The above picture was taken by Melbourne food photographer Peter Bailey at the conclusion of our photo shoot for my first book, Great Vegetarian Dishes a little over 18 years ago in 1990. Yes, it’s been that long. If you seem to recognise that picture, you’re not alone. You and the other 750,000 people who own a copy, including readers in Hungary, Italy and Iran, would know that it’s on your dal-spattered back cover of the book.
Now cast your mind back 10 more years (ok, I know, some of you were not even born yet). The year is 1980, and the place is Malvern Road, Prahran, Melbourne. Downstairs are the Brown Gouge Dry Cleaners, and upstairs is an early incarnation of the now famous Gopal’s Vegetarian Restaurant.
The manager at the time, Brihaspati, pulls me aside one day and suggests we should run some cookery classes, since my daily cooking is eliciting very favourable comments. Some of the guests have even asked for the recipes, he says. Remember, at this time I have not written any cookbooks, nor have I ever put on anything that vaguely resembles a cooking class.
I’m horrified with the suggestion. Me? In front of a crowd? I’m petrified; Public speaking was never my forte. I used to take sick days when school debating was on. But Brihaspati keeps nagging me about it. The clincher is this: he suggests we call the classes ‘Cooking with Kurma’. That sounds appealing…
Not long after, the posters go up, the enrolments roll in, and we hold our first 6-week demonstration course, on a wednesday evening. 80 people are booked; it’s a grand success….
We’ve held many more courses at all the different Gopals addresses since then – Flinders Lane, Elizabeth Street, and finally the current venue, 139 Swanston, opposite the Melbourne Town Hall. I’ve written books, done my TV shows, and hit the road. The rest is history.
Recently I received this letter from Linda, a loyal blog reader:
“I remember my 6-week cooking class with you at Prahran in 1980 like it was yesterday. Now my 25 year old daughter uses your cookbooks. How fast one lifetime goes by…”
In celebration of those heady years, I’m flying to Melbourne today and returning to Gopals for another class. Sort of like one of those ageing rock star things. There will even be groupies, apparently. Some of my early students are returning, taking the wheelchair access up to the top floor venue for one last fling.
The first of these all-inclusive hands-on Memory Lane cookery workshops, concluding with a grand feast, will be held this Sunday. I’m getting all teary just thinking about it.
Posted by Kurma on 10/10/08; 3:24:45 AM