The recent earthquakes in Nepal have devastated the lives of millions. A nation of the friendliest people, nature’s most epic landscapes and historic sites was brought to ruin in just a few hours. I have personal connections to Nepal through my family, as well as having had the honour to spend my last two weeks of travelling in 2011 there. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the people I’d met and whether their homes were still standing and I felt that there was more than I could do that just my initial donation.
I had been talking to a friend about doing my first pop up anyway, and then I saw tweets from GrubClub calling for Nepal fundraising supper clubs, and I instantly knew I had to do one. Despite never having mass catered or put on a food event before, I knew that this was the best way that I could do something for the millions of people affected in the beautiful kingdom of Nepal.
My father, the late Khem Singh Puri, was born and raised in the foothills of the Himalayas in a tiny village in the district of Almora in Uttarakhand, India, very close to the Nepal border. He had Nepalese ancestry and when we were growing up would describe himself as Nepali, not Indian. His favourite game was to get people to guess where he was from, and if they lost they had to buy him a pint. He came home drunk a fair few times!
We grew up with dad’s stories of snow so high you couldn’t stand up, of him witnessing the abominable snowman stealing fruit from their farm and of fighting with the Gurkha soldiers. What is fact and what is fiction, I’ll never be sure, but what I do know is that he came from one of the most magical and endearing parts of the world.
We still have family in the mountains – you can see the Himalyan peaks just over the Nepal border from their district. My chacha ji (uncle), Kesar, is the doppelgänger of my dad, which brings me happiness and sadness all at once. They didn’t see each other duirng the last 50 years of my father’s life but they still managed to have the same walk, the same cheeky grin and the same way to cook a curry (I didn’t think food could have such an emotional effect until the day my uncle served me a curry that took me right back to my dad’s kitchen).
Luckily when the earthquake struck my family only felt minor tremors and are all ok. However that is not the case for the eight thousand plus in Nepal that have been killed, the 2.8 million that have been displaced, the children without access to education and the millions without medicine. And that is why it’s so important to give, and keep on giving to the appeal. Yes, millions have been pledged but villages and towns have been destroyed, roads – and lives – need rebuilt. In some places 90% of homes have been destroyed and over 15,000 roads cracked or destroyed. It takes a long time to reach some of Nepal’s most remote communities at the best of time – during this devastation it is ever worse.
I have chosen to send the proceeds of the event to the appeal through the British Red Cross who are working with the International Red Cross and Nepal Red Cross Movement. They are helping to provide tarpaulins for temporary shelter, oral rehydration salts, blankets, kitchen sets and shelter tools, as well as assisting with basic sanitation and hygiene needs. I aim to raise £1000 – through ticket sales, a raffle at the event and additional donations.
I am exceptionally lucky to have the event hosted by Jacqui Shimidzu who runs The Hill Station cafe in Telegraph Hill. We are going to transform her already magical house into a Nepalese wonderland – it’s amazing what a few scatter cushions can do!
At the dinner, there will be mixed starter platters and thali trays allowing me to share some of the best dishes my dad ever taught me, as well as ones that I’ve learnt since. And I’m going to experiment with traditional sweets for the first time… Spaces are limited to 30 and if I pull that off I might aim bigger next time! There will also be a raffle with prizes from local businesses and others so if anyone has anything they can contribute to that do let me know!
I am nervous about cooking for so many – friends and strangers, but I learnt a lot growing up in my dad’s various kitchens (including when he opened Scotland’s first ever Nepalese restaurant) and I know that wherever he is he’ll be willing me on to succeed. Making him proud was always my prerogative and being able to do something inspired by him, to give back to others, would hopefully make him even more proud of his Junior.
The dinner is on Friday 3 July in New Cross, London and tickets are £25 for 3 courses, BYOB, available via the GrubClub website.
If you cannot attend but would still like to donate you can do so online here.