Long long ago, like any other normal child and teenager, I would refuse to eat anything healthy and leafy, until threatened with dire consequences. Or unless the alternative was starvation. “Eat it! Else the contents of your plate will be generously slathered over your head!” was a regular fatwa issued in our household. The contents being any non-carb-vitamin-rich vegetable dish on the indian food plate. I was not a rebellious child at all. I would meekly follow suit and try my best to finish off my plate for the next few hours or so, long after everyone else had finished (and digested) their meals and were ready for the next one. Much to the frustration of the poor mother, on verge of tears, getting late for work and worrying about her child missing the school bus yet again!
As a young adult I never stepped into my parents’ kitchen to make anything except for tea and maggi noodles. Much to the disapproval of some well wishers who would at every opportunity educate the mother on how it is important for a young girl to learn how to cook. How difficult it would be otherwise when she gets married. Dear mother never really took it to heart, but would sometimes mumble to me and the brother.”You both should know how to cook. It is an important life skill.” With that she would return to her regular business of being the supermom and we returned to our regular business of TV watching or staring into nothingness.
And then I discovered the kitchen. As a young bride in a foreign land of USA starting a new life, managing house for the first time, my enthusiasm knew no bounds. Armed with a plethora of cookbooks gifted by kind relatives, and a gullible and (then) smitten new husband, I would spend 4-5 hours each day trying to cook a meal for two. I discovered that the kitchen it itself is a functioning enterprise and you need to implement an effective ERP system and apply the principles of inventory and supply chain management to keep your (and others’) stress levels in check. Sometimes the hard way.
There are legendary stories of my making a shahi tukda that nobody could chew and using citric acid (an ingredient used to give a tangy taste) for salt, and wondering why the curry tastes super sour. I once alarmed the grocery store attendant (who might have thought of calling the cops) by asking him for citric “acid” to put in my food.
For the first couple of years I experimented with cooking and eating (out) not just Desi food, but a variety of fancy firangi cuisine. I learnt the art of cooking the very homely marathi comfort foods courtesy phone calls and emails to the two moms (mine and his) and of course Ruchira . (This is the bible of maharashtrian cooking. Generations of “Sugrihinis” of the typical marathi families swear by this book ). I remember wrinkling my nose and rolling my eyes over this archaic book initially, but found myself pulling out cheat notes from it. I also tried italian dishes, baked goodies, desserts and pies. (Ok pie – the singular) I drew inspiration and advice from some braveheart culinary expert members of family and friends. My efforts and culinary skills were highly appreciated by the hubby (obviously) and local friends and family (surprisingly).
I was all gung-ho to try out different restaurants, Italian, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Japanese etc. Unfortunately dear hub did not exactly share my enthusiasm. Having lived away from home for a major part of his life for education and work, he yearned (yes, yearned) for home cooked food. Much to his dismay, though, my adventurous nature started weighing over my desire to cook the “gharguti” (homely) meals. “Bhaji Poli” or “Khichadi and Kadhi” would draw the same delightful response of approval from him, (a hard core vegetarian), that “Pad Thai” or “Lasagna” would get from me. So our household witnessed many a tug-of-war negotiations and craftily crafted arguments in favor of and against eating out on many many evenings. The outcomes sometimes going in my favor, sometimes in his, depending upon the capacity and interest of each individual to throw or withstand a tantrum that day.
Now after 11 years of seasoned marriage, and 2 kids later we are at peace with each other’s preferences. Dear dottie is mamma’s girl and sonny boy takes after his father in terms of food preferences. I had to pack parathas for the boys on our trip to HK on Malaysian air, while us girls delightfully polished off the chicken and salmon meals – both our own and the boys’. She is an easy child to take anywhere in the world and is adventurous to try out different things. Sonny boy, however wants to go to a restaurant for all the fan fare but refuses to eat anything there except for the sweet. Once we return from the restaurant, and when I am in my blissland enjoying the weekend afternoon siesta after a hearty buffet and kababs at Barbecue Nation he stands in front of me at a safe distance and demands food very loudly.
But anyway, thanks to our R2I, we have plenty of restaurant options to please all our palates (desi and bidesi, veg and non veg) and most importantly we have *drumrolls* “the cook”. A valuable backup plan of comfort food at home, and peace in the house.
For my dear readers (who are still reading and have reached this point), who now know this background, its a stage set for a part II of this post. (Huh, did I hear some grumblings and oh nos? I must be hallucinating). I will try my best to get around to it – and make a real point about my food adventures. Watch this space. It is coming soon.