Food writer Sumayya Usmani conjures her story of growing up in Pakistan, migrating to the UK, food memories and culture, her own mother's nurturing through food and how she found her own path to self-trust and following her passion.
Andaza: 'the art of sensory cooking'
From a young age, food was Sumayya's portal to nurturing, love and self-expression. She spent the first eight years of her life at sea, with a father who captained merchant ships and a mother who preferred to cook for the family herself on a tiny electric stove in their cabin rather than eat in the officer's mess. When the family moved to Karachi, Sumayya grew up torn between the social expectations of life as a young girl in Pakistan, and the inspiration she felt in the kitchen, watching her mother, and her Nani Mummy (maternal grandmother) and Dadi's (paternal grandmother) confidence, intuition and effortless ability to build complex, layered flavours in their cooking.
This evocative and moving food memoir - which includes the most meaningful recipes of Sumayya's childhood - tells the story of how Sumayya's self-belief grew throughout her young life, allowing her to trust her instincts and find her own path between the expectations of following in her father's footsteps as a lawyer and the pressures of a Pakistani woman's presumed place in the household. Gradually, through the warmth of her family life, the meaning of 'andaza' comes to her: that the flavour and meaning of a recipe is not a list of measured ingredients, but a feeling in your hands, as you let the elements of a meal come together through instinct and experience.
About the Author
Well-connected and beloved in the food world, Sumayya Usmani went from practising law for twelve years to pursuing food writing and teaching. Her first book, Summers Under the Tamarind Tree: Recipes and Memories from Pakistan (Frances Lincoln, 2016) was the first Pakistani cookbook in Britain. Her mentor and friend Madhur Jaffrey, who wrote the main blurb, calls the book 'a treasure'. It won the Best First Cookbook category in the Gourmand Cookbook Awards in 2016. It was also shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award. Her second cookbook, Mountain Berries and Desert Spice: Sweet Inspirations from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea (Frances Lincoln, 2017) was shortlisted in the Best Cookbook of the Year category at the Food & Travel Magazine Awards. Sumayya won The Scottish Book Trust's Next Chapter Award in 2021 for Andaza as a work in progress. Sumayya is an experienced cookery teacher having taught in many UK-based cookery schools, including Divertimenti and the School of Artisan Food and her style of teaching is based on inspiring people to trust their senses and intuition with flavours. She is an instinctual cook and storyteller. She also runs her own social enterprise cook school in Glasgow. She has been featured as a resident food writer for four weeks in the Guardian COOK supplement (now known as Feast), and has also featured in the Telegraph, New York Times, Independent, Saveur, Delicious, Olive, BBC Good Food and Food 52. She was called 'the go-to expert in Pakistani cuisine' by BBC Good Food Magazine. Sumayya is a BBC broadcaster and has been a presenter on BBC Radio Scotland's Kitchen Cafe as well as being a regular panelist on Jay Rayner's The Kitchen Cabinet on BBC Radio 4. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour. On television, she has appeared on Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation on Good Food Channel, and various times on STV and London Live. Sumayya mentors other writers online as well as hosting her podcast, A Savoured Life.