My Experiments with Food

“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…”

The above sentence is the GRANDEST LIE I’ve ever heard – I discovered after marriage ūüôā

Back at mom’s place, things were simple. My Dad as well as my brother are no – fuss eaters. They were always ‘trupta’. My father would be khush with anything remotely sweet tasting and my brother, with anything remotely spicy. Of course it helps that my mother cooks well too :). But essentially, I do not come from a family of foodies – as in we always appreciated good tasting food, but we rarely experimented with it…

Being a working woman, who had to tend to her in-laws, take care of children and juggle with day – to – day chores and cooking, my mother’s fare mostly would be traditional marathi karhade¬†bramhin cuisine. She had her ‘days in sun’ occasionally when she’d make cake / chocolates/various rice/dosa – idli etc out of blues. She’d get most experimental only during summer vacations – she was a teacher back then and it would be a vacation for her too. She never¬†got any help – even as menial as pealing potato skins from either my father or any other member of the family including my ajji. I guess I could say that in general the family’s apathy towards food extended in not being involved in the process of making it too…

My involvement with food – began I think – I must have been¬†7 or 8…it was summer vacation and my cousin brother Anurag had come over. He and my brother Pranav must have been some 4-4.5 that time. My mother had to go to bank for some work, it was afternoon and the elderly were sleeping. That’s when we entered kitchen and had attempted to make ‘sheera’ that I had seen mom make. The three of us set to work with both boys cleaning rawa (‘nivadne’) and I remember we ended up with a very ‘free flowing sheera’ – because milk wasnt enough and we did not know that water could be added. My father happened to come home early and caught us red – handed, which led to severe thrashing (for not only going near gas without supervision, but also instigating the boys into helping me)…

But my foray in kitchen began then… eventually as I grew older, I got more and more experimental during school days. I even made things with names such as¬†‘lavang latika’, ‘motimahal poha’, ‘sunshine cutlets’, ‘papad golden-rolls’¬†etc that I watched on afternoon cookery shows… apparently my experiments would go well and none of the concerned subjects¬†(guinea pigs for my experiments) were ever¬†in requirement¬†of any medical intervention after tasting my dishes. Most of my experiments during school days went well (surprisingly ūüėČ )… except once in class 10, when I was alone and I¬†decided to¬†condense milk for making basundi. My friend Manasi¬†telephoned me, we chatted endlessly and the milk eventually evaporated entirely, cream burned and smoke floated several floors above resulting in some neighbors coming down to check for fire…

Cut to my college and post graduation days… somewhere the lure of cooking vanished entirely. My girlfriends¬†mostly¬†were either¬†career-oriented¬†or ‘modern’ (in my mom’s language, modern=those who can’t cook before marriage) girls and cooking was looked down upon or was treated as mundane, never interested us particularly. My involvement in the kitchen began to be limited to helping my mum prepare¬†food (which mostly meant ‘buying’ raw materials!! ha ha ha) or things like kneading dough, chopping veggies, making raitas, setting and cleaning up lunch / dinner things etc…

Things got worse after I started working. I would spend more than half hour in kitchen only on weekends!! But eventually I came around and started cooking meals on weekends having realised that my mom was ageing and it was most unfair to her to ignore my duties in kitchen. But it took a while to change my attitude towards cooking. Initially I would prefer making one – pot meals such as Paav Bhaji¬†¬†to avoid even the smallest of inconveniences. Though eventually I began trying various types of fast food things¬†like noodles, pasta etc which I had gotten introduced to during my college/work years. These new ‘foods’ never went well with my parents who till date don’t feel the satisfaction of having had complete¬†lunch/dinner without eating rice/poli etc. So I would reluctantly revert to traditional food after experimenting once in a while…my food was always ‘edible’ – let me put it that way,¬†though it wasnt as praised as during childhood… it was ‘functional’ and i too wasnt very interested in getting praised…

Well, cut to the present times… things are pretty dynamic in my kitchen. In a bid to experience the sentence at the beginning of this post, I set out with great gusto to impress my husband with my cooking, several plans and menus in my¬†mind. I thought this was a chance for me to innovate, improve and eventually impress…Though soon my enthusiasm¬†waned having realised that there are¬†now disclaimers to cooking a dish which were non – existent at my mother’s place. Some of these include¬†– ¬†no oil, no/less sugar, no carbs, no cheese, no cream, only a handful of veggies (have you heard me rant about the only 4 veggies we seem to be eating? okra, baingan, rajma, chhole?¬†you havent?¬†you’d better not remind me)¬†etc. Cooking¬†within these constraints, is¬†a¬†challenge to creativity… and daily I am on my toes by 5 pm really confused about what should I come up with for dinner. ..its my daily battle ūüėČ , but I keep at it valiantly and so far¬†havent¬†given up…this is the most experimental that I’ve ever gotten in the kitchen in my entire life…..

So…¬†if an attempt is made to cook within such constraints (and mind you – it¬†requires deep creative thinking), and if it backfires, the cook is hardly to blame. Swapnil has however devised his own way of dealing with this. He tries to ensure that I make something which he has already tasted. ‘A known danger is always better than an unknown one’ – is his philosophy or maybe,¬†he’s¬†getting me to perfect that particular dish. In this manner we’ve had¬†‘khichadi week’, ‘Tomato Omelette week’, ‘Dahi Pohe’ week and so on…¬†Any which ways, my husband while avoids ‘unhealthy’ food is a closet fan of all¬†these items and I make attempts once in a while to appeal to his taste buds. I have never been able to match his standards of great food…yet….

There have been times when my cooking was complimented (by other people) when we were hosting them. Which only earned smirks from my husband, but seeing as the only other¬†options that remain for him are order from out / cook himself, he has come around a little, even¬†encourages me once in a while these days… though the way to his heart is definitely not through his stomach when it comes to my cooking… ūüėČ

All¬†this encourages me more to prove him wrong ūüėČ and makes me set out with more determination to look up recipes… ūüôā

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