I said to C, “I don’t have anything that gives me pleasure as football or cricket do to you”. He said, “well, you enjoy dancing at weddings”.
My mother was clear that cooking need not be on my list of things to learn, even if I whiled away my late teens Orkut-ing. She did offer to train me on the basics when it was clear that I was moving away from the luxury of having a plate full of my favourite food magically appearing in front of me (while on the bed, indulging in the said act of Orkut-ing). I couldn’t be arsed*. So later I learned on Skype that if the dough gets too sticky you don’t add more water to get it off your hands. Or that draining water from steamed lentils will obviously (duh) make your daal too dry. That was my starting point. I even made a secret phone call to her before foraying into my sasural‘s kitchen for the first time to ensure I made the perfect halwa.
Cut to a fair few grey hair later. I now enjoy cooking. For some time, I used to get excited at the prospect of creating something different for guests I intended to entertain. That validation-seeker people-pleaser. Then COVID happened. Not only were C and I back to fixing every meal for ourselves (we’d hired some help in recent years), I also needed to do something that didn’t involve looking at a screen. So in the past ten months, I have almost always been up for cooking something nice for us or undertaking certain experiments just for the thrill that comes with seeing the final outcome (assuming it’s a success). For complete transparency, C and I don’t eat rotis, so I get saved that tedious task that can never be enjoyed.
Despite this realisation that I enjoy my time in the kitchen, I have resisted acknowledging it until now because of its association with gender roles. I grew up believing that cooking=oppression. That one should avoid it if they can. I must certainly have lost my mind then to talk about it in any way other than as a chore one has to get done in a day to qualify as a responsible adult. Of course, the other extreme is that you’re so good at it that people can’t stop gushing about your food and your IG handle is a near-professional account of everything you create. I certainly do not belong to that category. I am slowly making peace with my place in the cooking world and the place it takes in my world. This weekend I spent five hours making biryani and five other dishes. Apart from a great weekend indulgence, food is sorted for the busy week ahead.
Maybe I need to tell dear C that while dancing at weddings might be my ultimate pleasure, cooking might not be too far behind. Maybe he knows already.
*Thrilled to have used this phrase for the first time. Truth be told, I wrote this post just so that I could put my learning to use. I know I can’t be arsed to do way too many things these days (cabin fever in lockdown month 4) but the post couldn’t just be about that. Oh hey, I used it again.