Saturday, August 11, 2012

Look Who's Talking?

The other day, I asked Mallika if she remembered when I started cooking seriously. She took a minute and then claimed that I took over the kitchen only since we moved to this house, which was two and a half years ago. At first I couldn't believe it because it seems I have been cooking forever, but then it seemed plausible- I don't recall spending any time in the Bukit Timah and Newton kitchens. I do remember cooking pasta and croquettes in the Braddell house, but rarely.

Two and a half years is not a long time to master cooking, but if you cook almost everyday like I do, it's not bad. It is my belief that you haven't really mastered a dish unless you have cooked it at least ten times, and ruined it at least twice. Yes, it's important to ruin the dish, because it's only then that you know what makes it really work. I learned that my simple looking roast chicken is tasteless if I do not put enough ginger paste, that croquettes will fall apart if I mash the potatoes when they are still hot, that my absolutely amazing meat sauce will be a total waste if the lasagna overcooks and dries out at high temperature. These are lessons learned the hard way. Of course, it helps if you have people like Atreya eating your food- he forgives every mistake and enjoys everything I cook.

Lately, I have noticed another thing. Instead of my planning meals meticulously as I used to and looking for specific ingredient for them, I tend to have a blank slate at the start. At the grocery store, or when I just open the fridge, vegetables and condiments as if start talking to me. No kidding. I pick vegetables and cheese and meat and spices because they call out to me. Not only that, they also seem to suggest how I should cut and cook them. Sounds crazy even as I write about it but it happens and is changing the way I cook. For example, after years of chopping capsicum, mushroom and asparagus really fine for my pasta sauce, you will now find chunky pieces in my pasta dishes. My roast chicken now has roasted pumpkin and onions as accompaniments instead of the usual roast potatoes. And my tagine dishes are totally experimental. These unplanned experiments don't always work, but cooking like this has a different type of pleasure.

I am pleasantly surprised by this new development for another reason. It shows that the journey is not over- more twists and turns can be expected along the way. I can't wait! 


  1. Lately I have been cooking like this. Experimenting this way and that way. I totally get veggies talking/calling out to me!

    1. When I first realized this, I was a little worried if I was losing my mind. The capsicum especially talk a lot. :)