Gorgeous: Eat Well, Look Great’ - Shvetha Jaishankar’s debut book with a difference

Everybody likes to look good, however, contrary to popular perception, one of the most important things is that you don’t have to starve yourself. In her book ‘Gorgeous : Eat Well, Look Great’, former beauty queen turned author Shvetha Jaishankar answers the question most people want to know, “What do models really eat?”

08 May 2017

In a chat with Vikhroli Cucina, Shvetha discusses the book, what people can learn from India’s top models and much more.

Could you tell us more about ‘Gorgeous: Eat Well, Look Great’? Why do you call it a cookbook with a difference?
Gorgeous is not a cookbook but a lifestyle book with recipes. Some of the people that India looks up to when it comes to looking good and being fit are featured in the book in the form of open and informative conversations. This is interlaced with recipes from their kitchens as well as unique photographs and design. The book aims to showcase that glamorous people eat a range of delicious food. It also hopes to inspire people to find their unique balance between great food and a fun and healthy lifestyle.

Gorgeous busts the myth that models and celebrities don’t eat much to maintain their figures. Is that something you consciously set out to do through the book?
It pains me that there is a strong association between denying yourself food and looking great. It is more a question of finding your rhythm between foods that are good for you, the indulgences you enjoy and the level of exercise that you need to feel your best. The book addresses this in many ways by featuring the voices of 28 top models, many of whom have children, but are still in great shape.

Most people are in awe of celebrities and have various perceptions of the kind of lives they lead. How easy or difficult was it to translate a celebrity’s lifestyle into something that a lay person can relate to?
Through the book we get an insight into what models actually eat and do to look good. Trying out their recipes gives us a chance to embrace a way of life, which reveals that showstoppers too have appetites and indulgences.

There is nothing wrong with being in awe of people who are inspiring. They also have a side to themselves that anyone can relate to. This is what I have tried to bring to the reader. Priyanka Chopra discussing what she orders in room service or what she likes to make for herself after a late night reflects the intersection of her glamorous and regular side of life. This goes for the others who are featured in the book as well.

As a former model, how have you incorporated an element of fashion in the book?
Along with photographer Sunder Ramu, I have been able to infuse a certain glamour and chic flavour with the colour tones and the way the food has been photographed. I think this is one of the things that sets the book apart. For example, there is a photo where the parathas are placed on an iron box. There isn’t too much abstractness to it, but still maintains an element of couture and a sassy feel.

What led you to write the book and how long did it take you to write it?
My husband and his family embrace food as a way of life. Every meal in my in law’s home was a result of reflection and discussion. In the beginning, I resisted. I was not used to discussing food so much, but it is quite easy to be taken in!

After the birth of my two children, I had gained weight and I was low on energy for the first time in life. This forced me to find foods that suited me and gave me the energy to take on the myriad responsibilities I had. I then decided to explore how people with similar lives like mine felt about food and chose to share these collective journeys with others. It took me one and a half years to complete Gorgeous.

Did the book end up differently from how you had planned it or when you began writing it?
Yes, it did. At one level, I knew I wanted a book that I would be proud of having on my bookshelf — beautifully designed, informative, unique and well priced for what a reader is getting. But it was also a constantly evolving process right till the day I had to submit the full draft to Harper Collins!

You’ve included the benefits of eating food that we had as kids. How important is it to stick to your roots and food you are genetically used to?
It’s very important. The foods we grew up eating are a part of our bodies and souls. Our mothers’ food never made us sick. There is a reason people migrating to different parts of the world develop food-related allergies. The satisfaction we get from curd rice, daal-chawal or a simple thepla is hard to describe to someone who doesn’t associate with these foods. If you find yourself living in a different part of the world than where you were raised, use locally grown fruits and veggies in your diet and make it the way your enjoy them most.

What key points would you like the reader to take away from your book?
Every fitness expert will tell you how important food is in the quest to be fit. It is often regarded the hardest bit to follow, I think. Also, one doesn’t need complex, new age ingredients to eat healthy.

Miss India International, model, entrepreneur and now author: You have so many feathers in your cap. How difficult or easy has it been juggling each role and which one have you enjoyed the most?
Life takes you along many paths. Many of those you tread willingly and some you discover by chance. As a human being, you don’t have one set profession or responsibility. Our ability to learn and adapt gives us the chance to don many hats in a lifetime. I have enjoyed every role for what it has taught me.

What’s your next venture in the food space?
That’s a tough one but Gorgeous is my first book. I’ve learnt a lot and would love to continue writing about food and lifestyle in some form, whether a column, a blog or a book.

Shvetha’s Quick Bytes

1. Shvetha’s favourite recipe from ‘Gorgeous’
Blueberry Chocolate Mousse

2. Shvetha’s favourite ingredient

3. A model Shvetha enjoyed talking to for ‘Gorgeous’ and his/her tip
Milind Soman. His philosophy is eat what you enjoy, there is no need to work out every day. Find a balance that works for you.

4. A myth that Shvetha really wanted to bust
Milk is good for you.

5. Describe ‘Gorgeous’ in one line
A cookbook which is a feast for your eyes and your tummy!

6. Shvetha’s health mantra
Keep it simple with regards to both food and fitness. We often miss out on the small things by leading hectic lives, most of which is our own doing.

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