Saturday, June 02, 2012


My relationship with food and cooking over the years has come to evolve in a way I never expected. As a 15 year old, I resented my mother whenever she asked me to help in the kitchen. I sometimes suspect I was born a feminist, because my biggest gripe was that she wouldn't ask my brother to do the same. (He was 9 at the time, but that's not too young IMO, although my mother disagreed.) Consequently, every request for help from my mother was turned down with "I have to study". The poor woman cared so much for my grades and my strange obsession with being top of class that she actually let me get away with such nonsense.

When I wrapped up my board exams in 1997, I could avoid cooking no more. Mom was scheduled for a hernial surgery right after my exams, and after she had been considerate enough to move it out to follow vs. coincide with my exams, I had no furtheer excuses to stay out of the kitchen. I had a grace period of about 3 days to learn about basic things like chopping vegetables, sautéing them, boiling rice and making dal (a very basic Indian meal, if you will), before she was wheeled into the OR for surgery. For the few days after, my father and I managed the house. He cooked weird concoctions that were somewhere between sambar and dal while I stuck to my expertise of basic dishes and the household chugged along. I abandoned cooking right after mom got back to normal and didn't go back to it until 2005 in Singapore.

Heres the funniest bit - in that new house in Singapore, with the 2 other girls that I share my apartment with, on our very 1st day in the kitchen, it dawned upon me that I knew more about cooking than anyone else in the room. And only one of them was interested in learning anymore. So aparna and I learned our way through this fascinating new world of spices and vegetables until we tired of the whole thing and got someone to cook for us in a few months' time. To cut a long story short I never got back to the kitchen until late 2007 when I finally moved into a house with no help.

2007 became the year I would recover from heartbreak whilst putting my heart and soul into anything and everything that could distract me - blogging, running and cooking. I was here a lot then, documenting my adventures almost everyday. I found out more about Indian food in that year than I ever have. Again, this lasted until end 2008, when I moved into a house with full time help. (I see a pattern here - unless necessity beckons, creativity keeps its distance as well).

Sometime in late 2009 P and I finally moved in together and that's when necessity and creativity all converged into a set of never to be forgotten kitchen adventures. An oven was one of our wedding gifts - and so we experimented with baking for the very 1st time. We rarely had anyone cooking for us, so we settled into a nice rhythm where I played chef and he was my very able sous chef. He handled the chopping and the cleaning, leaving me with the most interesting bits. This was a big relief from cooking alone for 2 reasons - P is wonderful company to have (good job marrying this one!) and my hand was in much less pain because he took over the most labor intensive tasks.

At some point, the Penguin suggested I subscribe to food network and Asian food channel, and this marked a real turn around in the quality of my cooking. Pastas were more al dente, asparagus was blanched before cooking, basil was never chopped harshly and our eggs were now scrambled to near perfection.

When Andrea moved to Singapore, it also marked a phase of more fibre and protein inclusion into our food. Her insistence on a 2:1 veg to pasta ratio in pastas really made an impression on me, and so did the racers toolbox routine that the company put me through. Making tasty and filling salads became the new challenge. With less time on hand (p was working by mid 2010) and a greater awareness of nutrition, dinner time came to be marked by soups and salads, and almost no simple carbohydrates.

The last one year has probably seen the biggest jump in our interest and abilities (not to mention, courage).there have been soufflés, homemade breads, tikkas, frittatas, pizzas, vinaigarettes, burgers and more. It has been tough to document every single milestone, but inviting people to partake of them has made everything more memorable.

I'm one of the few kids in the world, I think, that enjoys my own cooking more than my mothers. And with no disrespect meant at all, only because we have such different areas of expertise. She can never make a salad like I can, and I can never make sambar as she can. And no matter what food i enjoy more, through this whole journey, I've come to love and appreciate flavors and the effort that goes into blending them into what can only be described as magic.

As for the kid that said she would never step into the kitchen in her entire life, marriage be damned, I believe she is now eating her own words (and a lot more).

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