My hands are often bruised and blistered, resisting grabbing rotis straight off the flame, lemons escaping from under the knife leaving fingers in its place to be scored. Scars achieved from small stupidities. Disgracefully, cooking was never my cup of tea.
I spent part of my early life making fun of non-carrier oriented women whom I found always with abundant time in hand to cook and do all the household chores. While rest of career women were running in block heels to attend meetings, changing shift dresses, sweeping cigarette smoke, out to the bars for drink and late night parties. Cooking for myself was a big no, rather I outsourced the services to several food delivery apps or to my household help who made a breakfast to be packed in a dabba for office and found solace in microwaving food from the fridge for a meal.
I had agreed upon the fact that I had no time to cook for myself and laid with a misconception of being independent by way of earning money for a decent living but lacking the ability to cook a basic meal.
Being locked down with my parents in home, it’s like crash course in cooking with daily cooking supper. But I learnt to make a nice chicken curry, an average thakkali sadam, nice dal variations, aloo parathas. But all I can say is that it feels delightful.
It was also the worthy and successful attempt from a friend, who gave a recipe for mango curry which she had just learnt, Another friend learnt how to flash freeze chopped vegetables, yet another sent me a recipe for Andhra chicken which is still pending to be tried
I distinctly remember when I was young my mom speaking over the phone with her own mother, sisters or friends jotting some recipe, its ingredients along with tips and precautions and some tales associated with them. At that time I found their conversations very boring but now I find myself in the same boots.
Mom tells me to write down the recipes which came out good, but I do not have any intentions to do so as they are all online and not scarce to be afraid of to be lost. I can easily follow ‘cook- alongs’ by chefs on social-media or thousands of top-rated recipe videos on social-media.
Mom was introduced to cooking as always in most homes by her mother at the age of about 9 or 10. Helping my grandmother in straining something or the other or stirring food placed on a wooden stove, peeling fruits and vegetables or kneading some dough for some preparations. Grandma in turn picked cooking from her in-laws by way of trial and error or working with and watching others at work. Mom also joined a cookery course and jotted her favourite recipes in a small note book and then when she was pregnant with me, she took on to another notebook. The memories of that book is of pages turned yellow with age and with hanging magazine cut-outs, its original cover lost and held together with binding to prevent the pages from falling off.
Both Grandma and mom got to learn the hard way but this was the reason why they never faced embarrassment in their in-laws kitchens, with no internet and video calls at their beck and call to clear a doubt or to set right when something went wrong.
Their only chain of information was the groups of ladies they knew and in turn those ladies who knew other ladies and this way the recipes were exchanged and altered. Not to mention the ladies like my mom, who wrote down recipes in a notebook which was a great task and an effort of magnanimity. Often these recipes were written with the name of the person whom the recipe originally belonged to like Shashi’s tomato chutney, Neeta Didi’s roghan josh, Roma’s mustard fish and so on. This style of exchange of information through gossips is the oldest way of exchange of information loaded with creativity and strategies borrowed from family and friends.
I would video call my grandma if I had a doubt preparing a recipe. On one occasion she revealed a secret of putting a little sugar in a curry while tempering it to make it more rich and intense in flavours and another was to let the full flavour of bay leaf to be released before adding other ingredients.
Today we may not be great cooks, but surely the lockdown made most of us a reasonably good cooks for self-sustenance.