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Thanks Auntie: Ancestral Indian Food Residency

Thanks Auntie: Ancestral Indian Food Residency

By Thanks Auntie
Indian-Canadians Parul and Marlon set out to run a one-month vegan, paleo Indian food pop-up restaurant in Nosara, Costa Rica after months of craving familiar flavours from home in the first year of the pandemic.

These are the conversations they recorded over the course of their journey as they tried to faithfully bring a cultural experience to their adopted home having never run a restaurant before.

There is some casual swearing in our recordings, if you're offended by that kind of thing :)
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Ep 0. Showtime!
What happens when you decapitalize your time in a self-directed culinary residency with a new bestie in a foreign land? You get Thanks Auntie, an exploration of ancestral Indian food and a series of stories that reconnects you to your memories of times past.  Food always tells a story and we find so many hidden and forgotten aspects of our own ancestry as third-culture kids raised in Canada.  Over these 11 episodes, you'll hear how Parul and Marlon took an idea dreamed up while floating in a pool in Costa Rica in the first year of the pandemic into a series of sold-out pop-up dinners. And as always, you can hit us up with your comments on IG @thanksauntie
00:05
March 15, 2022
Ep 1. Setting our intentions for the month-long food residency
(Recorded on June 2, 2021) In our first recording Parul and Marlon, talk about what inspired us to start the Thanks Auntie concept and set our container for the food residency.  We address whether we're related after getting that question A LOT! Hint:  Marlon grew up cooking with his grandmothers in their kitchens in Goa and seeing how much love and labour went into each dish.  Parul's family found community with other Punjabi immigrants to Canada to find imported ingredients during her upbringing.  Retracing our roots reminds us about how our impressions of Indian food were formed and the many women (many lovingly called Auntie) that cared for us throughout our lives.  Noticing this also invites us to make Auntiehood a concept of care, rather than a gendered term, and helped us name our food residency. For many, the impression of Indian food is that it is hard on the belly.  We're challenging ourselves to deliver something that feels good in the body and that features the richness of the local Costa Rican harvest.  Our meals aim to be paleo and vegan - nearly unheard of in traditional Indian cuisine and still rare in modern Indian restaurants.  -- Hit us up on IG at @thanksauntie 
40:09
March 15, 2022
Ep 2. Look and feel of the Thanks Auntie brand
(Recorded on June 3, 2021) Indians form the world's biggest diaspora and contains 38 distinct regional cuisines. So, how are we going to represent the richness of Indian cuisine for the local Costa Rican and immigrant population? In this episode, we dive into the brand that will represent us for the remaining 26 days of the residency.  We nerd out about how we're going to show up and design menus from our separate memories and upbringings.  Marlon nerds about how our brand creates the expectations of our patrons.  Parul nerds out about oral tradition and its potency to translate intention without rigidity.  This creative tension is going to make our residency great as we teach each other and our community about our individual interpretations of Indian food and the stories behind it.  We also crack the lid on how we're going to design the menu for a well-educated audience from North America and new palettes from the local Costa Rican population.  Parul also kicks off her coconut yogurt empire. Stay tuned to future episodes to hear how that plays out. It also starts raining halfway through so you can't miss the sounds of nature behind us :)  -- Hit us up on IG @thanksauntie with your comments and to stay in touch!
51:36
March 15, 2022
Ep 3. Unboxing our spice delivery from New York
(Recorded on June 5, 2021) Our Auntie Sonia bought and carried a suitcase full of spices for us from an Indian spice shop in New York! We're resorting to import because Costa Rica is a country of 5 million people that doesn't necessarily grow or import these spices for the native cuisine and we'll need these flavours to be true to form. In the end, about half of our haul gets confiscated by border agents trying to protect the local ecology. They especially focused on seeds, whole leaves and bark because they could be regrown or carry parasites.  Pro tip: only bring powdered spices into Costa Rica or risk them being seized at the border.  Still, it's instructive to think of the long chain of contact that put these spices in our hands from a field in India to a surf town in Costa Rica.  Getting a partial delivery will now spur us to be creative and adjust just like cooking has always been - you hope for a full pantry but have to adapt to what actually shows up! We also come to terms about cooking some recipes from our family traditions for the first time and unsupervised by our moms.  -- Hit us up on IG at @thanksauntie!
21:32
March 15, 2022
Ep 4. What kind of food is this anyway?
(Recorded on June 6, 2021) In this episode, we are forced to come to terms with what we really mean by framing our pop-up as vegan and paleo.  Who knew that something like paleo actually has so many interpretations and definitions? We all get caught up in conversations about everyone's food pronouns and it is among the most annoying conversations to have. Out of seemingly nowhere, everyone's food preferences got specific and serious.  Parul even has to make a speedy apology to all vegans everywhere. For the record, we love vegans ❤️ In this offering, we want to be potent but not rigid in our food, so this moment was useful to get extra clear about each of our intentions in this residency and what makes us excited to cook. After all, we want to feed our community but we really want to be excited to serve food we would feed ourselves!  We work it out and you get to hear the whole moment by moment account of how we manage our creative tension. -- Hit us up on the gram at @thanksauntie! 
27:18
March 15, 2022
Ep 5. Prep and nerves for the first cook
(Recorded on June 7, 2021) One minute you're drinking a margarita with ants in the jungle and the next thing you know, you're 48 hours from your first pop-up dinner!  In this episode, we check in mid-prep for a dinner at a family restaurant in Nosara on their off night.  Capacity is 25 people and everything is still in motion - invite to patrons, sourcing ingredients, planning the timeline - everything! It was a rush, but also gave us a new appreciation for those in the restaurant business. There is no true time off because it seems you're always coordinating with vendors, preparing ingredients, checking reservations.. and we're just on our first seating!  We are confident but share our complementing anxieties because we've never actually cooked at a restaurant before though we've fed our family and friends in home kitchens.  In this episode, Parul also takes another step forward in her coconut yogurt empire. Shoutout to @veganricha for jumping in to guide the effort.  -- Hit us up on IG at @thanksauntie :)
14:29
March 15, 2022
Ep 6. Art as survival surplus
(Recorded on June 8, 2021) On this episode, we are just hours away from our first dinner service and you can sense the nerves!  We're excited that we get to play this out as artists and not business people because the economics of cooking in a restaurant are tough.  This is why home cooked food always tastes better - yes, love - but also all the shortcuts required for margin are put right back into the food.  We also acknowledge that this whole residency is art as survival surplus and that art is the only thing that survives an era - prescient in the midst of a raging global pandemic.  On tonight's menu: Fruit chaat featuring mangos, purple cabbage, lime, coriander leaf, black salt  Choice of chicken or cauliflower cashew curry  Quinoa pulao with green peas  Coconut (kesar) kulfi with dates, macadamia nuts, almonds, saffron, cardamom  -- Hit us up on IG for the detailed recipes @thanksauntie
15:51
March 15, 2022
Ep 7. Recapping our first service and while prepping for our second
(Recorded on June 10, 2021) On this episode, we get to look back on our first dinner service while preparing to cook at our second one!  It took two whole days to rest our bodies and sit back down after pulling off the first sitting.  We dusted off our sabbatical bodies to do it and the manual, intellectual and emotional labour to feed a sold-out restaurant was deeply felt! Cooking for 25 people even earned us our Auntie badges, granted by an OG Auntie (Parul's mom).  So many lessons learned on this first run that's only helping us get better to deliver for our fans and supports.  Shoutout to our Tica kitchen helper Esther who is BAE (Big Auntie Energy) and held down our kitchen operations while we went full throttle. For our second dinner services, we're cooking as the Mystery Chefs at Selina Nosara, a hotel for digital nomads.  On the second menu: Chole (stewed chickpeas) prepared the traditional Punjabi way  Goan potato chops with chicken or veggie filling Garnished with pickled onions, lime, tamarind sauce  -- Hit us up on IG @thanksauntie! 
20:41
March 15, 2022
Ep 8. Exhaustion sets in at the end of the first week
(Recorded on June 11, 2021) Another dinner service, another sellout!  In this episode, we recap our learnings from the first week of cooking - first at a family restaurant, then in a commercial kitchen at a hotel. It's been a thrill to share our cooking and rewarding to have it be so well-received. The whole concept is outperforming our expectations with almost no food coming back to the kitchen.  All week, we were spotted around town as the people that were throwing the pop-up Indian restaurant - news travels quickly in a small town. The whole experience has been exhausting at the cellular level and you can hear it in this recording. Still, it has been extremely rewarding because we're learning about how to deliver a memorable dining experience while learning about each other in a pressure cooker situation.  Now it's time to reset with some self-care and get set for our remaining dinner services.  -- We want to hear your comments! Hit us up on IG @thanksauntie :)
25:27
March 15, 2022
Ep 9. Soft vs hard skills and post-traumatic growth
(Recorded on June 13, 2021) In this episode, after a few days of rest, we honour how much manual labour we rely on to pull off the Thanks Auntie concept.  At this point in the pandemic, everyone is celebrating the front-line workers who are keeping the economy running while everyone else has been forced into home quarantine.    In fact, none of our concept exists without the manual labourers. We are primed to forget these people the moment society opens back up post-pandemic.  This whole experience also grows our empathy for people in the food service business. It's physical, a grind and often at low margins. We're never going to see the price or service at a restaurant the same way again.  It brings up a whole discussion about how we value hard and soft skills.  Turns out soft skills were termed by the US Military to delineate hard and soft skills and never meant to create a hierarchy. In fact, both were required to have a well-rounded training (https://code.joejag.com/2018/the-origin-of-soft-skills.html).  "In other words, those job junctions about which we know a good deal are hard skills and those about which we know very little are soft skills." Parul gets personal and tells us how she's moved through her career and the expectations placed on her as a woman including her experience of shaving her head when she started losing hair after an autoimmune condition.  There's a lot in this one so sink in and lean back :) -- Send your love letters to us on IG @thanksauntie! 
56:33
March 15, 2022
Ep 10. Holistic raves and plotting the final mouth snatching
(Recorded on June 19, 2021) In this episode, we come back home from a prototypical Costa Rican holistic rave and marvel at the interest in Indian culture in Nosara.  On our short break apart, Marlon Auntie went to the mountains of La Fortuna and followed his nose to an Indian restaurant started just months prior based on the same fever dream to recreate Indian home cooking we've been dreaming about.  The founder Nyan and his partner Dani do a stellar job of creating hospitality from memories of Nyan's childhood that builds community and supports local farmers in Costa Rica.  Next up is our final pop up dinner of the culinary residency! -- Follow us on IG @thanksauntie for future updates :)
17:40
March 15, 2022
Ep 11. Signing off from Costa Rica!
(Recorded on June 28, 2021) It's the final episode from our studio and home in Costa Rica, and our last chance to reflect on living, building and growing together through this food residency.  Parul came to the realization that this experience is a familiar one because she has always created containers where she could share novel experiences with people.  Marlon was blown away that he had written about this aspiration to cook Goan dishes years ago and had forgotten it until a friend surfaced it and sent it over.  This whole experience of decapitalizing our time and chasing our inspiration has been reinvigorating for the spirit, especially through the pandemic lockdowns.  In the end, we cooked for 130 people over 4 seatings and 4 locations with 4 different price points. We got to meet and educate many people from our community and were graciously supported through the efforts.  Food is more than food - it includes all of the stories and structures that bring people to a specific moment in time  We both got to use real spice and make dishes from scratch that we've never had to make  Cooking in this way allowed us to honour the many women, the Aunties, that put in unseen labour to support our physical and emotional bodies that  We realized how important cultural connection is and that Aunties always measure with their hearts.  Our final dinner menu included: - Goan green chutney  - Goan mushroom xacuti  - Hyderabadi field pepper curry  - Chickpea halwa  - Masala chai  -- Hit us up on IG to stay connected for future event @thanksauntie :)
47:15
March 15, 2022