I have a favourite knife. It’s been with me since 2014. It’s a multipurpose chef’s knife and it replaced my cleaver that I had had since 1999. I should add that I’ve been cooking since I was 18. The first 3 years were because it was part of my hotel management course and food production was considered the most important subject. I am painfully competitive, so I did well in in school, though I didn’t enjoy the process. I think I was very young and weighed down by sexism (women should cook, men not so much – this was the late 90’s and I was far from a woke millennial) and it went against the whole tomboy baggage I had been dragging around for a few years.
I discarded that image soon after. It had run its course. But despite feeling more like ‘me’ and less like what I should seem to other people, I didn’t suddenly start to enjoy cooking . In fact, I took a break from it for about 8 years. Twice in between, though, it may seem like I tried to poison two boyfriends at separate occasions but it was just me attempting to cook them a meal after having entirely forgotten everything about the process.
The need to cook crept back up after I’d been living alone for a few years. First it started with a snack, then graduated to a foolproof stir fry and then a slightly tedious pot-roast and suddenly I was all about cooking dinner for myself every single night of the week. Sometimes I would have friends over but most times it was just me. I liked the effort I was suddenly putting into creating something I would enjoy like a regular sociopath, either in front of the tele or with a book.
The whole ‘cooking is therapeutic’ shtick became a big part of me. No cellphone, no chatting, no one to bug me or ask questions, some music in the background, maybe a glass of wine. It’s been my favourite wind down.
Michael, my partner, likes to cook as well. And he’s probably the only person I can work well with in a kitchen (no offence to Lalit Seth, the perfect kitchen partner 1999-2001). Mike works quickly and cleans up after himself. And because he’s married to me, I sometimes treat him like my sous chef and I’m certain he doesn’t like it but life’s tough and I’m sure he’ll survive.
I’ve never written about my love for my own food and I feel it’s time I waxed poetic about me. To me.
– I cook a few things and I cook them well.
– Yakhni pulao is tough to crack and I’ve cracked it every time
– I make an Icelandic salad that requires 33 ingredients and takes 90 minutes to make
– My Maggie is way better than your Maggie.
I now have a 1 year old daughter who I know, for sure, I am giving bad eating habits and expectations to. I want her to enjoy every meal and she’s been quite adamant to feed herself for about 2 months now. So I whip up pasta, stir fry veggie juliennes, masala khichri, spinach purée rice, stir fried tofu, aloo matar, quinoa noodles, vegetable cutlets, health bars with flaxseed, banana loaf, oatmeal cookies, I mean, you get the drift.
I hope she likes to cook when she’s older. We – as humans – have the ability to mix and match vegetables, spices, nuts, seeds, and meat to create delicious food that nourishes us! If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. It’s so much cooler than photosynthesis (I mean, photosynthesis is cool too but I’d probably get bored of it).
I’ve gone from cooking for just myself to cooking with Mike for the both of us and little Skanda. Every evening is a flurry of activity in the kitchen with salad, veggies, fish, rice, babyfood all getting done within a 45 minute window while the baby runs around throwing Lego pieces and wooden blocks in the hope that one of us will trip and crack our skulls.
And every night we fall into bed exhausted, knowing that we’ll do it all over again the next day.
What a privilege.