About a decade back, I belonged to a crowd for whom cooking was nothing less than a nightmare. Maybe, because I was never allowed to cook as I grew up or it would be more appropriate saying, I was a walking disaster in kitchen (as my mother would have said it, way back then). But things change with time. And, things definitely change when one gets married, more so when your spouse also happens to be a food lover cum critic as you. Of course, you are never the same person you thought you will be. And, destiny too doesn’t cease to surprise, as usual. In those lines, cooking which at a time, topped the list of things I would never want to do, suddenly became a passion and later, a skill that I started chiseling, blissfully unaware of the time when I started enjoying it. So, coming back to what I have in mind right now are the words my mother, one out of the world cook, keeps telling me every now and then
Oh yes! As harder it may seem, as difficult it may sound, as herculean may appear the preparatory tasks, as tiring may go the entire drill of cooking, it all becomes easy and worthwhile, when passion to cook is fueled, mind is relaxed and one’s olfactory senses are its best.
Be it baking sensuously enticing multi flavoured cakes or making pasta Alfredo and garlic bread topped with fresh olives, be it making a home one barbecue nation once in a while or becoming the Chinese chef, busy tossing the long steamy rice noodles with soy sauce and ajinomoto, cooking is more of a stress buster once in a while for many. It relaxes your mind as mixed spices play tunes in your head drawing images of mouth watering pastas or grilled vegetables floating in colorful sauces, cheese sauce, tomato sauce, vegetable stock, name it! The herbs rosemary, thyme, basil and mint play their parts well as flavors and aromas explode when the food arrives on the table. That look on the husband’s face with his eyes closed as he gently takes in the aroma followed by the first morsel after which he says ,”WOW!”, makes a dull noon vibrant. After all, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!
Knock! Knock! What is Cooking?
But then, needless to say, one cannot be a Nigella Lawson or a Rachel Coo everyday, and exoticas are meant to be surprises and not some part of the daily grind. So then, rises the question “what to cook?” As thoughts drool, the aroma of cooking oil as it simmers and that melodious crackling of fennel/mustard seeds in that oil sparks up your waning zest and then it is, boy does it tingle those taste buds, invoking an instant desire to cook something special? And, that desire coupled with love for your spouse does surprise pleasantly. Right from the time the dough is made by mixing the coarse wheat flour, salt, a little milk cream and water and then kneading them all together gently as your slender fingers plunge deep into the soft texture of the dough that caresses your palms gently and till the time of making those uber soft phulkas that emanate a smoky whiff, the entire exercise of doing the same becomes gratifying all of a sudden.Then, chopping and dicing vegetables of lovely shapes and shades, the sunny yellow color of cooked lentils which later fills the home with a soothing aroma that comes with garnishing it with coriander and some fennel seeds sauteed in margarine and the steaming white rice does nothing less than feasting the eyes to a delight for the stomach. Cooking this way on any regular day brings a smile on my face. The sweat is forgotten. The tiresome of it all wanes away as my husband and son look forward to the lunches I prepare for them. My son more often plants a kiss on my cheek, saying ‘yummmm yummmmm’. What more do I want?
And then there are comfort foods!
But then, cooking can get monotonous. There are days when I feel like running away from it. Sometimes, I wish my mom stays here with me. Her culinary skills remain unparalleled till date. And when I rant about my sudden surge of laziness, my mom says, “This is where lies the catch. The moment when you feel the routine is getting drab, it needs to be tweaked. And says who, life should be drab? What are comfort foods for, after all?” How could I forget comfort foods? For Indians, comfort foods span across all states, right from Idlis and Dosas to Khamans and Dhoklas, from fafdas and theplas to puris and chaat, and from jhaal muris and roshagullas to upmas and sheeras….name them, and our country never faces a dearth in comfort foods, thanks to the diversified culture we thrive on. And then, the steaming hot idlis served with fresh coconut chutney and sambhar, the dhoklas and khamans served with tangy imli ka chutney, the sheeras and upeets floating in a knock-down-senseless smelling ghee and the adorably brown chole tweaked with a zing of lemon, would suddenly beat out all the weariness and melancholy of the day, thereby putting a new perspective towards the gourmet world. There is no end to comfort provided by these comfort foods and no end to the love for it.
As I end this post, I would like to share with you on what tickled me to write about the love for cooking. Remy! Oh yes, How can you not know Remy? Remy the rat! Remy, the little master chef, the protege of Chef Auguste Gusteau. If you know not what I am saying, you must watch Ratatouille (the famous French movie that explores the astounding culinary talents of a small rat Remy) And that said, I am reminded of what the food critic Anton Ego from the movie had to say :
I am not a brilliant cook. But I am good enough in the sense, that the food I make is cherished by my family. Going by what I was a decade back, I believe I have come a long way in the gourmet world. And needless to say, I have a long way to go still.
And cheers to that!!
P.S: Even a simple Maggi can become a dish to crave for, when it is loaded with goodness of vegetables, garnished with fresh coriander and mint! And that says it all! Simple dishes bring out the best flavors when there is a touch of variety to it! And that is what I call – Love for cooking, Cooking for soul!