Yep! That’s exactly the reaction I always sported (with raised eyebrows too), when anyone spoke about cooking. Who wants to cook? Well, not me atleast! Of all things in life, cooking was the least important chore and there was always someone who you could find to get the cooking done, isn’t it? This was my pet dialogue which obviously stemmed from my deeply entrenched thoughts (negative – as you can guess) about this boring chore. And guess what, in the recent past years I became bold enough to tell people off using my pet stance whenever someone asked me whether I knew how to cook. One would wonder why people would discuss this mundane topic. But oh, haven’t you heard of the suitors and their mothers who come to see you, to check out whether you are marriage material or not?! Well, as luck would have it, I was often asked this amazing question and for my smart-aleck responses do read this post: Shaadi Shopping: The Bride and not the Trousseau.
Well, it’s not that I don’t know how to cook and another world famous response of mine has been, “If you stay with me, you won’t starve!” because I do know how to cook. Remember, I come from a North Indian background where it is a life and death situation for a girl to learn cooking. My mother made sure I was an ace in the basics, but even she knew that my heart wasn’t in it. I was as good as married to my job and I knew one could hire a cook at the snap of one’s fingers if you had the moolah to pay for it. But that was in a different realm at a different time. As we speak, things have changed drastically and I will come back to it later. But going back to those times, I distinctly remember how my uncle (we’ve always been a joint family) would taunt my mother about my top notch cooking skills and tell her, “sasural mein naak kata ke aayegi aise hi lakshan rahe to” (she will spoil your reputation at her in-laws if she doesn’t improve). He meant well, I know that. My uncle is like dad for me and he was always worried about how I would cope. But mom would counter him by saying, “jab ban padegi, to sab kuch karegi, chinta mat karo meri beti hai” (don’t worry she will manage everything when the time presents itself, she’s my daughter after all). To be honest, I used to secretly wonder if my mother was just being over confident about me; and I hoped when the time really presented itself I wouldn’t let her down. But I was never sure. Given the fact that I never showed even the remotest interest in learning the skill, I always thought I would never be able to rise to the occasion.
Another thing that was always against me with respect to cooking was my habit of drinking gallons of tea. I can gulp tea at any time of the day, night, twilight, dawn; and everyone at home would tease me as to what I would do if I had to make tea so many times myself. Am sure you get the drift right? Being the first born, I’ve been a highly pampered kid and there was always someone or the other to get me my cup of tea – mom, aunt, sister-in-law! That wasn’t too much of a reason to worry because I make tea brilliantly well. I figured in good time that I was just too lazy, especially when I knew the world (read: family) was at my beck and call. I was very happy being the corporate woman that I was!I never liked cooking...then it changed. My story of cooking #Indianfood #cooking Click To Tweet
Then something changed. I met a man who lived in another country and he proposed marriage to me. Hmm, you don’t find maids and help where Uncle Sam resides and that was a point to consider and deeply ponder upon. Not for long though, as the famous adage goes – ‘love is blind’ and I was completely done for life dreaming a different dream altogether. Everyone at home was mighty worried. “How will she manage” was the sentence they whispered secretly and I smiled and said “Don’t worry, I will”… though that question used to keep ringing in my ears all the time too. I was so unsure. I wasn’t petrified of the other household chores, because I loved doing all that. And with due credit to my mother, though she pampered us to the core she ensured that all her children (sons and daughters) were adept at all kinds of house work. (Just for the record – my brother and sister both are great cooks too – it was just me who was languishing all the time, sigh!). “Cooking and me? Oh well! We’ll see when the time comes.”
Clandestinely, my family heaved a big sigh of relief when they met Desh and also got enlightened about the fact that he was a great cook and had been managing on his own so far. My aunt also told my mother how lucky she was and asked her whether she was doing some special prayers to get two sons-in-law who were both amazing cooks (she has two daughters too by the way). Also, they heard of our stories where Desh used to tell me not to worry, he would cook for both of us; and I would tell him not to worry too because I would make the rotis when he would make the sabzi (vegetables). I prided on making the best rotis in the world and that was a fact, I wasn’t fibbing. Don’t believe me? Read this: The Art of Making Round Rotis: Its effects and side-effects on Indian Marriages. I was popular at home for making the best; thin, round rotis (which I have heard is a very difficult feat for a lot of women folk). So armed with the only art I was skillful at, I assured Desh that we would do it all jointly, like all good loving couples do. Only I know how terrified I was in case he felt I wasn’t up to the mark in the only skill I so boasted of. But never mind…
We got married and I moved to my new house. Before I moved to the US, I sent all the requisite things that I would need for cooking (not just for making rotis) and would not find there. Even then I used to wonder whether I was just putting up a brilliant act or whether I would ever really end up cooking at all. But that is a different story now. After I moved here, in the beginning for a few days Desh cooked. I was jet lagged and a bit unwell and he didn’t want to pressurise me; and I did feel horrible about it. I assured myself that it was okay if he was cooking and I completed all the other chores. He didn’t really have to worry about anything else in the house. In good time I realised that I was being lazy once again and was just consoling myself by doing all the other work. It was time to pull up my socks and get to it. How bad would it be?
So one day, I decided to give him a big surprise. The moment he left for work, I got down to the job and started off. I was very good at kneading flour and making rotis anyways. Just that I had never done all of it on my own in a long time. The last time I had made rotis was seven months back at my sister’s house, when both – Desh and my brother-in-law were thrilled. (What’s with men and cooking, man??!!). Ofcourse, my sister also made this sombre face and said, “it’s very different when you have to cook and eat it too, didi” and at that time I didn’t understand what she meant. Anyways, the rotis weren’t too much of an issue. Barring the first one, the rest looked awesome to me. It was cooking the vegetables that was an issue. I called my sister to get the recipe quickly. The worst thing was that I had to look for all the ingredients too, as till that time it was Desh’s haven and I had no idea where most of the things were kept. But my resolution was made and I was persistent, even though I was fearful I just decided to do it. I can’t even begin to express how many beats my heart skipped when the potato and spinach were cooking. When I thought it was done, I stopped myself from throwing it in the bin. I just decided to let it be and let Desh taste it. (Actually I took a small bite and thought it seemed okay, so decided not to throw it and act as if I had not cooked at all).
I kept the table ready when he arrived for lunch. He wasn’t sure about what he saw at the table and looked a bit confused because he was all set to come over for lunch and make something for us. He was pleasantly surprised and asked me, “what’s for lunch, honey?” I replied, “aloo palak and rotis.” He was thrilled. He just couldn’t believe I had done it on my own and sat down to eat immediately. I had crossed my fingers when he took the first bite and his expression just brought tears to my eyes, literally. It was my ‘pappu pass ho gaya’ moment, and man; was I relieved or what!!! He loved it and I was on cloud nine. Since that day there has been no looking back. Ofcourse the recipes are all borrowed from my mother and sister – depending on who I manage to speak to; and I have to give them an update of how it went. On days when Desh is still around after lunch I hand the phone over to him so he can give first-hand information to them instead of me blowing my own trumpet. What overwhelmed me completely is when I overheard my mother telling him that he should praise me a little to keep me motivated. The sweetheart that my husband is, he told her that the food was genuinely so good that he didn’t have to ‘praise’ me for the sake of motivation, and that it showed in his expression how much he loved it. It was almost like a ‘mission accomplished’ instant for me. Something I really never thought I would achieve. But as they say, you do a lot of things for love. And I have started enjoying cooking only to see that smile on his face and hear things like “you remind me of mom’s cooking” – because that is the biggest compliment he could ever bestow upon me.
I have chanced upon this joy only recently and can now feel in reality what mothers experience when they see their children happily enjoying what they cook. It sure is therapeutic! As an aside, my dog Bella loves the piping hot lip-smacking ghee-smeared rotis and she just laps them up! Am waiting for my mother to tell me how I cook. While Desh’s compliments delight me and mean the world to me, someday I hope mom feels the same when she eats whatever I cook.
Btw, there’s aloo methi, yellow dal and rotis for lunch today, want to join us? 😊