Cooking has always been my nemesis ever since I was a girl of 14. Growing up in a household with two elder sisters I was shielded from this chore for quite some time. But there is no escape from cooking if you are a girl born in the Indian Middle Class. The day eventually had to come sometime.
Mommy dearest had tried number of times to steer my interest towards it but I had escaped from that ordeal unscathed.For this I thank my father and my two elder sisters for delaying my foray in this scary world of 'cooking' by taking the mantle themselves.
One fine day, 'Mater' had figured it out and she outsmarted all of us. That day my sisters had gone out and my Pops also was not there. She pounced on me (just as a mother shakes a pup by the neck to correct him) and dragged me to face the unthinkable.
The first experiment was to knead the dough for 'Phulkas' (Rotis). As per my mom, if you know how to make the perfect dough and then a perfect roti, you were set for life. She being an excellent cook herself, wanted all of us to be the same. Alas!! she could only rub her magic on my two sisters. As for me I resisted so badly in the first instance that her enthusiasm was a wee bit dampened by my reactions.
To make the dough you need Wheat flour, water and bit of cooking oil. There was to be sequence to when you could add what and in what proportions. Me being the utmost rebel and trying to get out of the situation as fast I could did not pay heed to her specific directions and just added the entire jug of water to the flour and started kneading it. It became a sloshing mess and instead of the dough becoming a soft ball it was more like a soup with bits of dough swimming in it. Mater was still enthusiastic and gave me another chance.
Next time I was a bit careful with the water but still managed to pour more water than needed and the so called dough was more like a thick porridge.I got so disgusted with that porridge sticking to my hands ,feeling yucky and not coming off at all ( I still have nightmares whenever I am kneading dough now). Aai (mom in my mother tongue) I could see was trying to keep her wits together looking at my experiments.
I guess third time lucky is what they say and I finally got it close to the consistency required to roll out a phulka....whew!!! thats done with. I really did not want her hovering over me and screaming instructions in my ear. Aai was jubiliant by my success whereas I felt utterly defeated, very much akin to prisoners of war, who did not know what their fate was going to be.
The next step was rolling out a perfect phulka and cooking it on a Gas burner. She said kneading the dough is child's play,now comes the toughest part. Oh man !I was never so demoralised in my short life after I heard that.
Out came the flat round wooden board and a rolling pin. These instruments looked so very scary to me as they just spelled it out in bold, "You're a Girl and You will have to Cook your entire life". I was not ready to accept that and that deep rooted fear is still in some corner of my mind even now.
Under her watchful eyes I started rolling the dough with the pin and my entire Geography lesson flashed in front my eyes. Every time I rolled out a Phulka it came out looking like 'Antarctica', 'New Zealand' or ' the African' Continent. Try as I could I was just not able to make the perfect shape of a Circle. Mater was not at all disillusioned as I was. She was still basking in her achievement of catching me by the neck and turning me in to atleast something which bore semblance to a girl.
After repeatedly rolling out all the continents I was first allowed to watch her cook it on the flame and then she gave me a chance to do it. I tried my best to copy her but was not too successful in that venture. The Continents came out of the fire all charred and uncooked and looked as if numerous battles had been raged on them.
After the entire "Operation Phulka" was over, Pater and my two sisters walked in the house unaware of my trial and also that they will be the victims of my experiment. The entire clan proceeded to admire the continents and words of praise were hurled at me as if I had won a Nobel Prize.
Try as I could I was still not basking in my glory as heart in heart I felt defeated. The "Persona" of me , was changing rapidly and I was still not ready for that change.
Thus started my early experiments with Cooking, not too exciting , painful and which really shook me from the core.
(To follow - More of my Adventures oops Misadventures in Cooking)