‘What’s cooking?’ is one of the most dreaded questions for me. For you see, I can do a whole lot of things outside the house. But when it comes to cooking, I am zero, zilch. To add to the misery, though from Kerala which has a pre-dominantly non-vegetarian diet, I am a vegetarian in the house of non-vegetarians. I have nothing against non-vegetarian food, but somehow I am not able to swallow it down my throat.
My whole family consist of excellent cooks. And I am the black sheep. Due to this, the food would be prepared by the time I would be back from school or college. And my lack of interest in anything near the kitchen, with equally cooking challenged friends, ensured I never had to do much cooking. All I could do was make tea, boil eggs and cook Maggi.
When I was in my last year of college, my mother underwent a surgery and was bed-ridden for couple of months. You may be thinking I learnt cooking during this time. But no! Mummy taught me to make Sambhar before she went for the surgery and that is all I would make every day – Sambhar and Rice. And we survived.
When my mother would insist that I learn to cook something, I would retort with all feminist ideas. I will find a husband who can cook. Or I am a working woman. Why should I be responsible for cooking?
When wedding bells rang, I was confident, I will be able to pick up cooking in a few days or months at the most. After all, how hard can it be? But believe me, it is a crucial requirement even in marriage irrespective of gender. And I realized the practicality of the quote, ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.’
I did not even know to knead dough for chapatis, or cut vegetables properly. As luck would have it, my in-laws had to rush back to native place when I had just completed a month in the new house. That was when my husband realized the gravity of my ignorance in cooking food.
But, the doting husband helped me in all the cooking. He would knead the dough, I would create maps of chapatis, which he would lovingly cook on the tawa and take for his tiffin. The vegetable used to be potatoes every day. I was not ready to cook non-vegetarian food for the life of me. And we survived.
After one month when my in-laws returned, I could knead dough, make round chapatis, and cut vegetables faster. But I really learnt to cook from my mother-in-law. She patiently went about making me learn to cook. As a result, I could make all basic Keralite food by the time I shifted to my own place.
Over a period of time, the Internet God has helped. It is full of recipes and Youtube videos of cooking. They are very helpful for people like me.
As for me, I have given up on being the perfect cook. I leave it to the Nigella Lawsons and Sanjeev Kapoors of the world.
Have you encountered any challenges in your culinary pursuits?