Nine years ago, when Nagalakshmi Viswanathan was working in Hyderabad on her first job, she came across an inspiring food blog. This prompted her to start her own blog to help others cook simple meals under 30 minutes. And there has been no looking back since. Today, Edible Garden is one of the top South Indian food blogs out there.
Nags, as she’s popularly known, is a Telugu Reddiar who was raised in Kottayam and is married to a Tamilian. This is probably why her blog has some lovely recipes from the south Indian States. She currently lives in Singapore where she works with Twitter as the Head of Global Brands. Nags was in Kottayam on a holiday when Meryl Garcia spoke to her about her fascinating journey as a food blogger.
Can you share a memorable food experience?
There are many associated with the blog, but my favourite part is all the great fellow bloggers and readers I’ve met over the years. It’s been magical from that angle. Some of my closest friends now are ones I have met through the blog.
Which aspect of food blogging do you like the best?
The amazing letters and notes I receive from readers who try a recipe and have things to say is the best part. The most touching and sweetest notes are when kids are involved. They try a recipe from my blog and their parents send me pics with happy faces. Pure joy!
Who are your cooking inspirations?
Mainly my mom and my mother-in-law. I come from a family of good cooks so I have recipes from my aunts too – mainly my dad’s two sisters and my mom’s elder sister.
Which is your favourite dish?
That’s really hard to pick! One of my favourites to cook is sambar. I love making sambar of any kind.
How do you balance your professional life and the blog? Is it a challenge?
I work with Twitter as Head of Global Brands and my job is to engage with some of our largest clients in the Asia Pacific and Middle East region. I only blog when I am feeling inspired or feel like doing it. There were phases in my nine-year journey when I felt I was sticking to a strict schedule but that didn’t work for too long. This is a passion-driven hobby for me and I need to feel motivated to click photos, edit them, write the recipe, edit, and post. It may seem simple, but creating one food post in a blog takes a lot of time and effort, so yes, it’s definitely not an easy hobby to pursue if there’s no passion.
Which is your favourite cuisine and restaurant?
I love Mexican, Thai, and Italian. In Singapore, we try new restaurants often since the food scene is so vibrant. The ones we keep going back to are Indian restaurants like MTR or Indian Wok for Indian Chinese food.
What’s the best part about being a food blogger?
Food blogging has become a popular activity now and people recognise what it is when you say you are a food blogger. It gives me a lot of pride and joy to see that people respect and comment on the efforts poured in.
Have you won any awards?
Nothing too big, a few awards from fellow bloggers and online publications around the recipes and photography.
How long does it take to get that one perfect picture?
I used to spend a lot of time on photography but now my focus is to get simple recipes up on the site as often as possible. I spend at most 15 minutes on clicking a few pictures and often, that’s more than enough to get 1-2 clear pictures of the finished dish. The step by step pictures take more time and that’s done simultaneously as I cook.
If you could have just one meal over and over again, what would that be?
My mom’s chicken biryani!
You’ve lived in a couple of countries. How has this influenced your cooking style?
In Singapore, I learnt to enjoy other Asian cuisines like Thai and Malaysian. I took a Thai cooking class once and loved it. I often recreate those recipes at home. In Australia, I learnt to appreciate fresh produce and cook more Italian dishes like lasagne and pasta with fresh, homemade sauces.
Any future food-related plans you would like to share?
No plans in the immediate future but I’d love to write a food memoir some day.
All photographs courtesy Edible Garden.