My earliest relationship with the kitchen was one of hate. When I was a kid, a yell from the kitchen meant an errand or a chore and I would turn and run in the other direction. My mom eventually figured it out that I hated it and would never ask me to do anything food-related, other than eating it. I was excused from the chopping and the cleaning and my sisters filled in nicely. Instead, I would get all the shopping lists. I still have memories of shopping for vegetables and groceries and coming back with a big bag hanging on the handlebar of my bicycle.
Eventually, I discovered my love of good food, eating it that is. And I remember asking a friend’s mom for the recipe of a tomato chutney that I had absolutely loved at their home. And I came back armed with the recipe. My mom wanted nothing to do with it. She said, if you want to eat it, you’ll have to cook it yourself. With too much pride at stake, I marched into the kitchen portraying a confidence that I didn’t really have (my earlier experiences in the kitchen had been limited to just boiling some water and cooking maggi for a quick snack). But I still managed to follow the instructions for the recipe. I know you’re expecting to hear about the disaster next, but it didn’t happen. The chutney actually turned out pretty well. And it felt really good to eat something that I had made on my own, not to mention the generous compliments I got at dinner from my family. Now I know that it is really a fool-proof recipe for chutney, but then it really boosted my morale and thus began my journey of culinary adventures.
After that, I started cooking random dishes for dinner and sometimes, when I felt like it, even a full course meal. I have to mention that my sisters loved it that I was cooking. It just meant that they would get to eat something unusual. So they were all supportive and actually would even help by chopping the vegetables and cleaning up afterward. I would, of course, get all the credit if the dish turned out well. I remember the one thing that I cooked many a times was butter chicken. Today I can make awesome butter chicken evenif I say so myself. But it is only because my guniea pigs/sisters lapped up every single morsel of the million attempts I made before I perfected the recipe.
And then, I moved to Singapore. Now I had to cook if I wanted to have a home-cooked meal. And what’s worse was that I had no help whatsoever. I had to start from scratch and actually even clean up after myself. But it was also an exciting time because it meant I could buy stuff for my very own kitchen. I started small. I remember I had one little wok in the beginning and if I was cooking two dishes, I had to cook one, transfer it to a serving bowl/plate and then cook the next one. Slowly, I started investing in my kitchen. But even with fewer utensils I had, my cooking has fed quite a few mouths. Friends used to drop by for a meal and happily agreed to be guinea pigs for any new experiment.
Singapore also exposed me to a variety of cuisines. Until then, my idea to world cuisine had been limited to Indian-Chinese food and well, pizza! In Singapore, started my journey of experimenting with all kinds of new food and newer ingredients. I started getting addicted to a lot of cooking shows and trying out newer recipes. It was also around this time that I met a bunch of other foodies, Shub, Sayesha and Pizzadude. We’d catch up for a meal or two every week and try different restaurants, not to mention different cuisines. Although we miss Shub now (she moved far away, breaking all our collective hearts), we still have our brunch/lunch/dinner meetings, wailing babies and jumping toddlers and all. Our potluck meals are great too. We also have cookathons (I just coined that!). We’re all super enthusiastic and I don’t know what is more fun, cooking together or eating the food later!
And did I mention, I love frequenting the kitchen-tools section in supermarkets. Thanks to the frequent visits and some weak moments of excessive splurging, I now have a decent set of kitchen tools, which are among my most precious belongings. And yes, more importantly, I am a decent cook now and I can put together a great full course meal. People I meet after many years are surprised when I invite them for a meal. But I guess, its not that difficult to figure. To cook good food, you must love to eat good food, which I most definintely do. And ultimately, cooking is all about getting the proportions right. I guess that is almost second nature to me because of all toiling for so many years in the lab.
I guess it all comes down to that one little incident that started me off on this amazing journey. I never thought I’d say this but thanks Ma, for saying no.