The spring of 1992. My mother was heavily pregnant with my sister. She had to appear for her exams in order to complete her masters degree in history. This meant she had to leave the town, thus leaving us alone for a while.
So, left in that beautiful spring were my dad and me, to take care of each other. He cooked regularly to make sure I did not go hungry even when he was away at work. That is when my tryst with taste started. My dad, with a clean towel over his shoulder and a happy smile on his face, would conjure the magic with spices and I would drag a chair to hop on, to be able to peek into the pressure cooker.
If you look at me and my father, we look like the products from the same manufacturing unit, just a few decades and a gender apart. The only other common feature among the two of us is our passion for cooking and absolutely nothing else, not even our education in engineering( he chose to be an engineer and I was convinced to become one). Here I would also like to mention that it is cooking that intrigues me and not food. The process and not the end product surprises me.
It’s Therapeutic. It heals, rejuvenates and above all makes me ( I guess all of us ) nostalgic. A trip to the local markets, looking for the best meat, fish and veggies, clinging to my father’s fingers. Cumin Seeds spluttering in hot oil. Applying my engineering drawing precision into chopping onion . Memories make up the skeleton of whatever I know about cooking.
Recipes travel across generations and our memories gracefully lend their shoulders silently for them to travel. We repeat the recipes which have conquered our taste buds and thus registered their irreplaceable position in our memory book. When we eat out and repeat our order we compare it to our previous visit, even without realizing that we just compared.
Nine years of living away from parents taught me how to cook, through hostel food and thus survive any kind of intestinal encounters. I am not a culinary genius. I do not have a formal training in Culinary art. I am an engineer and all my life have observed two algorithms of cooking at home:
Mom’s: Everything for health
Dad’s: Anything for taste
And after scheduling I found a middle path:
Healthy Conscience, Tasty Eating
This way when I want to add that extra blob of butter, just to add that extra sheen to the butter chicken, my hands spoon out only half a blob.
My father, however has always dominated. He has been a constant inspiration and the best companion in my culinary journey and one of his first lessons was: Instead of a spoon use your palm to measure the amount of salt that goes into a dish and use your fingers to sprinkle it. I do not know whether this is right but trust me, it has never gone wrong….He taught me how the aroma tells you that the salt in the dish is just perfect….