps me extremely busy during weekdays. Rest of the time, I love being with my family. Watching select TV shows, recalling old stories, teasing each other and giggling over the silliest of things are the little things that give me the most pleasure. I enjoy gardening and hikes during warmer months of the year. When it is cold and freezing outside I prefer to stay indoors along with good friends and comforting food! But, one thing you can almost always see me with is my camera, regardless of the season or occasion.
11.What’s the best and worst thing about being a food blogger?
The best part according to me is the opportunity to meet and become friends with a variety of people from different backgrounds and nationalities that share your love for food. The exposure that you get to cuisines, traditions and cultures from across the world is simply amazing.
Coming to the second part of the question, I’d like call it a ‘challenge’ than a ‘worst thing’ as I can’t really think of anything worst about being a food blogger. We all know well that frequent posts with great quality is the key to our growth and success. Since my primary job and family take the first priority, blogging often ends up being in the back burner. I’m working on arriving at a better discipline and defined work pattern to give my passion the attention it deserves.
12.If you could just banish any one food, from the earth, what would it be?
Absolutely none. Food is one thing that the entire universe derives pleasure out of. Everyone loves to eat and their beliefs, needs, preferences, likes and dislikes drive their food choices. I respect that and I teach my children to value it too.
13. Which other blogs do you follow?
A ton of them. If you want me to call them out, I’m afraid I’ll keep going on and on and on, but let me list my top five (not in any particular order)
1. Eva Kosmas Flores
2. Passionate About Baking (Deeba Rajpal)
3. MADabout Kitchen (Madhuri Aggarwal)
4. Turmeric N Spice (Simi Jois)
5. Playful Cooking (Kankana Saxena)
14.What advice would you like to give to people who want to start blogging?
Invest time in building your network with fellow bloggers and audience. Collaborate with them and be generous in appreciating their work. Do not hesitate to seek their guidance and feedback. People are much more generous and willing to help than what you’d imagine.
15.what can we expect from 7 Saffron Street in the future?
I’m constantly working hard to improve my photography skills and expand my culinary knowledge. You can continue to expect some great quality photographs and creative recipes that you can whip up effortlessly.
16.What has been your experience with ALLARSH?
ALLARSH has been doing a wonderful job bringing the Indian Women Bloggers together and providing exposure to all the great work they do. Keep up your awesome job guys.
Let’s wrap up the interview with a few quick questions-
1. Favourite savoury ingredient to cook with
Sambar Masala – one ingredient that I use quite heavily in my regular cooking. Beyond sambar I use it in my stir fries, soups, curries, rasams, marinades and more.
2. Favourite sweet ingredient to cook with
Jaggery. Anything sweetened with jaggery is sure to win my heart and it’s my big weakness too. I add a teeny bit of jaggery to my hot and spicy curries and sauces too.
3. When I’m feeling lazy I cook…
Idlis and dosas of course, if there’s batter in stock. Sandwiches and Tacos are my go to options too.
4. My pick me up dish
5. Favourite dish not cooked by me
6. For a romantic meal I would want to eat
Nice creamy pasta!
7. One cuisine i can live on
Italian after Indian
8. One recipe i want to pass on
My Paneer Tikka Masala.
9. Favourite Color
10. Favourite Movie
Cheeni Kam (Hindi)
11. TV Show
Everybody loves Raymond
12. Favourite Book
The Firm – John Grisham
13. Favourite Time of Day
Dawn, but I seldom wake up that early. I love my evenings too!
14. Your Zodiac Sign
Cancer, but I’m a non-believer of zodiac signs, astrology etc.