Dire situations inspire ingenious solutions. If worse comes to worst, people will apply all their imagination and skill to deal with the problem.
Today, I will speak of change, of need, but mostly of “necessity, the mother of all inventions“. as Plato – The Greek author & philosopher in Athens (427 BC – 347 BC) rightly said.
The need to eat and hence, prepare food – how much I love the process of preparing food? Well..it all started from the above quote ‘necessity, the mother of all inventions’. I was born in a traditional food loving Bengali family and most importantly, my father is a food connoisseur. It never pains him whether he has the latest car in his garage or not, but he always made sure he bought the biggest and most expensive fish from the fish mongers. And unlike other upper middle-class families, he made sure they were cooked by my Maa (Mom) and not by family chefs. Therefore, I am not very acquainted how people can eat food cooked by family chefs (baburchi).
I have been staying away from parents since I was 17, initially in the hostels and then in private accommodation and all credit goes to higher education in better structured education system. Hence, missing mom’s homemade food was quintessentially obvious. I struggled in the hostel where they used to serve primarily daal (sometimes yellow chick peas, sometimes lentils) and fried aloo (potatoes) and only once in a week they could console my starved soul by serving chicken (only one small piece). In those days I used to be chicken-hearted 😉 huh? Chicken hearted and chicken stomached also 😉 But in the last 5/6 years I have gradually slowed down eating chicken, in fact it won’t be wrong if you call me pescetarian or half-vegetarian.
The prime reason to pen down these thoughts is to say how I started getting addicted towards the skill of ‘cooking’. Away from mom’s cooked food, I realized ‘enough of struggling with hostel food’ and thus after one year I left hostel (another important reason was that I hate sharing my bathroom with ANYONE) and started living independently in a private accommodation in Delhi while studying English Honors at University of Delhi, India. This is when I made my maiden visit to the local green grocers and fish mongers. I had only four types of spices in my kitchen initially and after all these years I can now (proudly) say, ‘‘you name any herbs and spices, you will find it in my kitchen cupboard’’. Hmmm…my main target initially was to make the food look like ‘maa randhle erom dekhte lagto’ (it should at least look like the way mom prepares and the taste will be looked after later. First I should get the ‘LOOK’ right 😉 And eventually it started tasting almost like my mother’s cooked food. Like everyone else, I’m a believer that my mother cooks the best Bengali food. My dad says to me these days that ‘you travelled more places than your mother, you tasted many more delicacies from across the world than she did, so you should become a better and versatile cook than her’. I do agree on this and therefore the ‘trials are on’. I can never make ‘shorshe ilish’ (Hilsha fish in mustard paste)-a great and most probably the most popular Bengali delicacy, like the way my mother does but I can pretty confidently say that I can make it taste 80% close to what she does.
Yes, cooking is addictive. I try to experiment a lot and my guinea pig family members and friends bear with me;) My very first landlord (being a businessman) in London complimented me saying ‘I should start my own restaurant and he is there to invest in it’. No, I have no plan to do so. I am happy to be a ‘Boss man’ (that’s what he calls me when I’m in the kitchen) to my partner, not to the whole world.
People in Indian sub-continent are highly dependent on domestic aids and that makes most people living in the upper-middle class/higher class ‘not knowing how to cook’, especially girls who are English educated and coming from elite colleges and universities. I, being a product of one of these institutes still believe that I’m made for the western societal structure (where you do everything on your own) and I might be termed quite ‘domesticated’ in my ‘elite friends’ language as I know how to do all domestic works by myself and physically strong enough (to carry 10/15 kg food shopping bags easily) than many men I know around 😉 Thanks to ‘living alone’ for so long in big cities and traveling alone with excess baggage all the time. I came from a family where I was pampered enough and never made to get my glass of water to drink rather I was served every single time I asked for it. But this luxury continued till I was living with my parents. And then everything changed. How circumstances in life make you do things all by ourselves! It never surprises me. It’s a part of everyone’s growing up process, I reckon. Before, I deviate myself from the main topic of discussion, I must admit that most women (notice I only mentioned ‘women’ as majority ’men’ don’t cook in a traditional sub-continent family) in the social class I belong to, think ‘its so uncool’ to know how to cook and do domestic works. ‘‘Oh! That’s the servants’ job,’’ they will say! It’s very ‘housewife’ thing to them. I will never know what a ‘housewife’ is in my own life’, I’m born to work outside home and cook at home for me at least, if not for anyone else.
So, I enjoy this art- cooking. It is symphony of taste, aroma and colors that tickles the senses. After years of requests from friends, family members and FB friends, I finally gave in and decided to go ahead and share my interest in cooking with you all, from now on, under the category-Voracity. How this column will be different than any other typical food blog? Well.. I don’t follow recipes, I never did. So, I won’t share any structured recipes that you may expect but I’ll share how I have prepared a certain dish in my own way. And I assure you that once you are confident with your cooking, you can diversify by learning a new cooking technique or combine different ingredients. Let the imagination run wild!!!
Stay tuned, stay stunned!