My introduction to cooking
The act of cooking is a soothing experience that has gripped me since my childhood. I remember the first dish I cooked was benDekaayi palya (sauteed ladies’ finger, bhinDi masaala). I was 9 years old then. It was also the occasion when I got my first certificate in cooking – my mom’s approval that the palya turned out well. Today, I experiment with various dishes and feel happy about the innovations I make in the kitchen.
Cooking and life – the connection
As I was cooking today, I reflected on how the process of cooking and life are interconnected. Let me break down my thoughts for you.
The drive for cooking is hunger. Every achievement in life is also driven by hunger, isn’t it? So, if we are hungry our system will drive us towards the right source and initiates that next step – choice. The choice of the food we want to eat is equivalent to the life we want to have.
Choice of food:
Based on our background and environment we live in; we choose the kind of food we want to eat. Either we go with our family practices or try the dish of our own liking. Most of the time, people around us have a say in what we eat or what we should eat. Now, depending on our age (kids to teenagers to adults) our response to these suggestions or advice varies.
Similarly, in life a lot of people say a lot of things about our life choices, but we choose what to take and what to ignore. Some make choices driven by family and loved ones and some others make their own paths.
Selecting the ingredients:
Once the choice is made, then the process of selecting the ingredients begins – regular or offbeat. The choice of ingredients for cooking depends on our personality.
Let me elaborate: if you are a “quick-turnaround-dish” person, then you will choose ingredients that are quick to cook – potatoes, onions, tomatoes. You would not choose pumpkin or bitter gourd – which need more time and elaborate processes. The choice of ingredients also depends on economic status. Budgetary constraints can direct grocery shopping as well as life choices. In addition to these, the cooking environment also plays a role. If we know we will have family and friends with us during the cooking process, we will alter our choices accordingly. Lastly, whether we are cooking for ourselves or for a social gathering will influence our choice.
The cooking process – the journey
- Preparing the ingredients – Involves the choice of right tools, develops body dexterity, and teaches us to be aware of the consequences if we don’t pay attention
- Selection of the vessel – The idea of how much we need and how much we can handle. Too small a vessel, there isn’t enough room for optimal cooking. Too big a vessel, a lot of heat energy is wasted. The right size of the vessel for the amount of ingredients is a key factor.
- Selection of spices – Whether it’s a meal for one or a dinner party, the flavour of the food is what remains in the memory. We need to choose spices wisely.
Time available for cooking – The major ingredient of life
Cooking takes its own time. This needs to be factored into the plan. No matter how well planned we might be, there may be delays. We need to be aware and allow for some flexibility in the interest of the quality of the cooked dish. If we are in too much of a hurry, the dish might not taste so well. If we are too late, the people will lose interest in eating. We need to strike the right balance between serving quality food to the audience at the right time.
In today’s world the distractions, focus is a premium characteristic. If we lose focus before starting, then there is a delay. If we lose focus while cooking, then the dish is over cooked or burnt or spoilt or any other numerous mishaps. So, watch out for time on your watch and stay focussed on cooking.
The cooking phenomenon
When all the previous steps are in place, we start with lighting the stove (passion) and the right vessel on the flame (idea). With the right ingredients in place and added in the right order (processes, people), the cooking phenomenon takes its course (execution). Likewise, in life, the sequence of events matters in leading up to the desired outcome.
We must keep a regular watch to ensure a desirable outcome to the effort we have put in. A slight negligence can burn the food or over enthusiasm can result in an undercooked dish. This act of finding the right time to close the dish or end our cooking comes with practice. Therefore, in life it is good to fail fast and learn faster. This means that the next time we cook, we have a better dish.
Cooking takes time and at the end it is all worth it if the food is served to our satisfaction. Having lower expectations on the quality of our cooking is not helpful if we want to be better at the art. In life, being okay with mediocrity will get us more mediocrity. In cooking and in life the ultimate satisfaction is if our cooking effort can feed a few more mouths and satisfy their hunger. So always have someone with you at the dining table and by your side in life.
Final step – the clean-up
After every meal the labour of cleaning the table and dishes is a very important lesson on completing the task and getting ready for the next one. All materials in their assigned places and a clean kitchen is a welcoming sight for a new day tomorrow.
Cooking is an art that includes many lessons for life. So, it is important to teach our kids the art of cooking and make them better cooks in life and of life. It will help them make decisions, choose the right direction, be meticulous in their tasks, finish the task with a desired outcome and make place for themselves and for others to succeed in life. It will help them understand that their life is interwoven with the choices and decisions of other fellow beings. It will make better humans out of our children.
Every individual who has indulged in cooking to any extent will have taken away a meaningful learning experience. I for one, thank my mom and dad for teaching me how to cook and my wife for teaching me how to clean!