Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crest and Trough

A few days a ago, I was telling my mother how difficult it is for J and I to get used to having food cooked by yours faithfully after a break of six months. When my parents visit, mom takes over the kitchen and what a huge difference it makes to quality of our lives. It is not as much about the recipes she serves but her attention to detail and her amazing creativity.

The lack of produce options in the local grocery stores does not bother her. She will come up with ways to take what she is given and make something delightful with it. And she is able to repeat this feat every single meal for the entire duration of her stay. Yet, her life is hardly kitchen bound - she has a variety of other interests and makes time for them in her day.

Cooking and me have had a strange relationship - full of crests and troughs. I was a competent cook even before I hit my teens. Once I was allowed in the kitchen more, I was able to put my own spin on traditional Bengali recipes in a way that was often met with appreciation from family and friends. Those were probably the crests. When I started working, I had my own place for the first time along with a kitchen to do as I pleased. Often the lack of time and energy resulted in improvisations and short-cuts that ended up putting nutritious but bland food on my table. I was reaching for the trough.

Every once in a while when I had company, I was able to find my stride and prepare a meal that was a crowd pleaser. Marriage to R (my ex) did only good things to my cooking - in fact that that was the only area of my life where change was for the better. R was sincere in his appreciation of my creative flair, loved being surprised and encouraged me to try recipes from anywhere in the world. The kitchen was always well-stocked and I did not lack inspiration, energy, encouragement or ideas.

After our divorce, I lost all of that for a couple of years. J being a baby at the time, I lacked the incentive of cooking for someone else - it was just me. I went back to eating food that was healthy and ultimately boring. By when I had worked myself out of the funk, something essential had died. Today, I can cook some of the staples of our dinner table with consistent taste but everything else can be a hit or miss.

My mother says I am like a student who is no longer interested in education and is concerned only about getting a passing grade. There is no involvement with the subject (cooking) before or after the test. I used to be a student of very different stripe once - I wanted to learn, improve and prefect myself. The grades were incidental. My mother says she's always been a student of cooking that has a passion for the subject. I have to work on reviving the passion I once had to be able to climb out of the trough I have fallen into lately. I thought that was interesting advice.

1 comment:

Priyamvada_K said...

HC,
There are cookbooks for parent-and-kid to cook together. Perhaps you can start this as a joint project with J on the weekends, and it may revive the passion.

J can pick the recipe, with the caveat that she has to eat it :)

Priya.