I learnt to cook at the tender age of 8 months, when I lifted a jar of salt and emptied it into a bowl of chicken curry. The expression on the adult’s faces seated around the table when they tasted the curry, told me that cooking would be great fun. My mom, the lady of the house and the master chef whose cooking skills are legendary in our house, must have felt threatened by the homegrown competition because she tried cutting short my budding interest in cooking by keeping the jar of salt in highly secretive hidden location. But I guess inborn talents cannot be suppressed, because I soon found the jar of sugar and emptied that into a nice Kottayam style beef fry that my mom had made painstakingly. My talents were obvious from a very young age. The jar of sugar was soon dispatched to some highly confidential location deep in the Sahara desert. Soon I found out that the jar of chilly powder and pepper powder also bought out fun expressions on adults’ faces. By this time my mom, probably feeling very threatened by the encroaching competition, sent away all the spices in her kitchen to top secret hideouts around the world as a last ditch attempt to stop me from trying my hand at cooking. (“Maa bhi kabhi beti thi” is the title of the book I will be writing about my early life).
Having my talents so brutally and cruelly nipped in the bud, I went back to doing what normal kids do, like throwing my Ammachi's chickens into the well, falling into a bucket of water headlong, letting out water from the water tank and falling from the roof. I led an uneventful life back then. Unlike now, when my life is full of danger, excitement, thrill, adventure, cliffhangers etc like running behind my company bus every morning ( I got a speeding ticket for that), dashing from conference room to conference room at breakneck speed, chasing the ad agency and Event Management people, snooping on competitors and eating cafeteria food. I am yet to see the cabin allotted to me and I heard it is being used for nefarious purposes like *gasp* “work” by people who look suspiciously like my colleagues armed with laptops and white board markers. BUT….. I am familiar with each and every network socket in this campus where I can plug in my lappie and that includes the socktes thoughtfully provided on the cafeteria tables and the loo. ( and psssst don’t tell this to anyone but I heard some kaamchor people play solitaire on their lappies in the loo. Disgusting!!!).
We even have “Bring your lappie to office on Saturday” Saturdays and “Take you lappy home everyday” weekdays. I tell you, the Corporate Communications people here are tops (and I don’t mean in the weight department though they top in that too). So thoughtful no?
But we are deviating my dear readers… yes all five of you err…make it four as one of you have fallen asleep. Back to our narrative and like I was telling you many many paragraphs ago, I found out that I had an interest in cooking very early in life. By very early, I do not mean the first month of my life in the incubator where I was kept on a constant low heat, though I admit it must have influenced me in some way like by making me realize it is better to cook than be cooked. (Ok I heard that joke about my brains being cooked too grrrr).
My yearning to learn cooking raised it’s stubborn head again, when I was 8 or 9 years old and by this time my Mom was so fed up of cooking that she actually conspired to get out of the kitchen, by buying me, my very own cookery book and recalling all the jars of chilly, salt, sugar etc from the various top secret locations around the world. (What a scheming woman no?)
Soon after the arrival of the spices, I began cooking after saying an elaborate prayer that was rather rudely interrupted by my dad exclaiming in horror and dashing out of the house to renew the Household Fire Insurance Policy. I picked up basic cooking very fast, and was soon raring to try more exotic cuisines. I appealed to all the ladies in the neighborhood to give me recipes and they obliged and it is from these ladies, that I learnt the greatest cooking lesson of all. A lesson that left me very wised indeed. And what was that lesson? Patience… I will reveal all *mysterious smile*
The first person to give me a recipe was Mrs J. Mrs J made a particularly delicious Banana Bread. So it was with great anticipation that I made the Banana Bread. The bread looked like a blob of dried cement. Even my brother refused to eat it.
The second person to share her recipe was Mrs T. I made the Malabar Fish Curry exactly as it was given in the recipe and gave it to my brother to taste. My brother who will eat dog biscuits if it not pointed out that it is dog biscuit threw up after tasting the fish curry.
The third person to share her recipe was Mrs M. She gave me her recipe for candied peel. When the candied peels were ready, it was stiffer than iron rods and tasted like putrid Citric Acid.
And the last person to share her recipe was Mrs M again. She gave me her treasured recipe of Fruit Bread. I made the bread dough exactly the same way it was instructed in the recipe and kept the dough aside to rise. Exactly half an hour later my maids ran screeching out of the kitchen and ran helter-skelter. A bubbling mass of grey matter was coming out of the kitchen and threatening to engulf the whole house. There was bubbling fruit bread dough everywhere. People were running for their lives. It took three hours to clean the mess and subdue the bubbling monster.
After the mess was cleaned my mom took the recipes to investigate where I had gone wrong. After reading the recipes, she started laughing hysterically. Apparently Mrs J had conveniently forgotten to include baking powder in her recipe, , Mrs R had also very conveniently forgotten to include kodampulli (tamarind) in her recipe, Mrs M had made me make candeed peel with thrice the amount of Citric Acid and sugar and her Fruit Bread recipe that needed only 20 gms “Yeast” was conveniently of course “by mistake’ made to 200 gms yeast. The result as you can see was disastrous.
After she had stopped laughing my mom taught me my first lesson in cooking. “A good cook will never part with her recipe.”
Thank you ladies for that lesson. Your course material was excellent and course recall really lasting. I will remember it to my dying day.