Cooking requires patience. When in the kitchen, you cannot rush through the process of preparing food. My visits were hurried to the kitchen, mostly on the morning of workdays. I would be heating bread slices on Tawa (hotplate) while simultaneously searching for the bottle of jam in the cupboard, warming the glass of milk inside the microwave oven, and dropping the used utensils into the sink letting them make a loud crashing sound. And, all the while, I was searching for a clean spoon to scoop out the jam from the bottle. The slices of bread have overheated on one side. I approach the gas stove in a flurry to them around.
In my experience, the whole process of cooking and refining culinary skills is like sitting for meditation, with limited movement, a calm mind, and well-planned readiness.
The presence should be like a devotee visiting a temple. Multi-tasking may not be possible to avoid when kids are asking for snacks in the evening, while you are busy with your recipe for dinner.
More than one burner on the gas stove is a design flaw, an impediment to relaxed cooking. The tendency to use all of the burners together is a want and not a need.
Unlike me, my mother never rushes to the kitchen. She starts early and spaces her cooking time in the kitchen. She can easily spend 4-5 hours of the day in the kitchen. Her movement inside the kitchen is silent, with minimal noise. I, at times, have to walk in to learn what is cooking. She prefers to be alone and not talk while cooking.
I tried improving my culinary skills during the lockdown. In the last 35 days, I have learned to cook seven new dishes and alter the vegetable pulao recipe fo a different taste.
In the absence of my mother ( she is in our hometown) and with little guidance from my wife, I relied on Youtube videos. I shortlisted a video using recipe style and views count.
I started early to have enough time to cook. For cooking dinner, I was in the kitchen by 6 pm, and 11 am max for lunch. I silenced all the groups on WhatsApp and placed the phone on the kitchen slab. Despite watching the video couple of times before stepping into the kitchen, I did not trust my memory. I paused the video to keep all the ingredients placed in the right quantity before me.
Every step was followed as in the video and paused whenever required. I had no one from family coming in to disturb or talk to me. My stay in the kitchen was peaceful. Kids with little trust on my cooking, did not bother enquiring. I knew what was where in the kitchen and did not make shout outs to my wife.
I felt talking to each ingredient and the food I was cooking. Deeply engrossed at the job, I did not mistime and forget adding any ingredient, as mentioned in the video. Each of my tasks in the kitchen seemed coordinated and effortless. And, the results were encouraging as well. The food tasted good.
I learned about variants to some very standard recipes. Earlier, I would use onions and tomatoes in puree form to make an Indian gravy dish. The spices were added after adding the potato puree to the onion paste when it turned golden brown. Now, I add spices first to the heated oil followed with onion puree.
Cashews for me were a snack food or when cooked in a curry style called Kaju curry. Now, cashews added to the saute of roughly chopped onions help with the thickness of the gravy and renders a rich, smooth taste to the dish.
I have improved my culinary skills to cook matter paneer, shahi paneer, paneer butter masala, Kaju curry, egg curry, and butter chicken. On the fast food side, home-made french fries (not as crispy as the frozen ones available in the market though), jalebi as a sweet dish, and veg pizza using readymade pizza base.
By the time lockdown ends, I will be a better cook and more patient than before in my life. It is the winner’s feeling.