Yesterday a Dutch colleague of mine asked me how to make Indian food as his wife wanted to cook Inidan food. He wanted an Indian recipe book or an Indian website with lots of Indian Recipes. I gave him a name of few Indian sites. The reason he came to me was he believed that I was a good cook. Currently I am helping the couple with the ingredients name and cooking.
My tryst with cooking started when I was in the seventh Standard. I remember my life not in the age at that time but by what I was doing at that time. My Papa was a horrible cook. Mom used to cook all the time. But on those rare occasions when mom used to go out and did not make any food, Papa use to take the role of the cook.
My father had never ventured beyond making tea. Most of the time, it was the next-door neighboring aunty who use to send food. But when Papa refused to ask for help, then only god could save us. He use to make normal food like dal, chapattis and rice. However, the dal was half-cooked, the rice was over cooked and the chapattis were hard and like papads.
In my seventh standard when I was about to attend a Scout camp, we were told that we had to cook our own food over a fire. One day before the camp, I learned the basic steps of cooking. It took almost 6 hours to cook rice and dal. The end product was khicdi. The food was bad, but we still manage to get first prize for cooking. I am scared to imagine what others must have eaten.
I tried a few more times at cooking after which I was the standby cook for the house. Making only Dal, Rice and occasionally chutney, my culinary skills never developed beyond the point. I use to cook only when mummy was not at home. When mummies used to threaten us that she was going to stay with her parents, I was not afraid. I could cook.
In a house with only one female, me as a cook was welcomed. But I use to rarely cook. After I started my job, it completely stopped until I came to Netherlands.
The first three months or so, my roomy did not allow me to cook at all. This was fine by me. Staying alone in a foreign country makes everybody invite each other for dinner. There is a saying, which goes as if you are pushed in the water, you will learn to swim.
And so one day after staying almost three months in Amsterdam and having the responsibility of cooking rice in the microwave, I one day decided that my roomies should eat chapattis. I am not so comfortable with dough. So it was trial and error when I poured more water and to compensate I had to put more flour which was a little too much and to compensate again I had to put the water. Get the picture?
I had so much dough with me that we could make chapattis for another 4 days. It took me 3 hours to make chapattis, which were of different shapes, sizes and thickness. My roomies had no concern for my efforts and they eat only six chapattis between them. How unappreciative! Ok there were a little thick here and there. Ok they were also a little burnt here and there. Ok I admit that they were a little uncooked here and there. But they should have seen the pain, the efforts I had gone through. The next day the whole dough was in the garbage bag.
From that day onward, I started cooking regularly. Learning by mistakes. Remembering my mother cooking. It was not until I came back to Amsterdam last October and I moved to Vijay’s house, that my culinary skills took off in a big way. My roomy use to come late and instead of just waiting for him, I decided to take things in my own hands literally.
By the time Aman moved in with me, I was a decent cook. Now I am confident of my cooking and have a fair idea of the type, and quantity of ingredients I put in. Most of my so-called expertise can be credited to Vijay. Vijay is an excellent cook. He takes many efforts and put his heart into cooking. He likes it when his cooking is appreciated. We even tried a couple of different dishes following menus. We mostly never do that. We add ingredients as we feel like.
Almost every evening we two cook. I have learnt a lot about cooking from him. Actually we are very proud of our cooking. Its also true that I manage to learn only those things which I like to eat. What wrong with a little selfishness? It is also true that it took me to stay away from home to learn cooking. Now I think everyone should know atleast basic cooking to survive.