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Kill Your Culture

Janahan Sivaraman
Janahan Sivaraman
2 min read
Kill Your Culture
Photo by Nandhu Kumar / Unsplash

Or live it. There is no in-between.

I didn’t realize this until I left Maryland, where I grew up, in 2012.

I missed my parent’s goat curry.

The symphony of spices, aromatics, and tender meat that falls to pieces between my teeth.

I couldn’t buy it. There were no Tamil restaurants in southwest Connecticut. I texted Amma for the recipe.

I was frustrated by the lack of quantities in her recipes. But I was the weird one. Because for generations, apprentices have learned by watching the master.

Asking the master to write it down is the weird part.

My first goat curry came out shitty. I put too much perenjeera thool (fennel spice blend). It tasted like mud.

I expected it to come out just like Amma’s.

I wanted the results without the reps.

When I went home the next time, I watched over her shoulder. I recorded videos. I smelled when the Ceylonese cinnamon was infused into the oil. I noted how tender the goat must be so I could then add the black cardamom.

Her pinch of perenjeera thool was not the same as mine.

My hands are far bigger.

I went back to Connecticut and put in the reps. After 7 attempts, it tasted like hers. I realized perfecting these recipes would take many more reps than I expected.

Goat curry was the first recipe of my parents’ I could make by heart. I moved to New York City and started a cooking show.

I invited Amma to cook that goat curry on the show!

Fast forward eight years, I have over 30 of my parents' recipes documented. I’ve perfected 10.

It's just a start - all of that takes time. My parents love to cook, eat, and feed others. What they spend their time on defines their culture.

As I get older, I want those to not just be memories. Otherwise, I would let our culture die.

Culture is something that is living, rather than a relic of the past.

11 years ago, I left Maryland for better opportunities.

Opportunities as in better jobs, money, or prestige.

Whether intentionally or not, we trade our culture for opportunity. We tell ourselves that once we capitalize on these opportunities, it’ll be easier for us and our family.

We put opportunity over all else. Disregarding risk and focusing only on reward. We don’t realize this is a tradeoff until it’s too late.

So learn how to make your favorite dish your parents used to make you.

Live your culture. Or kill your culture.

Even if you have to eat your failures seven times before you get the recipe right.

There is no in-between.


Janahan Sivaraman Twitter

Secrets to growing your career in Tech. Learning 2 languages "by ear". Recipes.

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