WHO IS MASALA?

My actual name is Brenda Benoit Dudley and I was born in Grenada in the West Indies and grew up in Venezuela. I have been living in Miami for over 20 years and every day I discover new and interesting foods in the “Magic City”.

medium us
My Chickens and I

I call myself Masala because I am a mixture of cultures, just like masala is a mixture of spices. I call my children “chickens” because they are so delicious to be with. They are also a challenge to teach to eat well because they are surrounded by fast food which is full of fat, salt and sugar. I expose them to good, delicious food but they still gravitate to junk ” food-products”.

I love to cook, eat and I adore the smell of garlic, ginger and onions gently sautéing in a pan with olive oil & butter. I love the chemistry of cooking: the sound of it. I appreciate the care of preparing something my family will smile, lick plates and smack lips because of sheer delight.

Photo by Marianna F. on Flickr
Photo by Marianna F. on Flickr

I adore the colours of food, like flowers and pure art on a plate. I love the dark, rich, delicious, exciting flavours of the things we ingest to keep us alive. If I do not take a picture of a food, how would it be preserved after it is eaten? I am crazy about deeply transformational food experiences, the beautifulness of it. Remember if you eat interesting things, then you really are what you eat.  Food, in my opinion, should not be taken for granted as it is really a gift; and as a gift, the memory of a meal should be preserved. I preserve that memory by taking a photo of it. I am a messy-real life photographer who works with natural light, holding the camera with my hands. Perfection is not the goal: an image that captures the spirit of the moment is.

Also featured are some unique places in Miami that I think are worth visiting.

Chickens taking photos of their food
Chickens taking photos of their food

I am not famous (yet)  so I decided to interview myself ….

When and how did your passion for food start?

It started when I was very young and was inspired by my Mother. I used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, watching her cook. Then she began giving me little chores to assist her and sharing her methods with me. She also made sure that we went to a restaurant every Sunday, thus exposing me to a variety of cooking styles from a very early age. She still says up to this day that I am a pleasure to cook for!

My Mother continues to inspire me and has bewitched my children with her food: they think that she is the best cook in the world. She also used to read tons of food magazines and I think this has to do with my fascination with taking photos of almost everything I eat.

“Cooking is like decorating a house”, my Mother says. “We have to learn how to live with the things we love.”

Do you think you have a specific cooking style or philosophy?

Not a specific style but I do tend to veer towards “tropical” cooking, my favorite ingredients being coconut milk, garlic, ginger, ras el hanout and curry. Lately, I have been making a lot of stir fries as I want to increase the vegetables in my diet and use meat more as a condiment instead of it being the star of my plate. I want to teach my kids to rely less and less on processed foods and more and more on fresh veggies and fruits.

I also serve food in Japanese or Chinese bowls in order to minimize portions which I think are way too big in this country.

What’s your favorite restaurant, and why?

My favorite restaurant at the moment is ZUMA. It is an international restaurant chain with locations in London, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Dubai, Bangkok, Beirut and of course, Miami. Zuma offers modern Japanese cuisine in a fun and vibrant environment. I cannot get enough of their tempuras or items from the robata grill. I also like the concept of ” izakaya” where they bring dishes to the table for all to share, family style.

I have always been fascinated with Asian cuisine and I have a particular fondness for raw meat and fish, so sashimi is right up my alley.

What’s your favorite holiday from a food perspective?

I have to say that it is Christmas. I get to eat hallacas, which involves a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, capers, raisins, and olives wrapped in maize (cornmeal dough), bound with string within plantain leaves, and boiled or steamed afterwards. The ultimate comfort food for me.

My Mother also makes the best stuffing in the world on Christmas day and I am always left with a yearning for some more on my plate.

What do you think or hope will be the next big food trend?

Well, I think that we a trending towards local, sustainable and organic food and believe that this is a good thing. The issue is that this type of food tends to be more expensive but I read somewhere: “Pay more, eat less” which makes perfect sense with the tendency to over-eat in the US.

So many of us have been putting all kinds of noxious chemicals and preservatives in our bodies; ingredients that are part of processed foods. We have been doing this for years without giving it a second thought. No wonder the obesity, diabetes and cancer rates are alarming.

A visit to the local farm market for fresh produce and a reduction in the quantities of meat we consume, will do us all a great deal of good.

What’s your best tip for anyone who wants to improve their cooking?

Follow your instincts, not a recipe.

Issa is also my videographer
Issa is also my videographer
My little one helps with the logos

This is where I was born. St. George’s. Grenada in the Caribbean.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshy55013/
Photo by Joshua Yetman

Check out Joshua Yetman’s photography. He has a quite remarkable genius. He captures the spirit of Grenada perfectly and in so doing I see a little piece of my soul in the images he takes.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshy55013/

*All photos in the blog were taken by me unless otherwise specified*

Note : This  is a “family friendly site” therefore any comment that includes offensive or inappropriate language, and/or considered rude  will be edited or deleted. This is a friendly place, so be NICE.

On very few occasions I am asked to review restaurants and the food is sponsored. I am a food lover so if the food is not good I will not endorse or publish. Everything in this blog is my true opinion. It will be noted on the post if my belly was full for free. I would not sell my soul or my integrity for a free plate of food.

Check out more of my photos:

http://issuu.com/brendabenoit6/docs/just_food/1

grand anse beach
Grand Anse Beach, Grenada. Photo courtesy of Damion C. Jacob

 

masi

 

 

10 comments

  1. btw Brenda…. for some reason, Ive been following your blog for some time and only now I caught that bit at the beginning of your About page where you say you grew up in Venezuela 🙂 well, me too hahahah. Hope you’re doing well. Oh, and I just looked at Honest Cooking. Way cool, seriously. Sorry, Im a bit slow as you can see!

    Like

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