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My tryst with cooking....
Reminiscence

My tryst with cooking....

Durgadas P.V.

In my humble opinion, cooking is an art which should be mastered by all without any gender bias. In the traditional Indian families of yesteryears, it was considered as a monopoly of lady/ladies of the house. The men folk generally felt it below their dignity to do anything in the kitchen except eating. Their pride of place had always been bedrooms? ( I meant only deep sleep here. ) And the responsibility of managing the kitchen generally passed on to the daughters to enable them to continue the legacy in the families they got married to.

I was the youngest member of my family. All my siblings were brothers elder to me. I have observed that my mother was the most hard working member amongst us. My elder brothers helped her in a few hard jobs like splitting firewood, dehusking coconuts, etc. My mother did not enter the kitchen for three days in a month for reasons not very clear to me when I was too young. My elder brother would then take up her role in the kitchen, but in a limited manner, preparing only the bare essentials. I never learnt any cooking as it was considered too dangerous for me to go near the fire at that age.

My ignorance was considered bliss (was it really so ?) when I got married. I always excused myself from any sort of work in the kitchen. Luckily my wife is a very good cook. You may judge my abilities in cooking from the following incident. During the initial days of our married life in Poona, we had to go to Bombay for a wedding. My wife preferred to stay back for a couple of days more with her cousin there. Before she returned, she telephoned me to say that I should help her prepare the dough for Dosa by immersing the rice and urad dal in water. The proportion had been noted in a diary in the kitchen cupboard, she said. The night before her return, I promptly did the job.

In the evening when I returned from the office, the house was like a real battle field. The kitchen platform was full of big and small vessels filled with dough. And the grinding process was still on using the Sumeet mixie which we had recently purchased. And the long face of my wife said it all......there was some mistake somewhere. She was almost in tears. She said she had been on the job for the past five hours...! I retorted that I had followed the instructions meticulously.......six measures of rice and two measures of dal.....only error was that I took the half litre measure......! The dough we made lasted for almost fifteen days after feeding the whole colony with idli and Dosa. The dough had to be kept in the neighbour's refrigerator as my consumer loan was yet to be sanctioned for purchase of household items....Since then my wife hasn't dared to ask me for any help in the kitchen.......!

My friends praised  her culinary skills and said that it was directly proportional to the increase in my weight and continued growth around the midriff. If this was a hypothesis, the corollary was also true. I reduced my weight whenever I stayed away from my family on official compulsions.  On every such occasion, I used to land myself in soup, thick hot soup. One such incident I had described earlier when I watched a tennis match on TV with the milk pot on the gas stove. ........!

This time, when we went to the USA, we had carried some "Mysore pa" from Sree Krishna Sweets which became a great hit with my grandchildren. Last Sunday, my daughter and son-in-law left on a trip leaving the children with us. My wife felt very sad when the little one asked for more Mysore pa when there was nothing left in the fridge. As I had eaten the last piece the previous evening, I also felt bad. My wife said that we could message my daughter to buy it if available in the "Indian Store". I vetoed this. I said that it could be made at home. My wife laughed at me and warned that it was not easy tomake. She did remind me of my previous misadventures in this regard. I told her that those had been days when Youtube and Internet were not available. Now it is possible since the steps were posted by experts on the net.

I saw a couple of the recipe clips, noted the details in a piece of paper and started. The ingredients, like besan ( gram flour) , ghee, sugar, etc. were available in the house. But there was no shop near the house within walkable distance. Since my wife was against my attempt, she had declared non-cooperation to my venture. I also took it up as a prestige issue. Halfway through the process, I realized that there was something wrong. The whole thing had started boiling sometime ago. But there was no sign of the material taking shape. One more reference was made to Youtube. Procedure followed was apparently correct. But the water added was perhaps much in excess. When searched for, adding more ingredients to compensate, I found that besan had been exhausted. Now there was no alternative other than heating it to get the excess water evaporated. I continued to stir the contents for another half an hour without any perceptible change. The contents continued to remain like a thick solution. The little ones were keenly observing the whole operation. Initially they cheered me when I argued with their grandma like the onlookers of a cricket match. Now they were subdued as if it was a two overs - ten turn situation against India. "How long will it take to cook? " one asked salivating. Perhaps I too was asking it myself.....At last like a prudent investor withdrawing the money from a bad venture , I decided to call it a day. Told the kids that a new sweet has been made. Bring your bowls, I said. Served them with Mysore pa juice which they enjoyed with a spoon. I remembered my mother's words that even wool would taste good when mixed with sugar........

I took a firm decision to abstain from cooking hereafter. To describe the present situation, let me borrow a few words from my own powerpoint presentation for junior officers on Risk evaluation and Management. With due consideration to my core competencies and domain knowledge in handling liquids and glasses, the present work assigned to me in the kitchen/dining room has been procuring and providing water on the table. And this, I have since been doing to optimum efficacy to the utmost satisfaction of all concerned........