Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cooking Stories

Like it always is, daughters follow their moms to their kitchens at one point point of time or the other. I specifically said daughters not because I do not believe sons cannot cook well, it is just a matter of my observation in households that I was raised in. So, like any other daughter I did my bit to follow mom to the kitchen.

It seems strange, now to reflect how I came to cooking. In Nepal (where I was raised), Dashain or Dusshera is a big time festival. And this is the time that the household staff leaves for their respective homes. We always had Nepalese as helps and they would no matter what take leave. So, the ten-days vacation would turn into a 'help mommy in kitchen' exercise. From simple things like serving father and uncles to chopping tomatoes to stirring 'kadhi' and trying out of fancy a hand at rolling chapatis, I did think of myself as a cook of some sort.

Papa, as all papas are, would praise me to no end. He would exclaim, here is my little Tarla Dalal. I should add here that when I started writing a bit (my articles were published in the National Daily of Nepal, the Kathmandu Post), he had declared I was the next J.K Rowling. Hmm, sorry for digressing but I just felt a lump in my throat thinking he must be quite disappointed by now. I write sporadically and have not sent anything for publishing for ages now (I might add after marriage!).

Well, I was telling you there was something strange that made me learn. My mother would not enter the kitchen during her '3 days' period. It was then that she would stand outside the kitchen and tell me add just another spoonful of oil, keep your face out of the kadhai, and pray don't burn the jeera.

From those times, to time when my friends would drop in to have pav bhaji that I made, and baigan kaa bharta that I would have to make since it was just my and papa's favorite, I did think I had in me to become a good cook.

My only intention of cooking good food was a very secret one. Only to be revealed here now: I loved my mother's haath kaa khana (food prepared by her), and I could visualize myself being a mom someday ( I wonder how could I, I am scared at the moment and think I am still a kid and cannot think of other kids!!). Very well in that vision I would want the kid(s) to love what I would cook for them!

With studies and all, we had little to do in kitchen. After engineering and MBA, mom would often complain that she felt she had guests in her house rather than kids. And guests who would threaten her with ' i am not going to eat' if provoked with any kind of parenting.

I would sometime give in to her increasing bickering and make something for her. How I now realize that we can crave for food made by others for us. I made pizza, pav bhaji and paneer kaa sabzi. This was my forte. No more. But what I did, I did well. Only I needed lots of assistance, please chop this for me, and now could you stir that for a moment while I rush with this phone call. And then shout from upstairs..did you switch the stove off.

I used to bake cakes too. Once I go back to Kathmandu, I will get my recipes and post them. Since baking is something that you have to follow to the spoons and cups!

Now now, what I was thinking of telling you was, this little kitchen that I own for now. After shaadi (wedding) for a long time it seemed like I in deed was staying at a friend's place. With a dear MIL, I got the instruction to keep away from the hot Kolkata's kitchen. I promptly obeyed, you see!

So, until I came to Swiss, I was happily eating without any parenting for almost 8 months. Then came this house and this kitchen, all by the lake. How I thought it was like playing dolls. Only that the toys had become bigger in proportion to match the real things. I remember cooking over done rice here and hubby had called me a novice to my utter chagrin in the initial few days. How I had to make him believe that I could cook. And that accident was just because we had 'rice cooker' back home.

I had trouble identifying toor daal from chana daal. For more than a week I was cooking chana daal thinking it was toor daal. Thats exactly what I thought I had bought from Migros (a retail chain here), as I wouldn't be able to make out the French name. I did struggle trying to pressure cook chana daal to a mushy level, so that I could whisk it into sambar (South Indian Daal/dish) like consistency. Hubby did have lot of suspicion about my culinary abilities by this time.

But soon I got used to my kitchen, the masalas that I had brought from India (imagine no mustard seeds and no mango powder). With simple meals we progressed day by day. And then sister came to visit me in another month and brought me all the masalas that I could dream of. I still have kalonji, which I do not know which recipe calls for. Finally I found out the Indian store here too!

Hubby now tells me I have learnt and am learning. I tell him I knew all the while! He tells me I am cooking stories!

No comments: