I am a foodie. I love food, always have. But in the past, I only loved to eat food. Cooking was not something I liked to do or wanted to do. I would help out my mother in the kitchen when I was asked to. I would complain about having to do all of it and the minute my help wasn’t needed, I would happily scoot out of the kitchen and go do my stuff. My Mom loved to cook. And she was good at it too. She would watch every single cookery show that aired on television (it would be accompanied by mine and my sister’s groans in the background) and try to replicate what she saw. She made the softest sponge cakes and the most amazing vegetable pulao. But none of it interested me back then. My Mom would try to tell me how she made it, and the little tips and tricks on making a curry more yummy, that only moms are privy to but I would never pay attention. But I was always attracted to the smells that wafted out of the kitchen.
Some of favourite childhood memories revolve around food. I remember waking up on Sunday mornings to the smell of soft fluffy idlis and Mom’s spicy sambar. Idlis were a favourite at home and coupled with spicy sambar, it was like the best breakfast we could have. Mom loved baking and on days she would take out her book of cake recipes, me and my sister would start drooling. Soon, the whole house would be doused in the aroma of chocolate and vanilla. It was the smell of happiness and comfort. Another memory is of Mom making her signature pulao, the smell of the ghee and the spices- cinnamon, clove, star anise, bay leaves, cardamom all doused in home-made ghee. That smell alone was enough to set our tummies rumbling. I also remember the days when Mom would make her chicken curry. We are a family that prefers vegetarian food and so, cooking non vegetarian was a rare occurrence for us. But on the day Mom decided to buy chicken, the house would be fragrant with the smell of garam masala and chicken masala and the smell of onion, garlic and ginger. And during cold monsoon evenings, my Mom would decide to make her signature spicy tomato soup. It was almost like rasam, but not quite. Mom would make it hot but with the right amount of spice. My favourite part of it was the smell of freshly ground pepper that she would use generously in her soup. Slurppp…
My Grandmom was also a good cook.She made the most amazing rasam and it is, till date my favourite comfort food. Rasam and rice, according to me, will chase away any troubles you may have. Grandmom was the rasam wizard. She made it just like Mom did, but somehow Grandmom’s would always taste better. And in the years I spent living with her, it was always something I asked for when I was upset. And even after I moved out, every time I told her I was visiting, my then extremely frail Grandmom would get into the kitchen to make it for me. It was a favourite with my sister also, so she was more than happy to make it, although towards the end just doing that would tire her out extremely. When I was a kid, Grandmom would feed me rice and ghee, in an attempt to fatten me up a bit. I was all skin and bones back then. Not that I have improved now. And every weekend, without fail, my lunch would start with piping hot rice doused in ghee sprinkled with some salt and she would also make my favourite fish fry.
My aunt is the only vegetarian I know who makes amazing non vegetarian food without even tasting it. She makes the most amazing food too. Every single dish she comes up with, is like a piece of art. So well put together- nothing in abundance, nothing out-of-place. Just perfect.
The men in my family were not bad when it came to cooking either. Grandpa’s awesome payasam has always been a favourite. As were his banana chips and jackfruit chips. My Dad was good at experimenting with food too. He’s one person I know who makes perfectly round dosas- each time, every time. His signature dish was palak and egg sautéed with grated coconut. It was almost like scrambled eggs, only better. Me and my sis loved it. He claims its his own recipe although I have my doubts. And it was a genius idea to make us eat our greens. 🙂 My uncles, or at least most of them, are experts with non vegetarian food. Especially one of them who is like a seafood wizard. He is an expert at catching, cleaning and making his own seafood. Yumm.
Growing up this way meant I had a taste for good food but, I was never interested in cooking. In fact, it was only a month before my marriage that I managed to master the basics of cooking. But once I started living on my own, my interest in cooking started to grow. Being in a foreign land and having too many foreign ingredients around made me look up recipes and experiment with food. Being married to a guy who loved to cook also helped. And since I started, I haven’t looked back. I have baked and roasted and grilled and deep-fried and what not. I have tried my hand at Indian, Italian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Thai, Chinese and Spanish cuisine. I know what spices and what ingredients go well. I know what meat needs what seasoning. I know how to buy the best cuts of meat and the freshest of vegetables and, I’m often able to replicate the aromas I grew up with. It gives me great joy to do this. And when people tell me I’m a good cook and rave over my food, I feel happy. I feel happy to be able to show them a bit of my passion and to share with them a bit of my life. It fires up my creativity too and just like in a work of art, it gives me great satisfaction when I make something just right.
And so, in addition to being a foodie, now, I’m also a good cook. 🙂 And my love with food continues…. 🙂