How I changed my approach to cooking
I was never a natural cook, if there is such a thing.
When I was growing up, I found more solace in reading than in the kitchen. I loved food; I just didn’t find the preparation of it that interesting. This was a complete foil to my sister who took great joy in experimenting with dishes, mixing and matching flavours until the right one emerged.
Me? I just contented myself with sampling everything that came out of those experiments.
In that sense, I was never a fussy eater. But put me in the kitchen and I’d turn into a helpless mess of measuring cups and spoons and salt tasting until I gave up out of sheer frustration.
I then married into a home where everyone cooked! What’s more: They enjoyed it and were splendid at it too. Talk about pressure. Everything I cooked was always placed under my own scanner of ‘not up to the mark’ or ‘not as good as what my husband made’.
I had forgotten something very important:
That cooking, like anything else, is a journey.
Here’s a picture of a dish I cooked earlier today.
It’s called ‘Baingan Bharta’ and there isn’t a literal translation of it but the closest I can conjure up from Google is ‘Roasted Aubergine/Eggplant Mash’, which you can tell isn’t remotely as comforting as the original name.
(Seriously, Google? ‘Mash’? For a dish that is a heady combination of flavours, spices and a delightful cooking process?)
But the dish isn’t as important as the story behind it. It tells the story of a woman who, during the pandemic of 2020, fell in love with the idea of cooking as a way of seeking comfort.
When the lockdown in 2020 pushed us to stay home and cook more meals regularly, my husband and I shared the cooking load. But a strange thing happened.
I started looking into the cooking process as a way to learn.
Instead of going with motivation and inspiration, I decided to lead with what I felt most comfortable: Rhythm, patience and process.
It’s how I write; why shouldn’t I be able to cook the same way?
And so it began.
It started with making chole to go with pooris, as a delectable side dish. I took the time to study the recipes (different variants), assemble the ingredients, prep them all and then proceeded to follow the steps given.
Ever so often, I’d feel just a bit adventurous and add a few extra ingredients while omitting or substituting others.
After the rather surprising success of that dish, I got emboldened and ventured into something I had never tried to make: Vadas. They had always eluded me and I had given up.
But this time, I felt different. I went back to the process. I studied multiple recipes, tried various iterations and finally brought it together into what I hoped would be a good end product.
My first attempt blew away my family, who couldn’t believe I was making them for the first time.
That feeling of courage, exploration and enjoying the process fueled a deep love for cooking, which I never thought I’d find in this lifetime.
I learnt to savour every moment that I was spending in the kitchen. To infuse joyful productivity into the art of slicing vegetables, reading the recipes and then changing them up just a bit to suit my taste.
When I began to share my experiments on my private Facebook profile, it brought me closer to family and friends who watched me foray into the kitchen with the eagerness of a child.
As I did both- cooking & sharing my experiments- it reminded me of a profound truth.
It’s in the sharing of stories that we connect with people. Much like food removes boundaries, stories build bridges. Build your own bridge today.