Thursday, October 16, 2014

In My Kitchen...

In my kitchen, there are no recipes. 

Cooking for some is a chore with a sink full of dishes to clean, for some it is microwaving a pre-made meal and for some of us it is an art. I fall in the last category. A self proclaimed artist at soul, cooking is an art for me. I do believe that we eat with our eyes.

Art never followed any rules. The same holds true for my kitchen. There are no rules or recipes followed here. Yes, I do have a collection of cookbooks only because I love browsing through the vibrant colors and the brilliant plating.

Do you know that person who always chooses to bring drinks to a party because they don't cook? Ever wondered, how they survive without cooking? I do. For most it is the fear of "what if." 

I was 12 years old when I made my first dish; "Baigan ka Bharta." For my western world friends, it is roasted eggplant, mashed up and seasoned with carmelized onions, tomatoes, salt, cayenne pepper, a dash of garam masala and tons of cilantro.  The one thing that dish is not supposed to have is "turmeric," and that's exactly what I added.  My Nani said, "you never put turmeric in Bharta." Of course I knew that, but the damage was done. So I quipped.. really, I don't know Mom always puts it...LOL. Blame it on Mom, that's what 12 year olds do anyway.  

What if I add more salt than needed, what if it doesn't taste that good? These and more are kitchen fear factors. My answer, so what. So what if there is more salt, you can always add more stock or vegetables to tone it down. So what if it doesn't taste perfect, a pickle on the side or a chutney on the top takes away the imperfections to make a dish that is uniquely perfectly you.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. 
In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
                                                                                                         ― Julia Child

Throw out the what if's and bring in the so what's is the key to making cooking fun.

What does cooking mean to you? 

Cooking is a therapeutic for me.  It's a stress buster, an escape from the world. Back in the olden days, serving restaurant food was a luxury, today serving a simple home cooked meal to your friends and family is a luxury.  I am proud to say, be it a single family dinner or a multi-family holiday dinner, It's only home cooked food in my home. Yes, I have been told I am crazy for making everything from scratch, but then its craziness in a good way.

Cooking is satisfying.  My family gets treated to an a la carte menu every nite.  As long as I have their requests in by 5.00pm, I can give them food of choice. When my son was little, I learned the hard way that food cannot be forced down a throat. It has to be relished and enjoyed, only then does it bring in the benefits of healthy and nutrient rich growing, and so started the tradition of a la carte menu. Crazy again, yes.. but the joy of seeing my kids enjoying their food and licking their fingers makes it worth the effort.

It may seem like a lot of effort, but its not. A friend once told me, "you make us working women feel guilty." I told her, "I also have only 24 hours like you do, so don't feel guilty."  All it really takes is a well stocked pantry and some imagination.  I usually never plan a weeks worth of menu or grocery list. I buy what my eyes take fancy too and then when its dinner time, I open the refrigerator and make it work.  Over the years, I have some staples in my pantry and these staples make it all so easy. Trader Joes Red Pepper Spread is one such staple.  This little jar is magic.

A hearty delicious vegetable soup.
Every so often when I open the refrigerator there are ten different containers with left over food. What does one do? For instance, recently had lots of spinach dip and my favorite plain simple vegetable soup left over. I could have done sandwiches with the dip but the soup would still be the same. So instead, took the dip and made it into a cream of spinach soup AND took the soup, added some rice with a dash of some more spices and it made a scrumptious pulao. A completely new menu with the left overs. Yes, there is something about the upbeat jubilant homemaker in all this, but it is also very liberating to see an experiment come alive

Cooking is also love.  My daughter always wants to know what the secret ingredient is. My answer has been consistent; It's love.

So next time you are having a tired day, a blah day or a celebration day; step into your kitchen, take a look at your pantry, open the refrigerator and just stare at it for a few minutes. I am sure you will cook the most amazing meal your family ever had.

What did you say? You want a recipe.. free yourself of recipes. Through this space, I'll show you how.


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