Saturday, April 19, 2008

I now pronounce thee Man and Cook. (you may now kiss the bride)

How Indian Homemaker learnt to enjoy cooking...

When I started writing a reply to Alankritas comment where she 'wondered at people who trained their daughters to grow up and get married' I found my reply was getting even longer than my usual long comments, *sheepish grin* ... I went on and on, remembering, rambling... There’s something so wonderful about sharing the stories of your growing years. ...the pleasure of talking about the powerful hands that were rocking our cradles; buying us “Amar Chitra Katha’, Enid Blyton, Nandan, Tintin and Parag; hands that insisted we needed a hair cut when we were dreaming of competing with Rapunzel; hands that talked about giving in and compromising, but fought to make us strong...my mother could confuse!

My mother did not say marriage was not a priority, she said she will not raise us to be ‘traditional’ wives, and 'they will find us' suitable husbands.
She was unconventional in a confused, inconsistent way, using tradition as and when it worked for her. As a teenager I had no interest in cooking, eating or in anything to do with food or kitchen. My mother showed me an article in a women’s magazine, it cribbed (in 1980) about how modern girls do not like to cook. The article said it was the mothers’ responsibility to make sure their daughters learnt to cook, because no matter how successful or modern she became, a girl eventually had to cook. It was just the sort of stuff you would expect from such a magazine. I wrote an angry letter to the magazine, and to my surprise they published it. My mother saw it before I did, and was delighted to see my name in print. She was convinced with my written logic, or maybe she thought if the magazine published it, it couldn’t be so wrong. Her half hearted efforts at ‘compelling’ her daughters to train to become good wives and daughters in law ended right there.

To the horror of some aunties, I did not even know one 'dal' from another. I was not proud of it, anymore than I was proud of despising Physics and Maths. But unlike Physics and Maths, cooking seemed sacred. It bothered me, but it did not make me enter the kitchen. People’s response never bothered my mom though. One of her lines was "This is the time for books and learning, if she is smart she will earn enough to hire a cook when the time comes. And do you think we will marry her off to someone who only wants a cook, then maybe we should train them to fetch water from the well also, who knows what future holds for them?"

I thought my mother was just being typically loyal to her children, she made many conflicting statements. She could not even dream of us not getting married, but she did insist that what mattered was not how like a perfect daughter in law a girl was brought up, but how the parents find the right kind of husband for her.

For all this talk, she was still scandalised when she first saw my new husband make tea. To be honest, so was I. In my family, men never entered the kitchen.

I was even more horrified when we were barely married for a month and my husband announced that two of his bachelor friends had invited themselves for dinner that evening. Why didn’t he ask me first? Now I was going to be laughed at, everybody would know I couldn’t cook. My brand new husband explained that he couldn’t tell them not to come without being rude. They were not coming to eat a gourmet meal, they just wanted to meet us and have some simple, home cooked food. More importantly, he assured me that after a few drinks nobody knew what they were eating, he also helped me plan a Menu. That was easy, I only knew how to make Butter Chicken and how to boil rice. I had a brilliant maid Polamma who had assured me she could make perfect chapattis, (my only condition for employing her) turned out whenever I asked her to make chapattis, she couldn’t understand what I was saying!





I just had the whole day to make an impression on our first guests. I opened my folder of Femina clippings, browsed through Sumit Mixi recipe book and my all time favorite – and at the time brand new, Lalita Ahmed wondering if liquor did really have that effect on human taste buds.

Polamma insisted dosa would go very well with Butter Chicken and stuffed Capsicum, but for that, the batter required fermentation, so she decided she would contribute to the cause with her uthappa, Sambhar and coconut chutney. I had seen Stuffed Capsicum cooked at home, and for this elaborate stuffing my husband helped me chop onion before leaving for work. So finally (the now famous amongst friends and family) menu was ready –

Starters

Cocktail Idlis (made without fermenting the batter), served with coconut chutney both made by Pollamma.

Open sandwiches – chicken (from butter chicken) mixed with mayonnaise (mayonnaise recipe from Sumit Mixi recipe book)

Cheese and Pineapple – cubed

Cauliflower florets, button mushroom, carrots, courgettes served with ‘Pink Lady Dip’ (from Femina, Recipe: mayonnaise mixed with ketchup, any ratio)

Dinner

Butter Chicken (IHM’s favourite then, and the only contribution)

Sambhar (Pollamma’s)

Stuffed Capsicums (mashed boiled potato, chopped onion and pepper stuffing, a joint effort)

Boiled rice (Pollamma)

Uttappa ( Pollamma’s last minute rescue)

Coconut chutney (entirely by Pollamma)

Egg Curry (Another Pollamma creation, cooked with tamarind, never cooked or eaten like that, before or after.)

Dessert

I can’t believe but I have forgotten. Was it custard (Weikfield with easy to follow recipe given on the cover) or was it Gajar ka halwa (made with Milkmaid, easy to follow recipe given on the cover)? Husband can’t remember either!

Our guests, the two bachelors, were thorough gentleman about the unusual menu, unusually cooked. (My husband insists they were not being gentlemanly they were grateful for a home cooked meal. He had been in their shoes.) After that first dinner they ate at our place often, and they and many other friends were welcomed several times a week. They became the guinea pigs for my newest passion, the unbelievably delightful, COOKING. Recipes were shared. We tried many kinds of omelette's, (yes, I could not even cook THAT till then). I was given the never forgotten mantra that ‘all dals taste good, if the tarka is good’.

I couldn’t believe I could actually cook. I wrote long letters home but although my siblings acknowledged my new talent, my parents still think my husband is one accommodating sweetheart!

The moral of the story is:

1.) Cooking is no big deal, can be a lot of fun, if the learner is enjoying the experience. I made sure both my kids enjoy cooking.

2.) Cooking has nothing to do with getting married. It’s a useful skill, just like driving, and everybody, across genders, benefits from knowing how to feed themselves well.

3.) If the food is not good, get the guests drunk :)


24 comments:

Alankrita said...

Your Mom's comments about "fetching water" reminds me of what my ather used to say"Shaadi hi karni hai bade hokar, to darja 8 tak padhna bahut hai"... It was a sort of a standing joke in ur family- when anyone mentioned"ladki ki shaadi karni hai" for anyone- my cousins, my friends... the response would be a "wink wink.. class 8"...
:D

Sraikh said...

I married young and didnt know one dhal from the other as well. But I learnt and now I am decent cook(I think).
My dh on the other hand, is an excellent cook. I know its surprising, but he makes elaborate achars and chutneys, he grinds and ferments batter for idli, dosa and uttapam(the dosa with onions in them) He makes Barja ka roti for our youngest who is severly allergic to wheat.
Weekends, he makes upma, poha and what not.

All my desi friends think I am the luckiest person because I have a dh who can cook. But the thing is,because he cooks well, he critizes my Indian cooking. So my answer to that was, either you eat what I cook or you cook itself and make extra for me. We just celebrated our 10th wedding anniv so that formula was worked well.

Goodness talk about a rambling comment

churningthewordmill said...

i like the way you have written the "moral of the story" :) also loved the pictures.

my mom always maintained that all kids-irrespective of gender, needed to learn essential life skills. cooking was just one of the skills i was taught. just like i was taught to drive, save and invest money,do household chores etc etc.there was just no getting around these things. back then i used to wonder why i was the only kid who had to learn EVERYTHING.i appreciate the effort my parents put in now.
talking of cooking,i hv learnt most of my cooking by observing my mom/grandmom and by experimenting in the kitchen. and yes, cooking can be loads of fun.:)

Swati said...

Too glad to find this blog..since I loved your post.

So much similiar to my story , in how my mom would save me from the society and then how I learnt and enjoyed cooking after wedding. will do a post on my first cooking after wedding :)

Imp's Mom said...

lol...hehehe so true..cooking is no big deal, if the learner and the teacher are enjoying the experience :)

like one of my grand ma says, "why bother to force the girls to get into the kitchen let them have fun, anyways after their marriage they will learn. If my daughter who didn't even know how to boil water can cook today after marriage anybody can do it! " This is said to my mum and aunts after they cribbed that we were too busy to enter the kitchen to learn cooking :P

Homecooked said...

This was good.Even I developed a liking for cooking after I got married and recently for baking! You have a great memory to remember the menu for that evening so many years ago!

Roop Rai said...

:)) Got me smiling. Actually, my mum always tried to make me learn to cook but both of us had such an ego-clash that we couldn't stay in the same room for more than a minute. She had no patience with me and I didn't with her. So, I never learnt. hmm I'll write a blog about it rather than filling your comment space. will be back with my story. Thanks for a great idea!! :) lovin the photos.

dipali said...

Tagged!

Wireless said...

Hello. This post is likeable, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations :-). I will add in my blogroll =). If possible gives a last there on my blog, it is about the Wireless, I hope you enjoy. The address is http://wireless-brasil.blogspot.com. A hug.

choxbox said...

LOL! i started to seriously cook only after i moved out of india. the making of the first diwali feast here was a 4 hr long venture with a gant chart to schedule the various processes :) now i can whip up a meal for 20 people with zero notice.

Indian Home Maker said...

alankrita Sad how we'll be made to be tolerant to prepare us for the worst or given all the pampering in case tis is all the happiness we might find, who knows what happens when we go to our 'own house'!Why not just raise us well adjusted and strong, to face whatever life brings, like any other gender?

Indian Home Maker said...

sraikh Lol!But I must join your Indian friends and say, lucky you :)
btw maybe he has a strong Taurus or Cancer.My husband cooks too, and while I think he's just okay my kids and he himself LOVE his cooking.

Indian Home Maker said...

Mandira My children are also being raised the way you have been raised. They both can feed themselves...and if required others too:)

Indian Home Maker said...

Swati looking forward to your post:)

Indian Home Maker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Indian Home Maker said...

Wireless Thanks :)

choxbox how much fun and how easy it is when we love doing it:)

Indian Home Maker said...

Imp's mom Something as creative as cooking has to be enjoyed to get good results!

Homecooked Lol, yes, it was an event for me, first dinner I ever hosted! Do you know I might have the details jotted down somewhere...

roop rai Do write a post on it, looking forward to reading it :)

Dipali Thanks :) Just finished one tag and now I am gleefully rubbing my hands for some more ME TALK!

Thought Room said...

Hi

I just visited your blog space while doing random blog time pass. I like the way you express yourself, and hope you dont mind me being a frequent visiter. I personally hate cooking, even after 5 years of marriage, before which I alternated between home cooking, and eating out. I am new to the whole concept of bloging, and would love it if you could find time to visit my page. It is http://thoughtroom-whatsnext.blogspot.com/
cheers
Minkz

Indian Home Maker said...

Visited your blog, loved it:) Added you to my blog roll.
Cooking is a useful skill, but frankly it isn't a big deal. It's like I survived for years without being able to drive! And I have friends who pay bills/transfer money etc without the internet. It's just a little inconvenient.

mathew said...

loved this post..but dosa with chicken what an idea..hehehe..

Indian Home Maker said...

Mathew I was just so excited that there were 'so many dishes' on the table. If somebody had sent some 'khichdi' I would have gladly added that too!

chandni said...

sounds like my story!!! Have u read my post on cooking??

While I am no seasoned cook yet, I enjoy it much to my surprise and have willing guinea pigs in the the husbad as well as friends!

phoenixritu said...

Very nice post and it brought back memories of my parents' ambivalent stand too. They wanted me to have a career - but did not want me to be too brilliant and make it difficult for them to get me a suitable husband. BTW I am linking this post to a similar one on my blog

phoenixritu said...

http://phoenixritu.wordpress.com/2008/03/21/of-mothers-and-daughters/

Sorry I closed the window without giving you a link to my post