I am accustomed to the various sounds and smells of kitchen without cooking anything ever. The sound of popping mustard seeds. The eye-watering tempering smoke. The hissing sound of onion slices thrown into a hot oil pan. The forever stuffed refrigerator vegetable tray. The colourful masala box. The fledgling smell of freshly steamed rice. The scary whizz of the blender. And now that am actually cooking, I derive pleasure / joy from these familiar sounds and smells that originated from my mother’s kitchen.
I started cooking to fulfil a need and not because I was enthusiastic to try it out. Yes, I have been visualizing myself as a great cook since college days but after few attempts at complex cooking, I could never go beyond hot chocolate and microwave poached eggs. I was convinced that cooking is tedious and complicated. Its an art that I can never learn.
But then, some day I thought I could never drive, that I could never get a job, that I could never photograph well. And so on.
You usually can do more than you think you can.
So I plunged. I picked up a pan and knife and started off. The first recipe I picked up looked so simple and yet it turned out to be so mediocre. In fact, my first few attempts were disasters and I ended up going from bad to worse.
Luckily, I did not stop there. I couldn’t afford to, really.
My sweet husband kept me going. He very bravely asked me to cook complex dishes like Chole and Biryani when I couldn’t make a basic Aloo-bhindi sabzi decently.
So I kept going. I run the blender for the first time in my life with great caution. (I have always been scared of blenders because i think they can disintegrate while they are running and the blades would fly off). I used the pressure cooker for the first time (hoping it doesn’t blast). I would peer into the pan curiously wondering what the vegetables were up to. I would think a great deal before putting in half a teaspoon of a masala. I took help from friends, elders, cousins, even co-customers at Indian stores. I remember the time I went to get Split Urad Dal and Sooji. There’s were some 5 varieties of each and I was heartbroken. I just did not understand which one to pick up. I asked a Punjabi lady, who had also come to shop, if I had picked to the right Urad Dal and Sooji for Upma. I have also eaten my Chicago cousin’s brain over the difference between green Chana, Kala Chana, Kabuli China and Chole.
Today, I totally enjoy cooking. I keep smelling the food at different stages to search for familiarity. Maybe I enjoy cooking because I am so fond of eating. Maybe I enjoy it because I cook only my favorite dishes. Maybe I enjoy it because At devours everything I make.
On my free days, I cook from morning till evening. I spend all my free time bookmarking recipes. It’s like cooking has replaced my love for travel and eating out. I cook to the extent of ignoring everything else. Ya! It’s turned into an obsession!
I’m sure my mother spends tears of joy when she listens to me brag about my kitchen successes. According to Mom, the success of my marriage depends on my ability to make ghar ka khana. For years, she has tried dragging me into kitchen in vain. I could only use the microwave to make coffee, eggs, ready mix pasta and noodles. And here I am, using pots and pans like they’ve been my toys! I enjoy shopping for pans as much as I enjoy shopping for shoes!
Some day, I am going to cook for my family and friends to let them enjoy this totally unbelievable sight.
Some of my food (and photography) experiments…
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