Cooking was never my area of expertise before marriage, basically due to three reasons. Firstly, my grandmother, too old to work, was always scared of me working on the gas stove alone, so much, that whenever my mom would be away, she would never let me go into the kitchen only. In case I insisted, saying that it was time for her evening tea, she would stand with me in the kitchen even if she would get tired of standing there and ensured the knob of the gas stove was off before she went out.
Secondly, with my mother, my job in the kitchen was only to assist her like laying the table or serving chapatis. Though, she would let me make one small chapati at the end, she never compelled me to learn cooking. I remember once she got high fever and I, along with my elder brother tried to share her work load, and so decided to knead the dough. My brother messed up with the quantity of water and ended up in pouring lots of it, for which I asked him to put in more flour. These steps of pouring in water and then adding more flour ended up in a pile of unkneaded dough and we proved ourselves to be disastrous in dough making.
After I finished schooling, I developed the hobby of baking chocolate cake. After 3-4 attempts, I did fairly well, but soon got bored with it because the preparation time would take ages! Sadly, there were no readymade cake mixes available at that time.
I remember the first dish that I prepared was Shahi Paneer, which I learnt from my next-door neighbour and my best friend Jyoti. She was too good at cooking and I developed a little interest in learning new recipes from her. Apart from drooling at Femina’s Bachelor of the Fortnight page, I started to look at various recipe pages too.
Once when I was in Dehradun, my uncle got a new microwave oven in the house and I experimented making desserts in it. I made Instant Rabdi, using bread crumbs and milk. The result was pretty good.
When I neared mid-20s, my father used to show concern that I should learn cooking. However, my mother just said, “She will learn herself when she will go to her in-laws”.
The third and the last reason for me remaining a non-cook was my lack of interest and my mother-in-law who used to prepare the scrumptious main course, while I continued doing my job as assistant in the kitchen after marriage. I started cooking independently only when my husband and I moved to a different city. I still remember calling up my cousin sister Kuljeet, asking her how to cut French beans. Thank God we have smartphones now and everything is on our tips!
Your whole perspective changes when you become a mother. It was only recently when I actually started ‘loving’ to cook. Experimenting the dishes for the first time has become my new hobby. Just to make sure that my kids eat nutritious food, I have tried making Chhole Bhature, Khakra, Quesadillas, Set Dosa, Paalak Puri, Paalak Paneer, Methi Malai Paneer, Veg Biryani, Pao Bhaji and a lot more. The best part is that I fared well in the score card of my husband, who’s an epicure and never ever makes false praises, no matter how much hard work one puts in!
I love Pao Bhaji and wanted my sons also to eat the bhaji. The problem with them is that if they see a piece of carrot or beans or peas, they will simply not eat. So, while preparing the bhaji, instead of mashing, I made a thick paste of the boiled vegetables, by churning them in food processor so that there’s no piece left. The kids loved it and I felt very relieved after feeding vegetables to my picky eaters.
Another dish I tried for my kids was Pink Dosa, which I made by adding beetroot juice to the dosa batter. The kids enjoyed eating the unique coloured dosa as much as I enjoyed making.
There’s a snack which goes into their lunch boxes every week- cutlets. These are protein rich cutlets which I prepare by mixing powdered soya chunks (using grinder), bread crumbs and mashed potatoes. I use cookie cutters to give them various shapes and shallow fry them. The kids just relish these hi-protein cutlets.
It’s easy to order food and try new dishes, but once you have kids, I guess one learns to start experimenting with food. At least that’s what I did!