I think till I was 16-17 or something, the only activity I knew with respect to food was eating. Cooking never figured in my vocabulary – All that I knew was that food was “produced” in the kitchen :D.
But alas, life is cruel, isn’t it? While I am a connoisseur of good food – quick to pass my judgment on what I like and what I don’t when it comes to gastronomic delights, I had been quite oblivious to the plight of those caught on the other side of the deal.
Now that I sometimes dabble in the kitchen with weapons such as knives, mixies, equipments such as cookers and pans, and the dangerous spices, trying my best to survive the ordeal (successfully), my heart goes out to all the people on whose food I have ever passed negative comments, starting from Mom!
Dear mom, your pathetic lauki (gourd), hospital-like yellow daal (gram - pulse) and pukey spinach (did I ever tell you I was a difficult child?) tastes so much better than what I can barely manage even now.
Here are some hilarious conversations I have been “involved” in over the years…
Age: 17 or 18
Some random aunt invited home for dinner: So Prabha (that’s my mom), you must be so lucky to have a young daughter who can help you with the kitchen. I have only two sons and all that they can do is cut salad and lay the table!
Mom: Faintly smiles (Poor thing, she must be wondering how to start training her son, having given up on me)
Aunt (to me now): So what all do you cook?
Me: umm, well, umm, I cut salad once in a while, I also help laying the table, umm, I attended some cooking classes in school and learnt umm well, forget it. I reheat food pretty well though!
(You don’t want to know the aunt’s reaction!)
(We were moving houses during my college break. I was super enthusiastic to take over “adult” responsibilities. I still remember most of the last minute paint touch up and varnish happening under my supervision.)
The chief painter (to my mom): Aunty, didi (that’s me) zyaada acchi chai banaati hai (Meaning, I make better tea than my mom)
Mom (Shocked!): So Yuvi how is your tea more special?
Me: I dunno!
Mom: Okay, let’s see you make tea
I start making the tea.
Mom: Hang on, what are these boiled tea leaves doing here?
Me: The ones that I made tea with earlier!
Mom: So you are using the same tea leaves over and over again
A pesky relative visiting us (to my mom): Chachi (aunt), you better start teaching Yuvika how to handle the kitchen else marriage will become a huge problem. Everybody wants a wife/DIL who can cook!
Mom: Let her be. When the time comes, she will manage.
(That’s why I love you mom!)
(After, my wedding date was fixed.)
Dad: Yuvi now you are marrying a south Indian, you better learn how to cook! Don’t you know South Indian women spend a lot of time in the kitchen!
Me: I don’t understand the logic dad!
Dad: If you are expected to make sambhar, rasam, what will you do?
Me: I will tell them I never grew up on sambhar-rasam.
Dad: But what if they asked you to make some north Indian specialties?
Me: I will say I never learnt cos I was marrying a South Indian!
Dad gives up!
Since then, I have come a long way. I make curd rice, chhola (chick peas), most of the pulses, potatoes, cottage cheese, pav bhaji, veggie rice, rotis, paranthas, puris, noodles, pasta, and cakes, kheer and badam payasam with considerable ease. I have tried my hands on rasam (a reasonable first attempt), sambhar (a disaster – Vish couldn’t even decipher the dish after having the courage to eat it) – Rajma (kidney beans) and some veggies are hits and misses with a ratio of 3:1 maybe!
Wow, I think that’s quite a lot- wonder why I still hesitate answering the heavily loaded question “Can you cook?”
And here’s the latest conversation I had with my FIL one recent evening!
Me: Appa, is pav-bhaji okay for dinner?
FIL: Yes, perfect
Me: Okay I will start now.
FIL: But it is only 6 PM, we’ll eat at 8?
Me: Yes, but I need to start now, so that I have time for last minute work-arounds and fire fighting – this is called risk mitigation planning (IT and Management guys, back me up here)
FIL (visibly amused): Oh okay, but don’t strain too much!
Aww, I was instantly reminded of the pride in my dad’s heart, the beaming glow in my hubby’s eyes and the mischievous smile on my bro’s lips when I make the slightest of efforts to what can barely pass off as “cooking”.
Apparently the way to the hearts of the men in my life is not through their stomachs. Phew! Thank god!
Leaving you with a pic of one of the better cakes I have baked - just to add some credit to my claims :p...