Star Mom : Anuradha Srinivasan
Anuradha Srinivasan, a former programmer is now a full-time mother to twin 7 year-old daughters. Though she is currently based in the Cayman Islands, she has globe-trotted with kids in tow from New York to Madrid. She is a passionate home cook, as can be seen from her popular Instagram account to her food blog with recipes inspired from her South Indian background to her stays in Europe and North America. She loves traveling with her kids, and believes that's the best education kids can get. 'Passport full of stamps, and wallet empty' is how she wants her life to be. She has travelled to Turkey, Italy, Spain, Cuba, U.S., Greece, Caribbean, and many more places with two kids in tow. Of course, trying out the local cuisine wherever she travels is a definite bonus, and loves eating anywhere from 3 star michelin restaurants to roadside eateries. I first chanced upon this inspirational Mom's food through her Instagram account. I'd always thought she was a chef, thanks to the appealing quality of her recipes and the way her food called out to you, even from a simple photo. I am so glad that Anuradha found some time to chat with the Times Of Amma.
1. Have you always been passionate about food?
Yes, I think. My mom is an awesome cook, and she was always making fresh, homemade food for us, even with a full-time job. She made it seem super easy, this was at a time without the takeout options, and modern appliances. I grew up watching her, always opting for my tiffin-box of home-cooked food, and never, ever wanting to eat in the school cafeteria. That’s was started my passion about food, and when I moved to the U.S. to work, and had to feed myself, it got worse. (Smiles) 2. Did motherhood ever come in the way of your passion of cooking?
No, I guess we always make time for our favorite activities, we prioritize. In my case, I gave up watching TV, movies. I never even thought about making butter noodles, or pureed vegetables for them, they have eaten what we eat from when they were three.
I had to reduce the spice level in my cooking way down, but we didn’t mind that.
3. How do you balance your passion with your parenting?
My kids interested in cooking and food. It’s easy when they have similar interests. Also, I never cook anything specifically for the blog or Instagram. What we actually eat at home, goes online. And I use iPhone for photography, so the whole thing takes a minute or two extra. I don’t believe in food styling or detailed recipe writing, that would be a full time job. My passion is all about cooking, the blog is only an extension. So what little time I get away from my kids, I’d rather spend it in the kitchen, actually cooking and trying new cuisines, rather than styling and taking pictures.
4. Why did you name your blog oysters and lemons?
Wonderful question. Been never asked this. J There is a book, my husband gifted it to me. It’s called “Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, On Objects and Intimacy” by Mark Doty. It’s based on a painting with the same name, by a Dutch painter Jan Davidsz. de Heem. The painting is at the Newyork MET now, and it affected Doty so much that he wrote a book about it. It’s a small book, but it impressed me a lot. Doty is a poet, and the book is prose, that reads like a poem, warm and flowery, washes over you like a tropical breeze. “Say what you see and you experience yourself through your style of seeing and saying” says Doty in the book. I guess I wanted to do that through my cooking and my blog. And as I was typing the blog name, I made a typo, typing oysters and lemons (instead of lemon). I just let it be. I like lemons.
5. Do you think it is harder being an expat mother than an expat dad?
No feminism or any gender undertone here, and I really don’t mind taking on the extra work, but I think being a mom is much tougher in general than being a dad. Not taking away all the wonderful contributions of dads, but mothers always take on extra. Organizing play dates, making school projects, wondering if they should take piano or violin, always worrying about if they’re eating the right thing, Halloween costumes, school concerts.. somehow moms take on more than dads. My husband always helps out if I ask him to with all this, but they generally don’t take on making such decisions, in my experience.Being an expat makes all this more difficult, you don’t have the familiarity of your own land, your family support, or even a frame of reference of what to expect from kids’ school life, because our own school experiences were very different.
6. Do you think you would have been a different kind of mother if you were back in India, living close to family and friends? Would you have worked full time or would you have still been a food blogger?
No, I don’t think I would have been a different kind of mother. But I think my kids would have grown up with different kind of experiences. I do miss home and family and friends very often, it’s hard not to feel home sick being an expat, but I don’t regret my decision of living abroad, almost never.I don’t know if I can truthfully answer the worked full time answer, I might have/mightn’t have. Depends on various circumstances and not just where we were living. I made a conscious decision to quit my job to take care of my daughters (they were preemies and didn’t have much choice either) and that had nothing to do with where we were.Yes, I definitely would have been a food blogger, of that I am absolutely certain.
7. What are the three things you love about being an expat mother?
You develop a very strong bond with your children. I’ve totally enjoyed watching my kids grow up to be unique, strong, independent girls. Every decision about their development – schools, extra-curricular activities were consciously made by us, and I love that. We didn’t depend on nannies, cooks, drivers – which have all become all too common in India these days, and took active part in their childhood, spent quality time with them. I love that about being an expat. We don’t have a support system to fall back to, so we have to raise up to the challenge. I feel that has made me a better mother
8. Do you find raising third culture children challenging?
Yes! I do. It’s hard when you are an expat, you still have one foot in your home country and one abroad, and raising kids who are trying to fit in with their classmates and friends. But it’s good to teach your kids about their mother tongue, their country, their culture, and make them feel proud of being different and unique, rather than being ashamed of being different.I mean, in the U.S. (which has now become a default stop for NRIs, people back home are surprised when you say you don’t live there), Indians have become very common, and schools celebrate Holi and Diwali, but we’ve lived in Madrid and now the Cayman Islands where Indians are still rare. It’s much harder bringing up kids in such cultures.
9. Do you celebrate cultural occasions with the twins?
We celebrate all Indian festivals, religious festivals, and of course, Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter. I want them to experience, as much as I possibly can, festivals of our culture, and other occasions, so they know and understand their culture. We celebrate Diwali, Dussera, Ganesh Chaturthi, Pongal, and every other festival we celebrated when I was a kid. Kids love it, and ask a lot of questions, and learn a lot from these occasions. It’s extra work for already overworked expat mothers, yes, but it’s worth it, in my opinion.
10. Most expat mothers have to multitask beyond most everyday multi-taskers. What is the one time that you remember doing the most tasks at once?
Ha ha, this is so very true. I’ve recently joined a masters course here, to further my education and I curse myself everyday for it. I wake up at 5:30 everyday, make lunch, pack it up in the kids boxes, drop kids at school, run errands, try and study some, prep dinner, pick up the kids, take them to extra curricular activities, finish dinner, run to college as soon as the husband gets home to watch the kids, sit through 4 hours of college, get back home at 10:30, wolf through dinner and sit and work on my assignments most days tillmidnight. Next day, this repeats. I think after joining this course, is the most I’ve multi-tasked in my whole life. Deciding on if your homework is more important than your kids’ isn’t easy.
11. What's next for you?
I’m thinking of going back to a full time job in the next couple of years (after my master’s course). My kids are in full day school now, they need me less and less (I think this means I’ve done my job well as a mother in their developmental years), so I think it’s time for that step. Eagerly awaiting this next phase in my life.
12. What is one piece of advice that you wish you had received as an expat mother?
I can’t think of anything actually. One piece of advice I would like to give from my own experiences though: worry less about your kids. What they wear, what diapers they use, if they eat super food, if they eat too much sugar, if they are into sports, if they meet all the growth deadlines, all matter very less. What matters is what experiences they get, where they travel, and how much time you spend with them. Your kids will grow up fine anyway, all that matters is how much you’re a part of it. ~ As a bonus to our readers, Anuradha has also shared a few of her favourite recipes. Click here for Masala bread, Banana Bread, Orange Tea Cake and Rosemary Foccacia. Anuradha, thank you so much for taking the time out and being so refreshingly honest with your responses. More power to you! For more conversations with inspiring moms like Anuradha, follow the Times of Amma on Facebook and Instagram.We'll see you there!