Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Baking Bites

No, you havent stumbled into a recipe blog.....its just me trying to find an appropriate title for my post. Let me pour the soup out(Chicken Soup for FYI).......

When I got married at the age of 25 the total sum of my culinary knowledge was how to ruin a tea & burn chapattis. Oh yes, and how to harass ...oops sorry i meant, boil an egg.

Much as I’d love to heap the blame on my mother’s head I have to admit that it was purely my own fault. To put it very frankly, I didn’t really see a need to comprehend the art of cooking. When you have a mother who provides you with 3 meals a day & a snack or two in-between, what is the need to sweat it out in the kitchen.

Every once in a while she used to remind me very severely about how I was going to ‘suffer’ the consequences after I got married. That moment when she would say it I’d wonder whether I should be a little more concerned about the lacking of this particular skill. Then promptly dismiss it with a click of my tongue. I had better things to confuse my mind with.

Then I got married & moved away to Dubai. Armed with cookery books of various kinds(my wellwishers stuffed them into my suitcase without my knowledge) I ventured into unknown territories.

Luckily for me, my father in law was staying with us. He was very patient with me while I picked up the ropes. He was used to cooking for the 2 of them(himself & my better half) before my arrival (my MIL was in India then). Before marriage I remember asking my husband-to-be as to who did the cooking, “Both of us share the cooking” he said grandly “Papa makes the food & I eat it”.

Within a year I sort of got the hang of the basics of namely the Kerala cuisine. Even then I was not exactly fanatical about cooking. It was just a means to fill two hungry stomachs..…ok 3 hungry souls if you want to count me also.

Just once in a while, if some interesting recipe on the internet caught my eye, I would attempt it but would never follow the directions thru. I always ended up adding my own stuff into the dish & making it something different altogether.

This is probably the exact reason why none of my dishes turn out the same way each time I make it. Like, if I’ve made a Mushroom masala 25 times in these years, this same Mushroom Masala will never taste the same even once.

Then something happened. Now this can’t be termed as a momentous occasion in my life but still it brought about a renewed interest in Gastronomy. My FIL replaced the 25 yrs old cooking range(they had it from the late 1970’s….imagine) with a new one complete with oven & grill. Not that the old stove didn’t have an oven. The old oven was a deep cavity used as a storage cache. All the stuff you didn’t use but didn’t muster the courage to throw out, found its way there. So you can empathize with the lack of interest on my part. The new oven was a shiny piece of machinery which found a place in my heart. The oven and grill inspired the gourmet side of me which I never thought existed.

Well, my mother does a lot of baking. My sis & I(willingly, in this case) have helped her with the base jobs(like beating the eggs, sieving the flour & ofcourse polishing off the batter remains). So I dug out a few recipes for cakes, nothing fancy ofcourse, just the usual cocoa cake, 5 minute cake, etc. and ofcourse the Internet was a very useful tool. Now whichever cake I wanted to make I would take printouts of atleast 3 different versions of the SAME cake. And follow the method given in all 3 of them. No, its not very difficult to do once you get the hang of it. It’s just like watching 3 movies on 3 diff channels at the same time… papa is good at this.....hmm, come to think of it........ it must be hereditary.

Coming back to the topic, most of these culinary experiments materialized into maybe not ‘sublime stuff’ but like they say in English ‘quite good’ and my Guinea Pigs try their best not to look too surprised.

Every time I went on vacation my mother used to complain that she has not tasted anything I have made ‘till today’. And I retort “you come to my home and I’ll make anything you want to eat”(it was actually an excuse to avoid making a fool of myself). Now finally they have come over for a vacation & I make it a point to make dinner every night(well, almost every night). Luckily for me, everything I make comes out pretty good. My parents are quite impressed.

No really I’m not praising myself. Doesn’t it happen to you? Like, you do everything for some people it never comes out well whereas you make half an effort for some others & it just turns out brilliant. I tell this with so much confidence coz many a time, I slave over a meal when my inlaws are in town & it turns out like…….like……. ‘Ho hum..cant she try harder’ stuff whereas now, I just put together whatever I find in the fridge & kitchen shelves into a pan & saute it.......voila it’s delicious.

So coming to the preachy part of the post. Dear people, who don’t know how to cook….don’t go into depressions coz you don’t know how to brew coffee. The simplest solution is to....... marry a guy who knows(damn, here I faltered…..I fell for my husband’s worldly charms)…….and dont forget to collect the menu advertisement fliers & booklets which is slid under your door.

No, seriously, cooking is not the ‘end all’ of all things….well one must eat to survive. And cooking does come into it, in that context. But its not Rocket-science, just Permutation and Combination of Spices, Cereals, Veggies and Meat. There is no need to take tension from anybody. Come on, this is the 21st century. And if u r bad at Maths then there r other options.....I mean look around you, there's Pizza Hut, KFC, Kamat, Delhi Darbar, Chungs, Khana Khazana..............the world is your oyster.

PS:- To lend authenticity to the post I have put up 2 pictures of dishes i made in the past 2 weeks. The pic below is Roast Chicken baked to suit our Indian palate. My mom was not at all sure about the whole idea. And halfway thru the cooking we realised that 2 ingredients were missing. I just substituted with whatever was there in the kitchen. Yes, it was absolutely delicious. The kids arranged the table - that is why the glasses are standing in a queue & more than half the french fries seems to disappeared:-D.

An Apple Pie always reminds me of my trips to Kodaikanal when I was a teeenager. We used to stay in a holiday cottage where the cook made yummy desserts. And whatever the fruit of that season, was made into a pie.........yummy apple, peach and pumpkin pies. Mmmm...those were the good old days.
Before making the Apple Pie I mentally prepared myself not to be disppointed if it didnt turn out good. But it turned out better than I even hoped.


  1. U know, watching u in action all these years, I always thot that whatever u made was good. Yes I knew that u were not armed with the skills to begin with, but u subconciously always measured urself with ur mom. That is why u were so critical of urself.

    To me, u shud want to swallow what u put in your mouth. Which means it tastes good. If you spit it out, then it definitely is insipid!

    Way to go babes, u did good. Stop being so hard on urself.

  2. Ok fine.. thankfully i know cooking.. and so i can skip this post.. :-) even if my prospective wife is reading this.. lady.. dont worry.. i know how to.. just get the inspiration from this post ;-)

  3. Bins: Thank U for the support. when u have spent amost 25 yrs without much clue about the going ons in the kitchen, it takes some time for it to sink in that 'u r not bad urself';-)

    smokin joe: Thanks for visiting. Hope ur better half-to-be is reading this somewhere:-).

  4. i think 90% of women go thru this culinary crisis.. and yes, u guessed it right, am one of them..
    when i began which is like 3 yrs back i dint know how to light the gas.. no kidding.. and now i think i can cook a meal, atleast fr the two of us.. he is never given the choice of disliking it :)
    AND whata coincidence, today itself i found a cook.. after all these months:))

  5. ISH: Hehe u r right. u didnt know how to light the gas???? Gosh i'm feeling better already:-D.

    And u got a cook. Lucky girl. quite difficult to get one out here who cooks according to our palate.

  6. Hahahaha.. You know, I hate cooking too! I feel it is a waste of time. Though I enjoy washing the dishes ;)
    Yet I live to eat!!

  7. It was only moving to Abu Dhabi that inspired me to bake....the equipment & the ingredients here....baker's paradise!!! Once my marriage was fixed, mom tried to get me interested in cooking coz as she said, we couldn't live on cake alone! She tried teaching me dal....I was more interested in what was going on outside the window :D, but after marriage it was just hubby & me....& I had no choice but to learn & surprisingly grew to love cooking too!

  8. nancy!
    how did i miss this? awesome post on cooking. i now believe you are one of those cooks with the golden touch.
    more of this stuff please!

  9. lostworld: Hehe when I didnt know cooking I too used to compensate by washing dishes;-P.
    Cooking sort of grows on U. Even today I love it to eat what somebody else cooked;-D

    Shalom: Exactly...I used to love helping my mom to bake but never hung around to see how theeyal was made;-D. Since I didnt knw how to make curries I was incharge of making chappattis & puris;-P.
    Even now making the usual rice-curries doesnt really interest me but I love baking. Like u said we get all the ingredients here & so its good fun;-D

    lan: Aaah u r making fun of me;-D....seriously I'm not a gr8 cook or anything. Its just tht sometimes it comes out good & sometimes its nothing great;-P.

  10. the apple pie pic is making me drool! :D

    seriously apple pies are my fav :D:D

    I dont know how to cook (err properly that is) so this post is my balm :D:D

    as for marry one who knows how to cook..aye!aye!captn!point all duly noted :D

  11. Indyeah: Ok in tht case just gimme a day's notice if ever u come to Dubai, I'll greet u with apple pie;-D


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