Friday, August 5, 2011

Mamma's Melting Pot-- Of beginnings and cross roads.

" Food is defined as any substance consumed to provide nutritional support to the body."
 But is that everything? Not to me!!!

I don't remember for sure when, how or I started falling in love with Food. As a child, in a small Coastal village in Kerala, food was always fresh, homemade and took forms of bribe, a treat, nourishment and represented love from the older women at home.We didnt have even one bad cook in the family. My uncles bought us kids fruits and pastries when they visited. The hugs and the delicious fare were indiscriminately appreciated, anytime. 

Laid Back Villages in Kerala, my birthplace.

Later when we moved to the big city so that we could have better opportunities and more time with our Dad, who worked in Mumbai, food took up more forms. It broke the ice for us and made friendships thrive. It broadened the spectrum of our palates, as the different cuisines found their way into our plates. The tropical, coastal fare I grew up eating as a young child, was always there at home, but now there was this whole new possibilities, with more local ingredients and a variety of culturally and geographically different goodies that we dug into wholeheartedly and hungrily when they were offered to us by our new friends and neighbors, who were eager to make us comfortable in the warmth of their hospitality.

My teenage years brought about a freedom from the home-cooked and mundane (at the time) meals to a choice of cafeterias at the College and quick on-the-go lunches at cheap fast food stalls with friends. Thats where we discovered supposedly Chinese takeout (all made with aromatic Indian Spices) and gobbled up delicious chat from the numerous chat vendors along the local  waterfronts. 

Mahadev Meditation Center in the middle of Lake Masunda

When it was "pay-day" (when we got our allowances) we treated ourselves to delicate pastries at Monginis and when we ran out of cash, by the second week, we rationed the money and shared huge Vada Pavs at Kunjvihar. The allowances were so tight we had to make a choice between having a delicious spicy "Samosa-pav", at our college canteen or take a bus from College to the railway station. The Samosa pav always won and we gladly walked all the 3 kilometres daily.
My working days were highlighted by daily potlucks, of tiffin dabbas filled with breads and sabzis which were laid out in the staff lunch room tables, and everyone sampling everything. The monetary freedom only enriched the yum-seeker in me to try out more cuisines. Gujarati, Sindhi, Punjabi and more yummy Maharashtrian delicacies. Another great discovery was Samosa Chat from Guru-kripa in Mulund.
Until this time I never cooked anything on my own. My Mom was trying her level best to get me do something in the kitchen. But all I would make in those days were Pepper-Tomato Scrambled eggs and Sabudana Khichdi made from Tapioca Pearls and crushed peanuts.
The real cooking started when I got married to my soul-mate and as a new bride, I got trianed in that department under the watchful guidance of my Mother in law, who is one of the best cooks I have ever met.

Avial- A mixed vegetable dish as taught by my MIL

Thinking back, that's where my evolution as a cook began. As time went by my love for cooking never burnt out like my other whims. It just went acquiring dimensions. As I started out, it was mainly to cook my husband's favorite dishes, then as I had my son, I learnt how to make his favorite dishes and when my hubby started travelling, in Atlanta, I ventured out of my Indian Mold and tried recreating American Classics.
Then the next stage was recreating my favorite restaurant dishes at home. The habit caught on, when I got severely sick and pregnant. I would throw up any fast food or restaurant food, and tired pretty much all the time. Finally the rest and simple meals were what helped, but nothing helped the cravings. So I looked up recipes and learnt to make pretty much everything I craved at home, which was healthier and went down much easier. There were nights when we would have Ragda Samosas (savory pastries in pigeon pea soup) for dinner. 
And then my little girl came to the world and I was eternally pressed for time. Then I learnt the tricks of easy cooking. Until my in-laws came to stay with us, I never cared for a low sugar low fat diet, but it was then I learnt a few good healthy recipes, for them. 

Home-made Samosas from Scratch

Every scenario of my life has taught me something that added to my cooking experience, but that fire to learn is still roaring.  I will keep tending that fire, learning and if you would like to be a part of those lessons, of those explorations, then stay tuned....its not even halfway done. 
So stay tuned in for more of these sans-boundary attempts I make, I am going to share them right here with you. Keep cooking and Bon Appetit! 

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