I was thinking of my culinary skill almost a year after leaving home. When I left home, I didn’t know how to cook. Not that I am any better now. But when you have people like G in your life, who always make sure they give you 4 days of food every time you visit them, you barely want to take the trouble of cooking. Eating mom’s food has heightened my taste buds to such an extent that it is very difficult to survive on my own cooking. Add to it the fact that I start to cook following a recipe, but at the middle of it I get so impatient that I just do things my own way to take a short cut, and then everything ends up in a mess.
My neighbor became extremely useful to me in these situations. Whenever I cooked something barely palatable, I would eat it. And when the food was utterly unpalatable, I'd present it well, garnish it, and knock on my neighbor’s door, telling him that I had cooked an Indian delicacy for him. I mean come on, the food was not rotten or fermenting, just badly cooked. Mom always said, do not waste food.
Dad always told me that the best way to ensure good cooking is to take a lot of time and patience to fry the onions. Mom says that too many and too much of spices only ruin the food. However, I never learnt to cook back at home, and I still do not have much idea about what ingredients to put. But I have survived. I cook very rarely, but every cooking session has been like performing an experiment. There were disasters, there was excess or too little spices, and sometimes the food was damaged beyond repair. And yeah there were earth shattering accidental discoveries in the process. And then I would feel like Archimedes in the bath tub, basking in the glory of my own success.
Naah, I am not telling you any disastrous recipes here. But when I look back at my collection of pics from the last one year, I cannot help but smile at so many memories, disasters, failures, anger, frustration, and all for the lack of the knowledge of cooking. Here take a look-
This was the first time I had ever cooked. And you will roll on the floor laughing if I told you what this was. Obviously it had tasted too yucky to even go to my neighbor’s stomach. This is a disastrous attempt to cook pasta without sauce, the Indian way, where I went ahead and added lots of vegetables, and then most disastrously added one whole tablespoon of turmeric powder.
Lesson learnt- Never be generous with adding turmeric. And before Italians fall off the Leaning Tower and commit suicide, stop using pasta to make an Indian-style curry.
Then this is the mushroom curry that turned out to be relatively better.
Did you know that I could never make omelets without messing them up and ultimately ending up making scrambled eggs? Here they usually look like this.
This was when I made rice for the first time. I added lots of vegetables and mushrooms to it, and then went ahead and actually let the cooker whistle five times before I turned it off. Needless to say, it turned out to be more like the gooey liquid you’ll feed your newborn.
The bread pulao I once made tasted okay and looked like this.
And so did the noodles.
One thing I do a good job is of making salads. That is provided my mood is good and I am not too impatient to notice the size and shape of the vegetables I cut.
Once, I also made a fruit salad with lots of sweetened strawberry flavored yogurt, black grapes, apples, and chocolate sauce.
I love to make Maggi (instant noodles) with lots of vegetables thrown in. So much that the so called 2 minute dish takes me about an hour to cook.
The sweet and sour mushroom and baby corn curry I made once turned out to be very tasty.
But then, I messed up the chicken by trying to add sugar in order to make the onions brown, and throwing in so much of sugar in the process that it actually became more of a sweet dish.
But the egg curry I made was quite decent. Here take a look at the slits I made on the eggs to let the spices seep in.
And this is one of those nutritious “ready in 5 minutes” corn salad with lots of vegetables thrown in and served with a dash of lime.
My over ambitious plans of making fish curry resulted in frying the fish excessively and thus breaking it due to accidental injuries with the spatula till the fish was powdered into something I called a powdered fish salad. It tasted amazing, but there was no fish.
The Bengali potato curry (alu dum) in fact turned out to be very nice.
And so did the lemon and spicy chicken I made the other day.
If you have noticed, I always start cooking something that eventually turns out to be something else. And yeah, ask me about a particular dish, and I would not be able to tell you most of the ingredients or the actual measurements. I cook by instinct. And yeah, my food always looks much better than it tastes.
Well, that in a nutshell is my cooking exploits in this country. Only in these times you do remember how your mom had a hard time asking you to learn to cook. These days, I have an idea of what not to put where, though I still try to figure out what to add to what. And as usual if the food isn’t to my liking, my neighbor ends up eating it.
Still trying, still learning, in bits and bites.