Needless to say I am somewhat homesick today. (For this moment, home = home with parents). I woke up and realized five minutes later that it was Vijayadashmi. I am not a spiritual person, but at times, I turn religious. There is a calming hypnotic effect in rituals that I yearn for. Plus, as I explained to someone at work today, festivals are mostly about food anyway. Festival = Comfort food. Or Rich food. Or Amazing food.
How am I celebrating my Dashmi? So far, by lighting an incense stick, and rebelling against the formal attire culture by wearing something with a little dash of orange and brown. Little block prints on a white shirt. Maybe I’ll make a little payasam today. I don’t know. If I am in the right mood, we might have a feast today for dinner. But in this (lack of) festive food induced homesickness – I came across this article in the Guardian –
As grown-up cooks and food lovers we all owe an enormous amount to the people who cooked for us as children. Sometimes it’s a dish, sometimes it’s a whole food culture. For some it’s a sworn intent never to eat that badly again but, for me it’s the inherited belief that there is something profoundly enriching in making the best food you can for the people you love – an idea that still, I hope, continues to affect everything I do.
What culinary inheritance did your mum leave you?
My mother never tastes as she is cooking. She probably doesn’t realize it. But for a lot of folks who need to do the neivedyam, to be able to cook a perfect dish without tasting it becomes a matter of habit. And it’s something I have inherited I think. I can’t taste the dish till it’s completely done. It just doesn’t feel right. Also, it makes you mess it up. For instance, if you taste sambhar half way through, when the smell of the sambhar powder hasn’t quite gone, you’ll find yourself wondering if there is too little salt. You end up adding salt. But in the end when half the liquid has evaporated, you’ll find it too salty.
My mother never taught me how to cook. When I first started cooking, it was the memory of watching her put a pinch of this, and a fistful of something else that informed my cooking style. Don’t measure, trust your judgment. And never, ever stand over something that’s cooking and sniff violently. It’s disgusting. Don’t double dip. And constantly recycle utensils. Mostly, that it’s okay to take short cuts, and how well you cook is not a measure of who you are as a person.
My dad on the other hand, doesn’t quite cook as much. But he has his signature dishes. And he’s the one who gave me a weird taste for combinations. Like toasted bread (with a little nei on one side) dipped in rasam. Or a liking for raw rice, roasted coffee beans, raw vadams, raw maggi. You get the idea. And at one point, he used to make brilliant omelettes. When my mother wasn’t well, and recovering from a surgery recently, he did most of the cooking. My mother ate it up. It must have pretty good.
Cooking for others is pretty gratifying. Ask my friends, they’ll tell you how readily I cook for them.