Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Culinary Exploits

Disclaimer- This is NOT a food post.

I don’t even qualify as a reasonable cook. Till the day I left home, my mom, in her bouts of optimism, urged me to learn to cook the basics. And every time, I refused and (mis)reasoned. Not that cooking is gender-specific or status-specific. My dad is a great cook, and so are so many men. My mom had resigned, wisely predicting that a person who loves to eat will eventually learn to cook. And that is what happened, the hard way of course.

For one year, I tried to make what can be called “kitchen accidents” instead of food. When I finally got tired of eating out, I decided one fine morning, ladles and frying pan in hand, that I will learn to cook. Believe it or not, I had never broken an egg before that, let alone cook. I didn’t even recognize the names of most spices. I would sniff the spice and try to remember which dish would mom use it in. I still associate the smell of jeera powder with unripe mango sharbat mom made during the summer. I still do not recognize the pulses, let alone know how to cook it. I started my first day of cooking by adding turmeric powder to pasta. I am sure that Italians are still turning in their graves after that. Eventually, in the process of numerous hits and trials, numerous pan burns and food being disposed in the garbage, I finally learnt to make some palatable curries that saw me through the week. I didn’t have to be a connoisseur of food for that. And now every time I try something new that works, I excitedly call home. My proud announcement of “Mom, I made prawns today” is usually accompanied by a silence and a thud on the other side of the line when dad picks up the phone and announces that my mom has just fainted. Well, not really, but every time, she is on the verge of fainting when I tell her that I cooked something new.

Well, what spices did you put in it? Where did you get the recipe from?

Errr…. I don’t know. I put whatever I thought would taste good in that.

Such are my cooking expeditions. Browse through any cookbook or food website and I’ll realize that I don’t even recognize half the ingredients, let alone have it. So I have finally decided, that these websites are meant just for visual pleasure. If it comes to cooking, I’ll have to improvise with whatever little I have.

However, there are things that I learnt during my cooking expeditions. Like these-

--How well the food tastes depends on how correctly you cut the vegetables. A simple onion can be cut into a dozen different ways, depending on what you are making. And if you fry the onions properly, brown and un-burnt, half of your cooking is done.

--The key to a good flavor lies in the minimum usage of spices. If you are not sure about how much to put, start by adding little quantities. It is better to rectify a less spicy, bland dish than to uselessly try to mend an over-spicy, over-cooked, or over-burnt dish. But then again, it all depends on who you are feeding other than you, isn’t it?

--Green vegetables should always be added at the end, else they fade in color.

--Good food comes from good use of patience and innovation, rather than a lot of spices or ingredients. Especially if you would like to have male friends frequenting your place. They really appreciate it, especially the single ones, given the fact that they eat anything other than textbooks, computer equipment, and office supplies.

--If you are trying something for the first time and are not very confident, cook in small quantities. If nothing, your heart wouldn’t break while disposing it off in the trash can or passing it over to your Thai neighbor as an “Indian delicacy”.

--Cooking is like doing research. Sometimes nothing works and sometimes everything works. But then, it also depends on who you are. If you were Sanjeev Kapoor, I am sure even using turmeric powder in pasta would be cool.

--Writing food blogs may not be a good idea as a distraction from the midnight snacks hunger after all. If anything, the hunger just gets worse.



CM-Chap said...

I put whatever I thought would taste good in that. - My golden rule too. But my gasp at it whenevr I say it over phone.

especially bachelors, given the fact that they eat anything - we have improved, we can cook better than you... No shutup now.

GeekBeyondRedemption said...

What's wrong with turmeric powder in Pasta? We make a mean upma-type Indian style dish with Pasta :-)

2nd, if you want green veggies to retain color, add turmeric when you add the green veggies.

The most important thing is to enjoy cooking, and enjoy eating :-)

Apart from that, anything goes...

maxdavinci said...

i'll raise my spatula to that! Similar story and the reason I took a liking to cooking was to initially while away time. No on-campus job meant loads of time to cook. Then it was to invite females to watch movies over dinner, now its just to kill boredom of living alone....

Anu Russell said...

most of us pampered lots from India go through the transition of cannot even make dal to can cook decently...and all of our experiences I am sure are similar to yours...very nicely written...

And I think that even Sanjeev Kapoor might have had a bunch of failures and I am positive that he still fails once in a while...as long as my food taste decent and a few compliments here and there come my way...I am okay with it!

Red Phoenix said...

Pasta with Turmeric - Hmmm. need to try it...

Here's some tips from a fellow grad student (bachelor who eats textbooks too)

1. While u fry ur onions, try microwaving the veggies (saves u time of cookin and also adds this extra materialistic flavor)
2. I add cholay powder in almost any dish (1 spoon) - it gives a unique smell and flavor to it
3. The best tip of all for giving a best dish is not alone to cook it, but to present it... At the end, try adding cilantro leaves (or the cilantro powder from Kroger or Walmart) at the top and make a garden out of it. First appeal blends in this extra drooling effect over horrible food :D
4. And finally, a jovial mood with friends makes them forget about the mistakes, and they'll love the food just the way they like your attitude....

Go on -become Sanjeevi Kurma :P

sunshine said...

cm-chap- hahahaha, prove it to me :)

geekbeyondredemption- wow, that was a pretty good one !!

maxdavinci- A raised spatula from me too !!

anu- hehe, I so very agree with you :)

red phoenix- oh wow that's amazing !! Thanks a ton!! :)