In this week’s guest post Roshni Shah shares her passion for food and explains how her upbringing has had an influence on her current project, 8 plates supper club. Roshni is bilingual in Gujurati and English and has learnt other languages throughout her life. Roshni, like the dishes she so lovingly prepares, is vibrant, positive and fun, and her language skills have proved extremely useful along the way…
Tell us about yourself…
Hi, I’m Roshni, a 34 year old Londoner. I was born and raised in the capital but am of Indian descent, via Kenya. By day I buy clothes for a living but at weekends I run an Indian and Middle Eastern inspired supper club from my home in North London. Food is my number one passion and when creating recipes I am influenced by my Indian heritage, extensive travels and the cultural melting pot that is London.
Cooking aside, in my spare time I enjoy a variety of creative pursuits including DIY. I thrive on colour, my house and wardrobe are a riot of clashing prints. I love photography, a hobby which I combine with another passion of mine, travel. My camera accompanies me on all my far flung sojourns, documenting new cultures, colours and of course, food! When travelling abroad, I always try and pick up a few words of the local language. Not only do I find it fun to learn, it also helps you assimilate into the culture and connect with the locals.
I have a degree in English Literature but began my career buying Ladies Footwear and Accessories. I then graduated to Ladies Fashion and have since added Childrenswear and Menswear to my repertoire.
What part does language play in your life?
I actually grew up in a bilingual household. My first language was my mother tongue, Gujarati. My parents then taught me English to prepare me for school. At secondary school I studied German to A-level standard and as an adult I have dabbled with Spanish, a language that I love. Although English is now my primary tongue, it seems that being brought up bilingually certainly assisted me linguistically. I have a natural curiosity for language and always enjoy picking up new words. Being bilingual has definitely helped me get a grasp of other languages and as you learn more, you start to see patterns emerge and discover shared etymologies and origins of words which is infinitely interesting.
In my experience, there are only positive aspects to growing up bilingual and it is definitely how I would choose to bring up my own future children. I feel that learning to speak two languages from birth equips you with an innate understanding of language. My advice would be to start at a young age, when kids absorb information naturally; I grew up speaking two languages without even realising. The important thing then, is to keep it up. Remember to continue speaking to your children in the additional tongue(s), as language is only kept alive and absorbed through practise. Try and make it fun through games and holidays to the country of the second language if possible.
Learning two languages, however, can lead to an interesting intermingling of the two dialects. I converse with my parents in something I refer to as ‘Gujlish’, a mix of Gujarati and English, something which my English friends find hilarious to listen to. My parents too, underwent the same thing. Growing up in Kenya, they spoke a mix of Gujarati and Swahili. Consequently, the ‘Gujarati’ I was taught as a child is peppered with Swahili words. Growing up in England, that Gujarati has become anglicised. I love this fluidity of language and as we live in an increasingly multicultural landscape, a knowledge of language can only be a good thing.
Please summarise the impact that language has had on you…
My roots and language trace back from India to Kenya to London and I’ve travelled the world in between. I collect all these experiences and use them to create modern, vibrant and inventive food for my supper clubs. You can find more details here: