It was not until attending my 2nd year in college ( +2 final year) that I seriously pondered on the fact that I should at least know how to cook. I know, what you all must be thinking! How can someone think about this so late? Well, I don’t have an answer to that. All I know is, I had never been made to believe at home, that I needed to cook because I am a girl. Yes, there were relatives who used to remark, but then as they say, relatives are relatively always better far off. So, I would maintain my whole-hearted distance to their opinions. I never let those enter even my one ear, forget about putting those out from another.
However, during my second year, I had a close group of friends and we gradually started inviting each other home. And one of them was very homely, in her appearance & in her mannerisms as well. A complete opposite of what I was, you can say. Well, I was just like Anjali in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai ( ahem, ahem) and let me stress the fact that, I am talking about Anjali in the first half of the movie. I used to almost always wear jeans & tops and even if on one day I wore traditional wear meant for women, I felt a little uncomfortable and my friends would just tease me saying that, “Omg where did this girl appear all of a sudden ! ” I sported short hair all the time. Well, I need not mention it, though.
So, coming back to the topic, this friend of mine invited all of us to her house for lunch and that day she had herself prepared everything . The way she had garnished it looked so tempting and it took me a while to grasp the fact that, someone of my age was so pro in a skill that I hardly knew.
My, mother being an amazing cook always made it seem so easy to prepare one dish after another. You would be wondering, then why did I not think the same, seeing my mom! But for me, cooking was what moms do. And I was and I still am very proud and fortunate that my mother cooks amazing dishes and the interesting fact is, she does it even if there is a lack of one ingredient. So, my mom cooking food never really caught my attention.
On that day, the shock factor was seeing my friend cook a full three course meal, all by herself! That is the moment, when I decided to learn this skill with my heart only to realize later how difficult and nuanced this life skill is. My first venture was into the arena of vegetable dishes post which I took up the challenge to cook non-veg meals. My mother herself was amused to see my newfound interest to spend time in the kitchen and on some days she would ask, if I was all well health wise to show interest in cooking !
Long story short, I learned to cook. I can almost cook a lot of dishes. But I never enjoyed it. I tried but, I just could not. I do not despise it, though. I do not know if it is my genes or what, I hardly remember a day when the dish that I had prepared had tasted bad / salty / unworthy of being called food/ having excessive sweetness etc. Somehow, I have been able to cook decent items that tasted good. I also love, when I serve my prepared items and it always felt surreal to garner praise for what I cook. Having said all that, I can never admit that I enjoy the process of cooking. It always feels like a task, to be done with and once done, I feel relieved to have done it. But, there is one anomaly, if there is a special occasion and if loved ones visits home, I love cooking and feeding them on that day. But my feelings towards cooking become the same, the next day.
So, currently I have got this assignment of cooking daily and it already feels like a challenge. The moment I step into the kitchen, I feel as if the gas stove, the utensils & even the masala dabbas wink at me and are all set to tease me saying, ” Ohhh look, who is here! Will she fail today or will she pass? Should we all assist her or should we all gang up to her. I feel these conversations happening around me. And till date, I have emerged victorious. And everytime, I walk out of the kitchen, after preparing food , having cleaned the cabinet, I feel like I should just pull up my own collars and do a little victory dance accompanied by whistling( though I could never learn to whistle, which I had tried a lot to learn in my teenage years; it always feels like I blow out air rather than producing any sound).
And yes, there was a brief phase in my life, when I looked forward to cooking and preparing the best meal even after a very hectic work-day accompanied with a lot more hectic travel. But somehow, my efforts never garnered that kind of appreciation or even a little affection from people for whom it was being prepared day after day. So, that somehow also had a rub-off effect on me as well.
I feel proud of myself that, at the end of the day I have learnt to cook, can experiment, prepare dishes without fancy ingredients and somewhere my dishes do carry a tiny little touch of my mother’s style of cooking. On a broader aspect I feel cooking is a life skill and as per me is genderneutral. Men can enjoy it and women can dislike it and vice versa and that is completely normal. I think, we as a society are always biased at assigning genders to even tasks and cooking has always been associated with women and sometimes also becomes their character certificate! As strange as it can sound, yes it does happen.
So, having written all this, I can hear the pressure cooker singing in the kitchen, calling for my attention, which I just can not ignore!
So, what is your story wrt cooking? Share with me and I would be so glad to know.