Sunday, May 13, 2007

The joys of cooking

Earlier this evening, I was looking for a recipe and I stumbled on this very interesting article. The author speaks of the pleasures of cookng the old-fashioned way and vents against the western-centric, restaurant-style, efficient cooking. What can I say? I couldn't agree more. I have been cooking since age 12 and I find that the more time and effort you put into the cooking, the better it turns out. I enjoy the task because it is both interesting and relaxing. What could be better than taking an hour off to patiently chop vegetables into exactly equal pieces, making rice with exactly the right texture, grinding freshly roasted spices and cooking the way you have always seen your mother and grandmother cook? I might sound crazy when I say this, but I really and truly enjoy the task. Half the satisfaction comes from cooking right. Eating is just an extension of the pleasure.

Try as I might to recreate the dishes I cook at home with industrial vegetables from the local supermarket in Paris, or tinned vegetables that I buy for the sake of convenience, I fail every single time. My spinach sambar that turns out so delicious back home in India is an absolute disaster by my standards here. Is it the variety of spinach, the heat of the electric hot-plates, the quality of spices or my cooking style? I don't know. I can honestly say that packets of instant rasam are no match to the rasam mum makes in a vessel made of tin over a burning coal stove. My grandmother's sambar always turned out best on a similar coal stove in a stone vessel. I recognise that cooking that way is both time-consuming and energy-inefficient. But the taste makes up for the inconvenience.

The article discusses the pleasures of eating with the fingers. I still do when I eat at home. I enjoy feeling the food on my fingers. I would abandon the fork and the spoon any day for a hearty meal on a banana leaf. But well, that's just me. Maybe I am an obsessed food-lover. But, reading that article has made me hungry. And it's 1 AM. Not a good thing! So, I am going to try to sleep, all the while planning out the menu for tomorrow. I only wish there was someone other than me to eat what I cook. It is kind of boring to eat alone.

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