Experiments, when they go wrong, can be ghastly. And one such experiment is cooking.
One of my colleagues got married recently, and happens to be quite a novice in the kitchen. Never having had to make even so much as a boiled egg up until her wedding, she now treats her kitchen as a chemistry lab. As a result, we are treated to half-boiled dal, improperly fried vegetables, new dishes that started off as something else but ended up as something else, and she’s still to make acquaintance with salt and spices. In short, her cooking leaves a lot to be desired.
What is it with cooking, that makes it so hard for some? Now, I’m no Tarla Dalal or Sanjeev Kapoor, but I’m no burner of chai either. I’m, what you can call, a moderate cook. I don’t cook daily, can’t be bothered to, but whenever I do, it’s not too bad. I’m a weekend cook, as of now. My roommate cooks for me during the weekdays, and I cook for her in the weekends. I make the occasional Khichdi or sabji-rice on a weekday sometimes, but for the most part, I go in there only to make coffee and wash utensils.
But somehow, I’ve managed to never burn anything or make a complete disaster of it. Maybe, by some stroke of luck, I finally managed to inherit some good quality of my mother’s. She is (as every kid in the world would say) the world’s best cook. Not just that, she is a very meticulous cook. She’s not one of those who cooks up a storm and ends up leaving the kitchen as though a hurricane swept it. She’s spic and span, something that I failed to inherit in its full extent. I try, but I know I can never be as cleanliness- obsessed as her.
I started off as an experimental cook, not a I’m-doing-it-coz-I-have-to-do-it cook. My mom never called me or my sister into the kitchen to help her cook, or rather, we never really offered (Yes yes, I know what you’re thinking. Save it.). In fact, she tells me that when she was younger, she never stepped foot in the kitchen, but she ended up getting married to someone who is very very very finicky about food- the right amount of salt, proper meals at proper times, and a lover of non-veg. My mom? Vegetarian. She used to eat non-veg at some point in time, ages ago, but stopped because she didn’t like it anymore. But in spite of being a pure vegetarian, she manages to whip up the best of fish curries and chicken biryani. And the best part, she has a recipe for everything. I’m a recipe-less cook. I don’t follow any recipe- I go by my sense of smell (Is it pungent, like rotten eggs? No? Good enough), sense of taste (Does it taste like boiled newspapers? No? Good to go.), and my sense of sight (Does it look like ulcer in a curry? Not so far). My mom has two fat diaries filled with recipes she wrote down and cut out from papers and magazines, and she does try them out.
My cooking experiments started with eggs, and then slowly moved on to chicken. And once I realized that chicken is probably one of the easiest things to make, I started enjoying making it. It became a ritual at home, when only mom and I were there. I would make either eggs or chicken, and since she didn’t eat either of this, she felt safe enough to let me experiment (Ahem). It was only after I started living on my own that I began experimenting with dal, sambar, and other sabjis. And thankfully, my roommate at that time too was a good cook. Together we managed to keep the kitchen from blowing up.
But somehow, I never could bring myself to cook daily. I just can’t wake up early enough in the morning, and by the time I come back at night, I’m too tired (Or so I convince myself). My future husband and kids can look forward to a lot of frozen dinners and pasta/noodles variety. But one thing I can assure them- every weekend will be a feast.
Alright, so I may not be one of those moms who’s the world’s best cook. Maybe I can settle for being the world’s best drama-queen mom.