When writer Mayukh Sen published his profile of Princess Pamela — a legendary soul food proprietor who suddenly disappeared in the late 1990s — the piece was an instant sensation in the food world.

His piece in Food52 explored Pamela’s legacy while also connecting her work to the long tradition and impact of Southern cooking on the United States. “You could call her the doyenne of soul food for New York, when the city had precious few soul food restaurants,” he wrote. “She earned this title during a time when her black skin, her womanhood, and her Southern accent weren’t just signifiers of identity; they were handicaps that limited her possibilities in the culinary world.”

The in-depth profile would go on to win a James Beard Award in the Profile category and was particularly notable because it spotlighted Sen’s unique voice as a journalist. As Abigail Koffler recently noted in Forbes, Sen’s “voice is distinct: he looks for the stories of overlooked or forgotten women in food and he candidly writes about his identity as a queer Indian person.”

Another recent overlooked woman in culinary history Sen has spotlighted recently was Fatima Lakhani, the author of a “heart healthy” Indian cookbook Sen says changed the way his family approached food.

“This mysterious Mrs. Lakhani gave my mother lessons she found invaluable: She stopped using chicken legs, instead only breasts, and removed all the visible fat from the chicken,” he noted. “She cut out red meat. She used oil sparingly. This was terrible news for my father, who bragged about how he once ate 20 luchi, flatbreads my mother deep-fried punishingly in oil until they inflated into pimply little saucers, in a single sitting.”

Now-obscure cookbooks are a particular goldmine for Sen, as they are often a jumping off point for him to dive into an examination of the way society thinks about food both in the past and present. His first piece for the NewYorker.com took a look at the ways food shaped Salman Rushdie’s literary work.

Having worked at both Food52 and the Vice vertical Munchies, Sen is currently a freelancer and, as Forbes reports, is currently working on a book proposal while continuing to push the rest of the food journalism world to dive into more diverse stories.


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