Sunday, October 07, 2007

what is "cooking"?

Last night, I tried making the kind of fried rice that my mom made for me. I even had a picture of it somewhere in my archives, I'll see if I can dig it up. I could remember the key ingredients turmeric powder and onions because, one : I called them onion rice, and two: because they were yellow. LOL. She also put in curry leaves,coriander, green chillies, sometimes sugar to counteract the hot flavor,(I really liked the sugar in it). So I figured that since I had most of the ingredients, (I didn't have curry leaves and coriander.) I might try and make it. The best part? No one was home to witness the potential horrible screw up.

So, I started out with oil in a pan and I realized I also need mustard seeds to put in the oil. My mom put that in with the cumin till they far as I can remember.... would be great if I could talk to her right now, but it was probably too early in the morning there. Then the onions, the spices, rice...everything went in, and the smell was making me salivate. I got a spoon and tasted it. Well, I was too scared of overdoing the spices so I put in too little. I added more salt for taste, we used a lot of salt in our home. I hadn't even put in green chillies because I figured I didn't want to make it too spicy. "I'm gonna put in red chilli powder anyways!", I thought. But like I said... my estimates with the spices weren't right. So I wanted to make it again. I'd do better next time.

So tonight, I figured I'd give it a go. There was still some rice left over from 'I dunno when' in the fridge. I chopped up half an onion, a reasonably big one too; one green chilli pepper, and brought out my spices. I heated up the oil, put in the cumin, let it start sizzling, put in the onions and green chilies, spices (bigger quantity this time!) and then the rice. The turmeric, onions and green chillies were really giving off a powerful aroma. I knew this is already going to be better than last time. I tasted it, and it was a little too hot for me, so I put in sugar to make it a little milder. But this was a fine sugar... I liked it when I could feel sugar granules in my mouth. Anyways, I ate it with some sambar sandeep offered me. Really good dinner!

yep! Found the image! This is the real deal. the one my mom made. not my stupid 'improvised' one.

Now for the main topic. While I was cleaning dishes, I was pondering over what sandeep had asked me while I was making my dinner.

"you were cooking in India or you learned over here in canada?" (Trust me, I' still making him sound better. He needs a LOT of practice with his spoken english. LOL)

"hmm...I've seen people cook all my life..."

"Even I've seen my mom cook before but I can't do it."

I wanted to say 'so you've never really observed someone when they're cooking you've just stared blank.' but I was trying to me more polite so I said,
"Well, I'm a very visual learner. I grasp things that I see very fast."

"I guess that's why you're in animation..."

Although I do agree about the animation part, I was thinking 'what really classifies as cooking? I could have said 'yes I've cooked in India before' if only I knew which of these the general public accepts as 'cooking'. Does cutting a vegetable for a food preparation count as 'cooking'? If someone only put the ingredients in a pot or vessel, is that cooking? How about lighting the stove, putting your pan on the flame? Or maybe stirring the soup or something. Making a dough or a batter?

What I think is that ALL of these come under cooking. And I've done these things in my house ever since I was little! I would cut Okra when mom's preparing my favourite dish, I would even (try to) chop onions even though it was the most dreaded task ever! I'd boiled potatoes, peeled them, mashed them...I've helped make dough for cake, wait, how's batter and dough different? I looked up batter in OS X dictionary and it doesn't mention batter as a noun. WTF? Ok, getting back on track, I've kneaded 'aata' and even tried making chapatis. I've even put all the ingredients into the 'kadhai'/wok myself and stirred it and everything. So basically, I've BEEN COOKING all my life....Just in parts.... with long breaks in between... hehe.

But the cool thing now is that I am in-charge of the whole process, from start to finish. And I am starting to realize more and more what spices affect the food in what way, and what I missed out on, or what I needed more of. Earlier, even though I could tell it doesn't taste right, I couldn't say what was missing. Like when mom asks is everything allright, I could just say yes or no. And those few times when I said no, I couldn't tell what was missing. "just needs more 'spices'." or "more salt." Now I feel like I've graduated, I've grown up, my taste buds have finally developed. I'm loving it.


  1. I love reading about your kitchen adventures. It reminds me of my uni days when I first started experimented with Indian cooking. You gotta love it to make the effort right?

  2. yeah, it is really good. I just know a year from now, when I read this, its going to be absolutely amusing!