My penchant for cooking is something that happened over many years. While growing up, I always saw my mother in the kitchen from morning to evening, making something or the other, catering to the taste buds of every family member on an individual basis. I was always fascinated how something could be made without exact measurements and yet turn out to be perfect every single time. Unfortunately, I have never been able to replicate the exact taste of a dish my mother makes, and strangely she feels the same way about her own mother and grandmother.
My first memory of myself in the kitchen is when I was nine. I had gone for the summer holidays to visit my maternal grandmother and her extended family in Allahabad. My mother’s paternal uncles’ wives are all excellent cooks. One day while visiting Asha Mami, I decided to sit near her and watch her make pooris. She was rolling our pooris and frying them on an “angeethi”. My mother was busy chatting with all her cousins. I looked over my shoulder and asked Asha Mami if I could slide the pooris in the oil. She smiled and showed me how to and I confidently picked up a rolled out poori. As I was about to slide it in the hot oil, I heard my mother’s voice yell out “Arey!!!! What are you doing???? You will get burnt!!”. Startled, I suddenly let go of the poori and it fell in the hot oil with a messy splash, drops of hot oil all over the angeethi, floor, on my right arm and right cheek! Asha Mami was shocked and started crying out of guilt for letting me burn myself. My mother was crying thinking my face was disfigured and I would never get married. And I was crying because I hurt!!! The burn marks on my hand were superficial and soon were unnoticeable. The one on my right cheek lasted for more than 20 years…..a visible mark well into my thirties. Although it’s funny that even though I clearly saw it, no one else ever seemed to noticed it unless I pointed it out! It’s gone today, but every time I see myself in the mirror closely, I smile at the memory of my first experience in the kitchen!
Years passed by, and I don’t remember being particularly interested in helping my mother out in the kitchen till I was forced to by fate. Being promoted to Professorship when I was in 10th grade, my father invited his seniors at work for dinner. Just as luck would have it, my mother was bedridden with Dengue fever. Unable to get up, she begged my father to postpone the dinner. Being from the old school where one’s word was paramount, he refused to do so. My poor mother had no choice but to guide me from her bed on all the dishes that were supposed to be on the menu. I remember making dahi vada, stuffed okra (lady finger), mattar paneer, aloo gobhi, Bihari kachaurhi and gajar mattar ka pulao. My father’s seniors and their wives appreciated the food a lot, but somehow I thought they were being nice, since it was me who had cooked everything. Regardless, my confidence and interest in cooking was rekindled from that day forward, and there has been no looking back since. Cooking became a passion for me over the years, and to this day, still is. Of course there are times when I am stumped for what to cook for dinner or lunch, especially when everyone gets bored of my cooking and has different tastes. These are the times, when I turn to my mother, grandmother, sister, friends and the internet for new recipes. My family has been pleasantly surprised with new dishes, and I have heaved a huge sigh of relief in my times of despair.
This blog is dedicated to all these wonderful women in my life, who have inspired me to cook. Some recipes have been passed down through friends and family and are originals, while others are modified. Then there is the occasional recipe that was developed out of experimentation, and with luck, turned out pretty good. I truly hope you enjoy reading my blog and recipes, and get inspired to try new dishes in your kitchen. After all, good cooking is all about inspiring others to cook!