Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How I learnt to cook

As a child growing up with a brother I actively avoided doing things that 'girls should learn and do'. I had no interest what-so-ever in learning how to make tea, knead dough, knit...etc etc. Aunties would come and share tales of their daughters' achievements..."She makes such good tea, better than me!" and I would glare. But I simply refused to have anything to do with cooking almost my entire teenage years. I took a personal offence that society should think its essential for girls to know how to cook while guys just enjoyed eating. I had read enough books and watched TV to have the idea of EQUALITY among girls and guys firmly planted in my head (where it stays till today). At that time this idea made sense to me. To me as a 14 year old this meant I would not do something just because 'girls are supposed to' but only if I ever develop an interest. Now, I know that we (girls) naturally have an inclination towards cooking, makes us feel more feminine I guess.

Luckily, my parents not once put pressure on me regarding this. There was pressure but for different reasons.."Beta, you have to get 90% in 10th, you have to reach the sky!". Sounds familiar nah? :-) My mom would ignore the innumerable aunties coming and bragging about their daughters learning housework and she would simply smile on and tell the houseboy to go make chai for everybody while I would not budge from my seat.

I still remember my first attempt at cooking. I was in 6 th std and my parents were out for saturday evening. I consulted a Tarla Dalal book and decided to make savoury pancakes (Had read a lot about 'pancakes' in my Enid Blyton books and was eager to try). It was a super flop show and had to throw it away. Not a very encouraging start. I was in 9th std when I started baking and getting interested in cooking. My attempts usually ended in waste bins. The fact that I had a knack of selecting the difficult recipes that looked good in the photo did not help matters. My nani would come to the rescue and praise everything I made and that meant a lot to me. My mom calls spade a spade and so I avoided taking her opinion lest it affect my extremely shaky confidence further.

Anyway, 12th standard passed and I entered college. I still made horrible tea and hardly knew how to cook an edible meal. My interest in cooking could harly be called an interest. I could make an omellette and toast, that all. My cakes would turn out too hard, won't rise, or too dry, too soggy etc etc. But I kept baking once a week coz I felt like it.

In the 2nd year of college many things happened. A marwari friend from my class got married which was a surprise to all of us but also an eye opener. Certain overbearing aqaintances started teasing me and my mom about me being a 'big girl' now "Sayani ho gayi hai ladki" Arrrrghh! For the first time things like marriage, becoming a wife seemed real to me. These things were not for others but will eventually happen to me too!

Though I never gave marriage much thought, I have alway felt that being a good cook is something that makes a woman feel good about herself, complete. Almost as much as being a wife or mother.

I started experimenting with recipes. Armed with experience of mistakes made in the past, my attempts started bearing increble results. My non veg dishes were eagerly requested. I would rarely repeat recipes and strated avidly collecting and reading recipes like books. I still dint make too many vegetable dishes or chapattis. My cakes were still nothing great.

By third year college, i was reasonably good cook in all areas except really simple homely food. I felt, arrogantly, its not for me to make stuff that everyone makes everyday in their homes. I was the 'specialist'. This notion stuck with me for a long time. But my experiments were constantly successful and highly praised even by my mom, who is herself a discerning cook.

In the meanwhile I completed my MBA, fell crazily in love, married my Mr Right. He is a big food junkie but he cannot cook to save his life. Works for me, i get all the more appreciation! :-)

After marriage I did not want to share my kitchen with a cook and took managing my kitchen and my office as a challenge. I would try to make new dishes everyday of the week and surprise my hubby. Friday through Sunday we ate out. This went on for about 1.5 years. I slowly realised how much I missed simple, everyday food that I grew up eating. Shish was more vocal about it. When I asked him one day what he wanted for dinner his reply was "Baby, make simple si dal, sabzi, roti". With my nani on the phone as my guide I started making the regular food everyday and realised once again, how delicious it tasted!

Well now I can proudly say that I am a reasonably good cook. Mostly Self-taught. I has been a long journey and there is a long way to go. But I carry on with confidence and hope. If I can do it, despite hating the kitchen for so long everyone one of you can. When your parents cry for joy, when your husband looks on proudly, when your relatives cant believe you made this dish, when your friends turn up at your door sheepishly saying they are hungry....It all worth it!

Love you guys, Ciao!


akshay said...

Nice reading.On a lighter note it reminds me of the famous line:

"laut ke buddhu ghar ko aaye"

With all those continental cuisines with terrific taste and aroma it was the simple everyday food which finally came winner.

cheers for a very well written blog.

Anonymous said...

thanks Akshay :-)