Aimee, Jamie, and Gina Joshua have a lot in common. All three went to UMBC as members of the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. And the sisters all have great memories of growing up in a house filled with delicious food and love. So, when their mother’s YouTube channel focusing on Indian cooking techniques started to take off, the trio made it their mission to create a cookbook of family recipes that would honor their beloved parents.
Our parents, Sara and Abraham Joshua, known to us as Mummy and Chacha, immigrated from India in their twenties separately to begin their careers and continued education to help provide for their families back home. Coming to America in the ’70s, they were learning how to navigate a new country and a new culture. After getting married and starting a family, they began raising three daughters in Baltimore, Maryland. The challenge was to figure out how to teach and preserve our Indian culture and traditions when it was over 8,000 miles away.The Joshua Sisters: Gina, Jamie, and Aimee.
Growing up as “the Joshua sisters,” we did many things together—singing songs in church at talent shows, Girl Scouts, karate, and even attending UMBC! They wanted the best for us and every day showed us the value and importance of hard work and being and staying humble. Since we were young girls, Mummy and Chacha taught us that everything is possible if you put your mind to it and work hard. Our parents encouraged us to chase our dreams, but as with many parents, they didn’t think about pursuing their own, only providing for their family.
Mummy, affectionately known as “Ammini Aunty,” was a nurse at the University of Maryland Medical System and Chacha, affectionately known as “Bejoy Uncle,” was a realtor. They both kept busy outside of work hours with community and church activities.
If you wanted to find our parents in the house, it was usually in the kitchen—and the garden was a close second. Mummy loved to cook our traditional South Indian dishes and prepare food for others and Chacha enjoyed being her sous chef. Food was their love language and we had so many conversations around the kitchen table.
During our years at UMBC, we often brought Mummy’s home-cooked food when we returned to campus, always willing to share some chicken biriyani or beans mezhukkupuratti with our friends. Mummy didn’t often have time to do more than cooking for her family or special events because of her nursing career and her focus on our education. This meant she didn’t get to cook and experiment as much as she would have liked. It was only once we were in college that we began to understand the joy being in the kitchen would bring her.
Once we were older, some of our favorite memories were when we gathered in the kitchen to catch up on how everyone’s day had been. When we came home with our friends, Mummy would recruit them to help prepare whatever was on the menu, even if they had never cooked before. We did our best and Mummy would walk us through the recipe and cooking techniques with a lot of patience. Mummy always said “If you put your mind to it, you can do it. It’s a passion, and it takes hard work. But at the end of it all, you get something great.”
Food is meant to be shared, and while Mummy was teaching us to cook, she was also teaching us to curate and nurture relationships and be proud of our culture.
The Joshua Sisters
Whether we were peeling ginger, grating coconut, or chopping vegetables, we knew we were not just creating a meal, we were also building and creating something better: loving memories and an appreciation for our Kerala food. Because that’s what it’s about.
Food is meant to be shared, and while Mummy was teaching us to cook, she was also teaching us to curate and nurture relationships and be proud of our culture. Cooking together is creating together, which involves trust and building a connection between each person helping create the meal. In addition, we are Indian American and are so proud of what it means to be both Indian and American.Known as Mummy to her three girls, Sara Joshua poses in her kitchen.
We learned an important lesson during our time at UMBC, taught to us by the late great Lamont Toliver, “Mr. T,” former director of the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program. In a moment of vulnerability, Aimee shared with Mr. T that she had been rejected by all of the Ph.D. programs she had applied to but had gotten into a master’s program.
In all his wisdom, Mr. T comforted Aimee with these wise words: “Not all paths from point A to point B are a straight line. Sometimes you have to take the long way to get where you want to go.” That’s a lesson that has stayed with us for some time and that, we soon realized during the pandemic, applied to Mummy.
By this time, Gina had started a family and we welcomed our next generation of children. The pandemic taught us how precious life is and that making every moment count is important. As sisters, we decided that we would work together to make Mummy’s dream of teaching our generation and future generations how to cook Kerala food come true.
After the pandemic began, Mummy retired from an over 40-year nursing career to help care for Chacha and avoid any risk due to COVID-19. With more time as a retiree, Mummy began experimenting with recipes and sharing them with close by family, who would pick up the care packages she would leave on the porch. They would then text or call her with feedback, helping perfect the recipes.
In April 2020, Mummy came into our room and asked if we wanted to take a picture of what she was cooking in the kitchen. So Jamie and Aimee, armed only with their iPhones and short notice to their friends online, began to livestream Mummy making Mango curry. Then the unexpected happened.
Thousands of people watched it within the first three days, and a flame was lit. Instead of waiting for perfection, we continued to dive into video after video, each an improvement on the one before. What started as a fun project became a thriving YouTube channel, Ammini Aunty’s A Pinch of Kerala, and a full-blown community of “Pinchers.” People were excited to learn from Mummy, and we were all thrilled to share her love for cooking with everyone.
Fast forward to today, our first cookbook, Ammini Aunty’s A Pinch of Kerala: A South Indian Inspired Cookbook, is being published. Thanks to the power of Kickstarter and Pinchers worldwide, what was just once a dream is now becoming a reality. As Mummy reminds her Pinchers, “If you put your mind to it, you can do it.” Don’t let your dreams stay a dream. Work toward making it a reality.
Jamie Joshua ’02, biological sciences, is the diversity, equity, and inclusion manager for Giant Food. Aimee Joshua ’03, M.S. ’05, computer science, is the senior manager, IT contracts, at PBS Distribution. Gina Wright ’05, biological sciences, is a dentist at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center.