14 March 2016
I think I was about 12-13 years old when I started to observe my mother in the kitchen – cooking, cleaning, doing the dishes and all. That was a lot of work. Nothing about that entire process was alluring and neither was it repulsive. In my mind, then, it was what all moms did. Her life in the kitchen was important; perhaps, even essential, as all of us had to eat. Well, and who wouldn’t want some good food. A couple of years later I started cooking. Rice, curries, and some of the usual, typical south Indian dishes that we had all got addicted to. Mum was happy, Dad was proud and the rest of the family thought it was normal for a 13yr old to aspire for culinary expertise. I am not too sure on how I felt about that… again, not repulsive! So, it was good to go.
For me cooking was then a recipe:
30 mins of Mom’s time
10 mins of sheer wonder (watching the change of color of the veggies)
15 mins of appreciation from Dad and all those who included ‘praise’ in their life
and another 10mins of savoring the piece of art
A few years went by when I began experimenting with my cooking and well, mom being mom… she just knew. Cooking sautéed with research was like wine and cheese! There were times when people would pick on me for the experimentation; typically, reinforcing the idea there was only ONE road to heaven. An extra spoonful of spice (which to me was the love of my life) or a dash of more tang would give rise to comments, opinions, feedback and the works….. It didn’t impact my mom though. She would give me her smile, at times a ‘poker look’ (depending on the source of the comment) and life would resume like nothing had happened. It was just me trying to be me… and what was wrong with that? She neither defended me, nor rejected me. It was the ‘all is well” look! She seemed unruffled by the comments. Does that mean, I need to be unruffled too? Well, perhaps….works for me!
It was good! An experiment, an adventure and a total roller coaster ride which was filled with its moments of fear and happiness all bundled together. If my stove had a ‘save as’ button like in Word, well, I could have saved all those disaster recipes that I had embarked on! Well, we live and learn.
Today, when I walk into my kitchen, with the intent to experiment, there is no fear, no anxiety, and no sense of “what if.” I am proud of my “what-the-hell” attitude. It has helped me in the kitchen and outside.
Yes, outside too! The need to experiment began with my rendezvous in the kitchen. There was no stopping. There was no ulterior motive assigned to my learning the skill of cooking. It was the sheer pleasure of experiencing a skill that I was exposed to and with no assessments round the corner. I was interested in everything that constituted a kitchen, examined it, handled it, tested it, pulled it apart; with no sense whatsoever of what is valuable, fragile or even dangerous. “No, no, don’t touch that. It’s too hot, too sharp, it will hurt you, you will break it… I need it.” None of those existed. I definitely didn’t hear the “You will get married one day, you need to learn how to cook”. I haven’t yet got the co-relation of marriage and cooking; but, that is a discussion for another day altogether.
Learning is intrinsic to all that I have spoken about thus far. A child has a very strong desire to make sense of the world, to move freely in it, to do the things that she sees the bigger people do. Why can’t we use this drive to get her to understand and grow her skill? I didn’t see my mother divide fractions one by another and hence Math wasn’t a driver for me. I did see her cook and I wanted to cook too. I did, I conquered (a lot more than culinary expertise) and might I say, I am a much better person today. When I feel the anxiety of failure at work, or in relationships, I wear my apron. I have learned to experiment and deal with the fear of failure. Well, after all, there is always another recipe!!!!!Back