various spices in silver spoons on old wooden table, top view

I never did much in the kitchen before my marriage because as soon as I finished my schooling I left to pursue my engineering degree in Coimbatore away from my home. Living away from home, this was my first experience with bad food – puris that called upon all my masticating skills, ghee rice that made us run off to Annapoorna for an early dinner and idlis that needed a hammer !

Soon after I finished my degree I got a job that kept me busy from 9-6:30 and again I never ventured into the kitchen as my older sister was a fabulous cook and kept delicious food ready when I came home tired from work. So it was with great trepidation that I entered the kitchen after my marriage.

My mother in law was a great cook and most of the first month she never let me do much. Some of her signature dishes were Punjabi pakoda kadi and stuffed bitter gaurd (she managed to make even this bitter vegetable delicious!) A month after my wedding she had to go to Delhi to fix my brother – in – laws wedding and it was time for me to experiment with my culinary skills.

Our cook had taken the weekend off . There was lots of left over sambar so I thought I would serve that with idlis. After heating both I placed it on the table very pleased with myself . My husband took a bite and nearly spat it out .

” What happened ?”, I asked

” You have successfully managed to burn the sambar . How anyone can burn perfectly cooked tasty sambar while heating it is beyond me !”

Of course through all this lecture what our man conveniently forgot was that he never even knew how to light the gas. The previous weekend when we came home late at night from a friends place without eating any dinner as we had has a spat. He decided to make a bulls eye for himself but had to give up as he couldn’t light the gas after numerous attempts and he refused to take my help as he was angry with me . Ended up going to bed hungry morosely munching an apple .

Over the years I’ve chalked down all my cooking experiences ( or the lack of it ) to two things – one a lack of opportunity to cook as I was busy working and two the ease of hiring a cook ( benefits of living in India ). After many years of experimenting in the kitchen I have struck a well-nigh balance with certain signature dishes of mine like Red Thai curry chicken, lemon cheese cake, Teriyaki chicken, chicken stew, barbecue chicken wings which pass muster and placate even the toughest critic’s palate . ( and you know whom I’m talking about here )
Once in a way the dynamics still go awry . Like recently the conversation that followed when I decided to try a new Prawn Curry recipe Kerala style with raw mango and coconut milk :-

” Ma, today the dal was very bland ” commented my elder fellow after eating it .

” Dal,  what dal ? – that was prawn Curry ! “, I shot back .

” A little sweeter and you could’ve discovered a new dessert ‘Prawnocotta'”,  quipped the little fellow .My husband had this all knowing smirk on his face but knew better than to add fuel to the fire. Twenty two years of being married to me has added a lot to his wisdom!  As for me, After being married for twenty plus years I’ve learnt to take the comments with a pinch of salt. After all we cannot excel at everything, can we ?

Neeta Singh,

Daily Zen.