The list of homemade food that I have been making has steadily grown over the past few years. From homemade yogurt and dosai batter, I have graduated to making ghee, milgai podi, pickles of different kinds, paneer, hummus, ginger garlic paste, thiratti paal,banana bread, muffins, and I even experimented with making regular bread once or twice this summer.
I don’t think of myself as a passionate cook. However, I have finally figured out what motivates me to cook. I like knowing what ingredients go into the food that we eat. I like to make things from scratch without any pre-processed ingredients. I believe in eating clean, eating right (that we generously eat junk is a story for another day). I love understanding the properties of individual ingredients, the chemistry that develops when they come together and how they influence the taste, texture, smell and look of the finished meal. I love problem solving for missing ingredients. My kitchen is the place I am most spontaneous. When I have guests over, I put a lot of thought into planning and prepping my meals so I can offer them dishes that they like, avoid things they do not like, without having to spend all my time in the kitchen.
It only took me 15 years to evolve from a clueless cook in denial to a mindful one who has accepted her role as a primary provider of meals. Most of this evolution comes from seeing and talking to passionate cooks.
As a child I was a finicky eater. I didn’t/don’t eat curd, a blasphemy for folks in my clan. I ate very selected vegetables and for the longest time, I ate food only if it was hot. But even for me, I am pleasantly surprised by how much of my childhood memories is associated with food. Hot hot venpongal with gotsu during puratasi sanikizhamai, onion vatha khozhambu and potato roast on Sundays, mango milk shakes and custards during summer, thakkali thokku and vengai sambar. Thank you amma not only for working around my finicky taste buds and cooking simple flavorful food but also for being on call when I have a cooking crisis. And of course, for regaling me with Venkatesh Bhat recipes!
Laksh, food is probably the least discussed topic in our conversations. But your conviction about how food is a medicine and how much love you pour into making meals for your family has mostly certainly rubbed on me. Thank you for sharing your passion and for introducing us to cheese dosai and heart shaped dosai for breakfast. They have become a staple in our house.
I am also greatful to my friend P from college. I love the little tricks and tips that she shares with me during our weekend calls. Many of my cooking adventures are sparked by the seeds she plants in my head. “Oil is friend and water is enemy for cast iron”, “Just put a karandi and let the milk boil, thiratti paal is easy to make” Or the way she tells how much she likes chopping vegetables or rolling chapatis. I have learnt to see cooking from a different lens, thanks to her.
Last but not least, I am thinking of my maternal grandma fondly as I type this post. She cooked up a storm every time we went. Oh how many varieties of sevais she made in one go (paruppu, ellu, thengai, lemon, velam, curd! ). Wow, patti, just wow! I just wish I had understood that cooking for her was an expression of love. That the only way she knew to shower love was by laboring in the kitchen. Thank you patti, thank you, for loving, caring and cooking.