Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Thank You Aai. :)

It is not very easy to like everything about me. I was specifically worried about landing in an unknown land and fighting hard to be able to fit in. Fortunately my mom has taught me the most important thing that a woman ( or even a man) needs to know to be able to banish all the opposition. There have been women in my family, on my mother's side, who were known for their tempers and pinching sarcasm. Women who would expect you to be so formal in their presence that drinking tea out of a stupid china cup would be one of the most challenging tasks at hand. They were all known, almost as a rule for their extraordinary culinary talent. Everything they said to you was forgotten with the sour-sweet dal or velvety puranpoli. Even a simple tomato soup would taste like a delicacy. My mom inherits that talent ( although she is not as sarcastic) and she has been clever enough to pass some of it on genetically and through disciplined cooking lessons to me. :)

Cooking is something I truly discovered when I landed in Australia.
Everything I cook, always reminds me of my mom. I still remember the way we started out. I was reluctant and she was angry. It was around the time when I was fifteen. My "induction" into the kitchen was something I thought was a "plan" to culture me into being marriage material but it all vanished once the classes started.
Before making any elaborate Maharashtrian dish my aai used to explain to me the fundamentals of cooking. Like if we were making anything involving tamarind and buttermilk, she used to say, " You begin this by adjusting the pH of the vegetables". I used to giggle under my breath for having such a geeky mom.
She used to encourage me to imagine what I want to cook. Visualize the end result. Even when I make a simple dal, on my way back from college as I take the river-walk , I imagine what would go into it. Then I take a mental check if I have all of that in the fridge. By the time I come home I know what my dal would look like.
She used to tell me that cooking is more about creativity than just a tool for survival. You have to know instinctively what you would like to put together. Designing a menu is one of the most difficult things, but when my mother does that it looks like a ballet on ice.
If she is a chemist at work, she is an artist in the kitchen. She never uses excess oil, excess water or excess spice yet her food tastes like it was just ordered from heaven.
She can manage about five different unit processes in the kitchen without help. Then like a seasoned chef she gets everything together just fifteen minutes before the arrival of the guests.
She never gets tired of cooking. It used to amaze me a few days back but now I know how it feels to like cooking.
She taught me how to extract pepper and cloves into the oil before they are used in your preparation. She taught me how to handle saffron and make saffron flowers on rasmalai. She taught me the principle behind making good tea ( which was taught to me in the form of a mathematical formula in mass transfer years later).
She taught me how to be patient while the ground-nuts roast on the pan. Or how to add lemon at the very last moment to save it from a heat shock. :)
She taught me to experiment and ( more importantly) to clean up after each experiment.
She taught me to cook with a lot of love in my heart for it is the only secret ingredient she has never told anyone else about!

So now even though I have certain inherent shortcomings as a person, I know that people would always put up with me because I cook well. :)


RagingMars said...

Oh! I agree with every word in there!!
First and foremost ur Aai is an amazing cook! :)
This principle of "imagine how the end result will be" is I guess the most important part in cooking! And not just imagine the final result but also identify the taste of each spice that goes in it to make something thats "balanced spicy" neither too spicy nor too bland..
My aji used to do that too! When she was a kid,she had to cook for her Dad n herself and she had no one to teach her. She knew almost nothing of cookin. She told me that "I used to close my eyes and think how that particular vegetable tastes and then work my way towards that taste!"

But u kno,the most important ingredient of any dish is... love :)
As I kid I used to wonder how my Aai and aji could manage to refrain from eatin something wonderful they made... at times,if their calculations went wrong they used to offer all that to us without havin it themselves..
But today when I cook somethin with love and people eat it n like it,my tongue doesnt yearn for that dish..coz my tummy is already full :)

I could write more... but this is already too big :| (and I'm already known for writing too huge comments.. :|)

Vasudha said...

Dear Sai
I liked your blog very much.Your skills as a writer are much more high quality than those of my cooking.I realized about your digestion capacity (with respect to learning and implementing.Your appreciation about my cooking reminded me the happiness when I got my Ph.D.
Thanks a lot----

शिरीष said...

hay Sai,
Good to see you back on Purple Moon!
This is really good! Ameya and Vasudha have already put up what has to be said.
Sai your Aai is a wonderful cook but also a creative teacher and you are a n ideal student who has picked up what the teacher expects to pick up.
You both are unique pair of teacher and a student.
Your introduction is simply great about the women you encountered on your Mom's side which ends with a beautiful sentence " they said to you was forgotten with the sour-sweet dal or velvety puranpoli."

सई चांगला स्वयंपाक हा लोकांच्या पोटात शिरण्याचा उत्तम मार्ग आहे.(अस कोणीतरी म्हंट्ल आहे!)
That is why people will always put up with you.
Congratulations for writing such a masterpiece!

Alien said...

Hey... dinner for us if we visit down under?

Saee said...

@ Ameya, should write a blog yourself. :P
@ aai-baba
You have started haunting my blog is a bit scary :P
@ Alien
Anytime!! Just pick a dessert. :)

शिरीष said...

Sai dont be scary! You write the way you write as it is really beautiful.You can say we two are now your fans!

RagingMars said...

*sigh* I knew u would say that!!
Thats why I did not write more!! :P

Prajakta said...

Hey Saee!

I have been a regular reader of your blog. The text is well written , your vocabulary is terrific and what impresses me the most is that you have a knack to make your posts engaging.
Khoop chaan lihites!
And you definitely have a fan here! :)