My best falafel, March 2020

About

I’m Aparna, the founder of Wecology.

At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, I found myself without the ability to connect as I normally do - hosting in-person dinner parties in my home and featuring my cooking. It also made me realize that while I had co-founded a restaurant in Lhasa in 1997, run a functional food-focused sustainability consulting firm from 2000-2007, and eventually become a sustainability-focused investment banker and analyst, I found cooking stressful.

COVID-19 brought me to further stress before it opened my eyes to possibility: my investment analysis and research work slowed just as my parents contracted COVID just as they hit the deadline to move. While helping them pack, I found photos of my father teaching the Himalayan chefs at Makye Ame Restaurant to cook South Indian dosa. I discovered Tibetan functional food ingredients from my days as a sustainability consultant at Aru Namgyal. I found journals from the Erb Insitute for Sustainable Global Enterprise at the University of Michigan, where I planned to join a Wall Street investment firm growing sustainable businesses in the Himalayas. As I rediscovered myself and history, I hit upon something new: cooking as a meditation on connectedness. COVID has forced us all into greater isolation and more cooking: it stands to reason that cooking – which uses water, fire, wind, earth, and space to transform – can also transform our feelings of connection.

I created Wecology as cooking connects us elementally: it is an immersive act that directly connects us to plants, animals, ecosystems, and each other. Through cooking, I've made connections I never would otherwise have made: for example, when I discovered Caribbean cooking and Jamaican bammy, I happened to go to a place with Jamaican people. When I mentioned bammy to ask them tips, they were so surprised and excited that they gave me an anecdote as well: apparently in Jamaica, there are two types of cassava (a.k.a. yucca), one of which is very toxic. To eliminate the toxicity, one must rid the cassava of all the starchy liquid and then grate what's dry, add water, and cook. But people used to save the liquid from the cassava and starch their clothes. #LifeHack! I never would have learned this if not for cooking.

I hope the Wecology culinary wellness adventure helps you connect to the world around you in new and different ways just as it has me.

Aparna Sundaram
Squash blossoms stuffed with white bean hummus