Cooking is an art. With practice and imagination, we can create some delicious gourmet. As a kid I would never enter the kitchen, except to get goodies to munch on. As I grew up, my help to my mom was limited to cutting vegetables and making rotis sometimes. To feed myself, incase of emergencies, I knew how to make a toast, tea and maggi.
In high school, while some of my friends were learning how to prepare the full course meal, I was getting my hands dirty on trying to learn volleyball. Year later when I was in college, we were in a situation when me, my brother and a cousin had to be home by ourselves for 5 days. My parents and uncle and aunt had to be away to attend an important family occasion. Since we were teenagers and loved such freedom, we assured them we would be fine and asked them to go ahead with their plans. There was only one glitch, I and my cousin had exams during those days and also, we did not know how to cook. My brother on the other hand, was just bothered about India's outcomes on the World Cup cricket qualifying match. Also, our parents were returning the next day our exams were getting over, so we did not have much time for any fun. Anyways, we planned to use the best of what was given.
For the first few days, we managed on whatever mom had cooked and bread. The day mine and my cousin's exam got over was the day that India lost to SriLanka in the World cup qualifying match. My brother, due to the gripping match, had gobbled up all the eatables at home. When I reached home famished, the only bottles not emptied were the ones containing pulses and spices. With some courage, I started peeling potatoes to make a sabzi. As the food started smelling nice, I got ambitious and made sambar. I finished just as my cousin entered home, tired and starved. We set the table and were eager to try out the dishes. With the first taste of the morsel, which also happened to be the last one, we realized that even food can be deceptive. Even though it smelled good, it tasted horrible as the spices proportions were all mixed up. We finally had a dinner in a nearby restaurant and that was the end of my kitchen ventures for a long time.
Few weeks before I was to get married, I had crash course on cooking from my mom. I would stand next to her and nod on all her instructions as she would narrate the proportions of spices to be added, how and when. Everything seemed pretty straight forward at that time and I could not understand why people used to make fuss about good cooking.
Months later, I was here in NJ at our apartment staring at the closet filled with bottles of spices and pulses. Onions and tomatoes were lying on the countertop to be cut. This was the first time I was preparing food for H and his friend, who was coming home with his wife. I felt the same fear pang I used to feel on the days of practical exams. During the whole semester in lab practical, we could do the experiment with help of the teacher or the lab assistant. Exam days would be lonely and scary. At that moment, I missed my mom more than ever. Anyways, I put up a brave face and went ahead. Any art needs lot of time and patience. It was especially true on that day. To prepare a simple meal of pulao, puri and chole, I took 7 hours to complete!
Times have changed. I take much less time and hopefully the taste has also changed, err.. for better.
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