Saturday, February 18, 2006

Storming up a cook

Food is the focus of life. It is a way of life. It is what we are brought up on and what we are brought up for. We fill intervals between two meals with such varied activities as travel, work, television, and chatter. Alright, this seems like an exaggeration. It probably is. While I do enjoy food, I cannot approach food the above stated way. What’s my food philosophy then? Food has to be eaten at regular intervals, a little spicy is too spicy, a little sweet is not enough sweet, fruits rock, so do French fries, gulab jamun is the best sweet in the world, and an ideal day looks like this: South Indian food for breakfast, Gujarati lunch and Punjabi food for dinner. Of course, too many ideal days of this kind will send me to heaven a bit too soon  My stay in America has help expand my taste palette. Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Malaysian, Mediterranean, Thai, to name a few.

My mother is a fabulous cook. So if my wife. I am lucky to have access to great food on a constant basis. But between the two great parts of the movie, between the two acts of an appetizing play, there was an interregnum. The duration of my Masters study. My tour de force at Texas A&M University. Before coming to the US, I had barely ever stepped into the kitchen. My expertise was limited to boiling milk and ensuring my best to not let it spill over as I sneaked into the hall to catch glimpses of whatever TV program was running. Before heading to the US, my mom attempted to give me a crash course on cooking a few dishes. I also duty noted down some rather precise instructions on cooking up palatable food. I realized how theory and practice are dissociated once I came to the United States. The initial few attempts went a long way to establish me as the worst cook among my roommates. Ranjeet was a terrific cook and Avinash was competent. That left me and my rather inept abilities in an unfair match.

From the watery chick peas to the daal that was a little off, the range was limited and the results consistent. It is a difficult thing to beat reputations. I learnt it the hard way with my cooking. The few times that I did attempt to make good food, the inherent assumption that my food would be intolerable preceded me. To contribute to the same, I took it upon myself to notify one and sundry that my cooking wasn’t talked about. Self-deprecating humor and all that.

Everything that goes around comes around. Times change and people change with time. A skill I had deemed unlearnable is slowly revealing itself to me in parts. While I’d love to continue eating my wife’s fabulous cooking, circumstance dictates that I give her a helping hand. My job from doing the pre-processing and post-processing for dinners needed to move to the center piece. My wife has been kind enough to bear with my cooking experiments and help me along. This version of a live recipe book has served me well. I have picked up some new things with adeptness. Things taste as they should taste. Likeable, palatable, repeatable. Time has come for a revolution. Time has come for reputations to rebuild, old myths to be shattered, critical tastes to be satisfied. Only time will tell if this will work.

Till then, here’s a parting shot at self-deprecating humor when it comes to cooking. Signature statement of a bad cook, straight from Godfather: “I’ll make you a refuse you cannot offer.”

P.S> As is evident, I am back. Thanks for all the inquiries and the words of support. Hopefully, the flow will stay in tact.


aparna said...

Yay!! you are back!! :D

Okay, i will come back and comment on the post later :)

Niranjan said...

The godfather quote still has me in splits. I guess we're all kitchen scientists - and unsuspecting taste buds, our guinea pigs! Gr8 to have you back, Parth!

Graffiti Speak said...

Hi Parth, welcome back...:) I was quite taken aback by your opening lines and later found yourself saying it as an exaggeration...Good luck in your efforts to show the world you are a good cook...I am sure you can do...any tips, ask me :D but you know what at my end?...things are ulta...I am an OK (means not a bad one) cook but my hubby does things too well than me and puts me to shame when we invite guests over to our home...may be time for your wife to take a deserving breather when you get to do the core processing...and yes like you said, US definitely helped me also to develop a liking to all the said cuisines...even though I am a pure veg, I still managed to enjoy the limited varieties and try my hands on some (making my hubby a guinnea pig) :p

Another thing I want to add here is that we should "Eat to live" and not the other way but the other way is what's happening in India right now with a food-obsessed populace on the rise!

mirubh (p.k.a B.Buc) said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirubh (p.k.a B.Buc) said...

Parth, Good to have you back.

My wife is also a good cook, but the problem I face there that it reflects directly on my weight :).
Or should I blame it, like everything else like receding hairline, aches and pains in unexpected places, etc to gaining more wisdom.

Good to see you dont have this problem.... for now... :)

30in2005 said...

You're back....wonderful news for the blogging world!

I put you in in my RIP list in my sidebar. Will ammend asap!

Welcome back!

sd said...

Nice way to restart things -food!
I never did much cooking in India - but a combination of things here like: Hyper extended life at grad school, no one significant enough to feed me everyday and unable to eat old food(which means I cannot cook for a week and store in ref.) has meant that I have to cook everyday palatable food. Ofcourse this is not the way to learn cooking...)
On the other hand I have realized cooking actually can be a very relaxing activity.

RS said...

We fill intervals between two meals with such varied activities as travel, work, television, and chatter...

If you think about it, any significant activity in life can be classified this way, isnt it? Sleeping for example, it just depends on what you are focused on at that point :)

And I completely identify with your grad school days - I learnt to make tea and maggi after I came to US!

Glad to see you back :)

Mohit said...

Hi Parth

Just stumbled onto your blog here.

Have set up my own blog yesterday (yup,all of one day old)but the posts have yet to start flowing.

My own experiences with cooking haven't been so bad.I guess Indian men start tinkering around with food out of necessity, when all female help seems out of reach :)

Actually managed to cook up decent potato sabzi when mom was away in Pune way back in school.And flopped miserably when I substituted brandy for wine in another recipe later(that one's a bad, bad memory).Luckily, didn't have to feed it to anyone but myself :)

A few more burnt pans later have evolved to a level where I can at least manage to dish out a passable meal to people without fears of getting sued.

Or worse-getting arrested for culpable homicide.

So I guess I'll survive :)