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. :)