In my mother’s kitchen I learnt.
- That precious and pretty plates, shiny flatware and delicate china are meant to be used every day and not saved only for special occasions. Because each meal and each day is special.
- That the same holds true for cake. One shouldn’t wait for an occasion to bake one. Warm cake straight out of the oven turns the ordinary into extraordinary. And when you are baking it for a “real occasion” then you must bake two not one; for your family will finish one right away.
- That after the cake batter has been put into the oven it is sacrilegious not to lick the bowl. It is. Trust my mum. With your fingers. Till it has been wiped absolutely clean.
- That an organized kitchen is a stress free kitchen. Labelled jars and bottles, spices on one shelf, baking supplies in a separate basket, cookies cutters and cake tins sitting cozy in one drawer, sauces and condiments in another.
- That there can never be too many gadgets in the kitchen. Ha! And if you do happen to get those dirty looks from the rest of the family make a puppy face and they will make space for it in their cupboards (because there is a possibility that the kitchen is already full) and their hearts.
- That not everything is made with a recipe. Sometimes they are made with “andaaza”.
- That making a healthy and yummy lunch box for your little one at 5 in the morning is not a chore. It is a privilege that comes with being a mum. Even if it is 20 boxes a week.
- That dessert should never be used as bait to ask the child to finish the meal. It is perfectly normal to enjoy dessert at the end of each of your meals.
- That as a mum you could be pure vegetarian but the kids must be allowed to make their own choices. Mine went one step further and learnt how to make it for me for I love my meat.
- That getting a new lunch box at the beginning of the new grade is something that most kids look forward to all year long. It translates into happy children, empty lunch boxes and full tummies. Sometimes the small things are the big things.
- That in every kitchen there should be one cupboard with healthy snacks for little kids to open by themselves when their mum is sleeping or away. She still has one.
- That their birthdays should be celebrated with homemade goodies. For nothing comes close to handmade love.
- That in scorching summers watermelon is good. And it’s even better when pureed and frozen in ice trays.
- That when tomatoes are in season one must make the most of the beautiful produce. Puree and preserve it for the rest of the year.
- That the same holds true for chutneys and jams. Making them gives you the chance to enjoy the vegetables and fruits throughout the year and lifts the simple chapati to a gourmet meal.
- That kitchen not only feeds the body and the soul but also heals. Turmeric is for bruises and burns, basil for viral infections, fenugreek for lowering blood sugar, cardamom for digestion and more.
- That watching food shows, even re-runs is a legitimate hobby to have.
- That writing down recipes in a diary is a great thing to do. You begin to see how your tastes have changed over time, how you have evolved as cook and of course the diary helps you capture all those scrumptious memories you have made through food.
- That there is both comfort and excitement when each festival is marked with traditions that you’ve made for and with your family. Holi with gujiya & nariyal laddos, Dussehra with jalebi and Lohri with chikki and moongphali and Diwali with dahi bhallas and more.
- That the spoons with long stems are for icecream sundaes eaten on irritatingly hot and humid days, that sporks are for soupy noodles for those bone achingly cold nights and tinny-tiny forks are for eating those cubes of fruits that she painstakingly cut each morning before she left for work.
- That orange and pomegranate juice straight out of the juicer somehow tastes better in a tall glass with some kala namak thrown in and a “tomato” soup that is actually a vegetable soup is best in ceramic kulhads for the soup warms your soul and the kulhad your icy cold fingers.
- That when you want to make curd in winters you must make your bowl wear your shawl and it will be thick, firm and well set in the morning.
- That dry fruits if stored in the fridge in summers will stay longer.
- That making a batch of garlic and ginger paste with a film of oil on top will make cooking a breeze throughout the week.
- That playing music in the kitchen lifts both your mood and the recipe that you are making.
- That having a tiny stool to stand on to take out those out of reach things and to sit down on when organizing that bottom most shelf is something that you can easily live without but should not.
- That a full fridge and a full pantry is a sign of happy and healthy family. Plus you are always ready for all the friends your child invited but forgot to tell you about.
- That weekends are not for quick breakfasts but for laid back brunches. At home.
- That to make the frothiest coffee you need 1 heaped tsp of coffee, ½ tsp of sugar, 1 tsp of milk, 1 spoon and lots of muscle power.
- That there are some days when a three course meal won’t do. It has to be moong dal khichdi with ghee, dahi, aam ka aachar and papad (one pot lentil rice meal with clarified butter served with curd, mango pickle and papadum). For you need the comfort and warmth of a hot bowl and nothing comes close to your mum’s khichdi.
- That come June, raw mangoes must be cut and marinated in the homemade masala and oil so that you have mango pickle to last you all year.
- That come October, carrots must sliced and cauliflower cubed and seasoned with spices to enjoy gobhi –gajar ka achar throughout the winters. Sometimes only with a plain parantha.
- That come late February, black carrots must be fermented so that you can enjoy kanji in early March.
- That cooking might be something you love but there will be days that you don’t want to look at your kitchen.
- And then you brush that feeling aside and do it because like love, love that is forever and not a passing affair, love that demands commitment. cooking a fresh meal from scratch is a commitment you make to yourself and to your loved ones for they matter. Health matters. Good food matters.
- For other days there is always “free home delivery”.
Happy Mother’s day to the best cook in the world.
I really hope that I can pass on the same love for food and family to Sara and together we bake lots of cakes and cookies, simmer lots of stews and make lots of casseroles.
Also somewhere in her cooking there is a little bit of me. Just like my mum is there in mine.
My Mother’s Day card came with instructions for a recipe inside it. A recipe my little chefling calls her own and made for her mamma all by herself. “A ruby cheesecake” as she calls it.
A very Happy Mother’s day to all you lovely mums.
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