My affair with the kitchen

My affair with the kitchen started at a young age. I was what, 14? Girls in my family were initiated into cooking early, because good girls must know to cook (?!). I remember feeling a bit revolted and the feminist in me feeling agitated because no such rule applied to the brother. Unfair, my mind screamed. But I took the plunge, nonetheless. Barring a few episodes where my feminist conscience made its presence known, I was hardly complaining. I may have taken refuge under gender equality debates a few times, but truth be told, I was OK with it.

I mean, I was always a foodie and even as a child I had a good sense of taste. Age 4 onwards, I was the guinea pig of the house, always being asked to ‘have a bit of taste’ and check if the seasoning needed any adjustment. All of 4, I remember commenting at my newly-wed chachi’s rotis, ‘they are not round enough’. When it came to food, I was tough to please and my sense of taste was only too well developed for my age. I wasn’t a fat kid just like that. I knew my food well, always teetering about in the kitchen, observing keenly how things were done, asking questions, passing comments and just being a hindrance in the small kitchen basically.

Little did I know back then that one day I will be very thankful for being initiated in to cooking at a very young age.Things I am grateful for: Reason #26. I grew up in a family full of master chefs and it’s only natural that some of that talent has made its way into my DNA. The benefit of starting young is that you have the basics sorted long before your peers begin to start experimenting with using a pressure cooker. That was done and dealt with in my case, and long out of my way.

I discovered my love for cooking long before I got married. Taking the responsibility of cooking everyday and enjoying every bit of it has nothing to do with my marriage. If anything, my marriage and my move to New Zealand has only given me more opportunities and more time to experiment with cooking things that I didn’t even consider hitherto. And oh boy, has it been wonderful or what! I began experimenting with different kinds of cuisines, different kinds of dishes, different kinds of spices and ingredients a few years back and there is no looking back now. If I had any doubts about how dearly I loved cooking, they have been put to rest post my move to New Zealand. In fact, I now have access to a whole new variety of exotic veggies and fruits that were not found back home too easily. And if they were, they were exorbitantly priced.

I have been asked several times how I make time to cook healthy fresh meals everyday with myriad of other household responsibilities, no domestic help and a full time job to boot. Well, it’s definitely not a garden of roses but we always make time for things we love to do, don’t we? And TCG, the designated dishwasher, preferred garlic peeler and chopper, and all-in-one handyman cum sous chef in this house, where I am the BOSS, willingly helps out with all the odd jobs including peeling of potatoes. And to top it all, he is NOT picky and NOT choosy about his food, ever willing to experiment and always appreciative and encouraging. Now, who doesn’t like that?

You know that you are really passionate about food and cooking when you don’t tire watching zillion food shows that are aired currently, when you start looking up for recipes or end up watching video tutorials of new recipes when you are online, when you start planning your meals for the whole week well in advance, when you are constantly thinking about which item in the pantry needs to be replenished, when you subscribe to hundreds of food blogs, when you sneak time in between your work day to check out a few recipes, when your start feeling excited about your weekly trip to the supermarket or worse when you start thinking about cooking even in bed!

Being vegetarians, there are only a couple of options to choose from at various restaurants here in Wellington. We end up burning a big hole in our pockets and returning home feeling slightly cheated and underwhelmed. And this my friends, has turned out to be a perfect premise to cook at home all the time, even on anniversaries and special occasions. And a big, well equipped kitchen, which is every cook’s prerogative, just makes it that much simpler to cook at home. Would you believe if I said that our eating out is limited to one meal every couple of months?

The satisfaction that you get when your dish turns out to be perfect is unparalleled. And when TCG changes in to his track pants and big ol’ t-shirt after a BIG, hearty meal, I know it is worth it. It feels so good. It works out to be quite a lot cheaper (not to mention healthier) too to eat at home and bumps up our savings substantially. I have been working in NZ for almost a year now, and almost everyone here eats out or eats take-outs at lunch.  I can happily say that I haven’t done that even once to this day. I always cook a little extra the previous day for both our lunches.

I have thought about having a food blog quite a few times. I could probably do better that quite a lot of food bloggers out there who only worry about clicking pretty pictures. But there are two things that keep me back

1) I don’t necessarily use exact measurements, most of what I cook is intuitive and measurements are based on what feels correct to eyes and touch and taste

2) I enjoy cooking too much to be bothered about stopping every once in a while, washing hands, drying them up, clicking instagram-worthy pictures and finding another couple of hours editing them

Some day perhaps! If my handyman cum sous chef decides to triple up as my photographer! Who knows!

 

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Time, where are you racing to?

It seems like 2014 is in a big rush to make its grand entry and is determinedly forcing 2013 out of its way. Poor 2013 seems to be making a hurried exit. Can you believe it? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we finally got a hang of writing 2013 in the dates instead of 2012 and now soon we have to start writing 2014. Phew!

Oh time, please slow down!

Though personally, I am hardly complaining, the sooner the time passes, the quicker I would be in India and sooner I will be seeing my loved ones. But keeping that one selfish wish aside, can I just ask you to slow down just a bit? What is the big rush?  If you continue at this hurried pace, my month long visit to India will turn into one hell of a whirlwind trip. It will be over, no sooner than it starts. I can already feel the post-holiday depression, even before the holiday begins. It will be over too soon. There is so much to pack in so little time. It is too depressing to think about how it will end. No, I am not letting my mind stray in that direction, at least for now.

You will get where you want to get sooner or later. So please, will you stop sprinting? And you are especially nippy on the weekends. No sooner than you arrive, you prepare to leave. Soon in February, you will tell me I am 27. What?!!

For the last few weeks I have been observing how quickly you are moving through the work week too, not just weekends. Monday through Friday in a wink of an eye. This is my third week at my new job and I have hardly had any time to think, pause and reflect. And after work, there is house and husband to look after. Fresh meals to be prepared every single day, not because I have to, but because I want to. I have hardly had time to breathe, forget checking personal mails or reading my favourite blogs.

Truth be told, I am actually a fan of these fast-type days. I love it when time does that. Consumes you so wholly, that you forget to keep time of time. I love being busy, I love being occupied. It is the slow, uninspired days that I dread the most.

Living in New Zealand has given me enough time to pursue a dual life. A life after work. Life that begins after office hours. And I don’t mean a life of wild partying (never had a life of wild partying anyway). I mean that window of a couple of hours  in the evening that gives you time to pursue your passions, your hobbies, your dreams, things that you want to do more and more.

Cooking it is in my case. No two days pass by without whipping up something new. Not a single phone/Skype call is complete without endless discussions on food. This is one passion that runs through the family and we are the family that discusses lunch at breakfast and dinner at lunch. And not to forget the snacks in between. And we never get tired of this. Guess what am I thinking about in the 5-7 minutes of free time that I might get at work? Food. I think of what is in the fridge and what is in the pantry and what can go with what and result in to a good dish. Suddenly out of no where, a new recipe would start taking shape in my mind. And once it is in the mind, it has to be on the PLATE.

Away from home, there is absolutely nothing that can fill the void of family and friends, but when life gives you lemons, you try to make lemonade out of it. So I can hardly complain about my less-than-active (almost defunct) social life in New Zealand. I have heaps of time, and I make most of it by doing what I do the best. Who knows, few years from now, when I look back, this is the life I would look upon, this is the time I would miss.

P.S. Thoughts about having a food blog are making more and more frequent appearances in my head than I would like to admit.

It’s time I told you about it

Alright guys, sit back. We have some catching up to do. Warning this might be a longer post than usual. It’s been awfully long that I haven’t updated you about what I have been up to. I have been lurking around your blogs and finding out what each one of you is up to, reading things on the go. But I haven’t always been able to leave my comments. Being a full time worker, homemaker, writer, cook, and a cleaner is not an easy ride. When you are juggling one too many balls at once, one or two are bound to fall. To top it all, living in a new country, doing everything on your own, having no help, building your world (your home) from scratch one small thing at a time does take copious amounts of time.

To start with I have some good news and some bad news. Good news is that I have a new job now. My first six-month-contract job in NZ came to an end last week and my new job in a big company starts next week. Yay! Which also means I get two full weeks off to do my thing. Finally after months of worrying about which way my career was going, I finally got a new contract which might not exactly be what I want to do, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. So this is more like getting my foot-in-the-door kind of an opportunity. Knowing that I landed this job after competing against the locals felt so good. Felt like a small victory. It’s amazing how much living in a new country can teach you. Not wanting to sound very clichéd, but it is indeed like being born all over again. Starting afresh. Learning new ways of life. And most importantly, unlearning so many old ways. Stepping out of your comfort zone and stretching your mental and emotional boundaries. Fighting status quo and adapting to the new life. Inadvertently during this phase, you begin to question your beliefs, your convictions, and also your self-worth. In the end, you emerge much stronger and a little wiser. Your paradigm shifts and you are able to see the world around you with new lens.

Now the good news is related to the bad news. They are complementary. TCG and I had agreed that if I do not get a new job by 11th October (the last day of my first job), I would go to India a few weeks earlier than originally planned and spend a longer time off with my family and friends. Come back refreshed and rejuvenated in January and start looking for work again. Till the last day of my previous job, the new job was not confirmed and I was almost convinced that I am flying to India earlier than decided. In fact, I began looking forward to that, planning things I wanted to do in my head. But I wanted the new job more badly than I wanted to go home earlier. My logic was simple; I didn’t want to go home while worrying about not having a job or what would happen after I come back, how soon I will get a job and so on and so forth. Even if that meant a shorter holiday, I wanted to enjoy it to the fullest. That was only possible if I didn’t have the fear of work (or absence of it) dangling over my head at all times. And as luck would have it, I got my offer letter on the 11th of October. I love how God plan things out for us so seamlessly. Things I am grateful for: Reason #25.

So ya, while the good news is that I have a good job now (which is great considering how much immigrants struggle with these things in the beginning), the slightly off-putting news is that my holiday is trimmed short by three weeks. But that’s OK really.

Moving on.

When I was not worrying about job, or applying for jobs, or working on cover letters and CVs, I was trying out things in the kitchen. I remember I have randomly mentioned my love for cooking on this blog a few times here and there, but nothing in a way that will lead you to think just how much I really do enjoy cooking. Let me tell you that now, because now is as good a time as any. I come from a family where you’d initiate your girls into cooking in their teenage years. So I was introduced to cooking at the age of 13. And I am so glad that it happened. That means I have over 13 years of experience cooking now and I have had a long time to hone my skills. I have always loved food and until very recently I didn’t realize how I could turn my love in to passion. My real love affair with cooking didn’t really start till 3 years back when I started taking ‘this thing that I was good at’ seriously. By this time I had learnt all the basics and not so basic of Indian Cooking from my mum and thought it was now time to step out. And step out I did. I learnt a bit of Chinese, Mexican and Italian cuisine.  Every now and then I would make things and feel the satisfaction of creating or making that can only come with doing things you really, really like.

Then I moved to NZ this year. And that could well be best thing that could have happened to my cooking. With not much to do apart from applying for jobs and pleasing TCG, I started experimenting a little more actively. Trying out new recipes almost every single day and feeding them to my guinea pig that TCG is. It helps that TCG loves food too. And it so helps that he is so open to all kinds of foods and tests. It gave my experiments a new vigor. And just because he is such a sport, I love to do it more so from him. So the past 9 months here have been filled with cooking frenzy. Breads, soups, dips, pizzas, pastas, lasagna, noodles, cakes, cookies, pastries, snacks – sweet and savory, and the whole length and depth of Indian cooking…I find myself unable to stop. Every weekend I would try my hands at something new, fancy and elaborate and results have been supremely satisfying more than once. And thanks to the many thousand dishes there are to try, I can go without repeating a dish for months.

So why don’t I blog about food? Hmm … not a point that hasn’t crossed my mind a few hundred times. But something is stopping me. There are so many amazing food blogs out there (with not just amazing food recipes and techniques, but more than that… beautiful photos and videos too), I don’t want to be just another person to do that. May be I am not quite there. May be I don’t want to start until I feel a compelling need to start. May be I don’t want to start just because I have a network now which I can use. May be cooking for me is too personal. May be it is more about enjoying the process of cooking than about taking pictures so that I can blog. I can’t place my finger on what is holding me back. But something is. And by this point in life, I increasingly want to do only those things that I will be highly committed about. Someday perhaps…

So then what else? Apart from that we are slowly gearing up for the big visit to India in December. The countdown has literally begun.

That’s about it from me for now. What have you all been up to? Leave your comments and let me know how life is panning out for you all.