How Rita Kapadia traveled from Computer Science to kitchen science
by Anne Lehmann
Many of us have had careers that meandered down winding paths. Rita Kapadia, of East Street, has followed a path filled with ones and zeros as well as halves and quarters. She began her career in the corporate world at IBM in the field of computer programming. After many years she moved on to support the Carlisle Mosquito, involved with initial development of their web page.
Rita Kapadia at a recent author’s talk and taste at the Gleason Public Library.
Kapadia now works as a substitute teacher in Carlisle and Westford but her true passion involves the kitchen. She has a blog and has just written a book entitled Parsi Cuisine, Manna of the 21st Century. The focus of the book is the history and heritage of food, specifically food found in her native region of the Zoroastrian communities in India, otherwise known as Parsi. The Parsis, whose name means “Persians,” are descended from Persian Zoroastrians who emigrated to India to avoid religious persecution by the Muslims.
Born in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujara India, Kapadia grew up with Parsi cooking abundant in her home. The Parsi culture is focused on education. Kapadia began school at age four, in a convent where she was educated in English by nuns. Her high school was Mount Carmel and she later attended Gujarat University. She came to the United States to attend Northeastern and the University of Massachusetts, Lowell for computer science degrees. The formal nature of the education had a grand impact on her and she continues to enjoy learning new techniques both in and outside of the kitchen.
Living in Carlisle for the past 27 years with her husband and family she has often introduced the Parsi cuisine to friends and neighbors. One of her favorite dishes to prepare is the Dhan Dar with Shrimp Patio. “I love this dish because it combines the healthy lentils into a mild soup and pairs it with a spicy side. The combination of the two is delicious.” The Dhan features a mild rice lentil soup and the side dish, Dar, provides the spice.
Kapadia’s most recent Parsi cookbook.
The tomato-based side dish begins with shrimp marinated in turmeric powder. Then she sautés onion, garlic and jeera (cumin) seeds in a bit of oil until everything is mixed. The next step is to add jaggery (unrefined cane sugar) and green chilies with tomatoes. This mixture “melts” the tomatoes. Finally, you continue to sauté the red chili powder, haldi (turmeric), dhania (coriander) and salt. When everything is mixed in, the final ingredient is the marinated shrimp. This zesty side dish compliments the mild lentil soup making it a perfect meal for a cold blustery winter night. The full recipe is listed in her online blog or you can find it in her cookbook.
When asked about finding the spices for dishes in the cookbook Kapadia said, “Most spices can be found in the grocery, but the ones that are hard to find are in Indian stores. The one I go to is in Waltham on Moody Street.”
The cookbook not only shares timeless recipes, but also tidbits about Parsi history, culture and lifestyles in this region of India. Kapadia also includes some poetry and folktales in the book. She is quite proud of the finished product and of her blog as well. Marrying her love of technology and food was her destiny and her destination.
You can purchase the cookbook and read Kapadia’s blog at http://www.ParsiCuisine.com. ∆