Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chef in the making

This Pongal got me to get into the kitchen offering to learn traditional dishes cooked for the festival. And to my surprise, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be since ma-in-law was the master chef and me a mere assistant!. Also having me as a captive audience (an event rarer that the solar eclipse that followed), she also decided to pass on bits of cooking tips and tricks to me as I went about cooking under her watchful eye. Some of those tips were backed by the science behind cooking while some followed the mechanics of digestion. Some just seemed to me like traditional ways of doing something and some the omnipotent grandma’s secrets!

The most rewarding thing that morning for me was not that I’d finally cracked how to make vadas, aviyal, vella pachidi and sweet pongal, but that I actually enjoyed the whole process of putting a traditional meal together. I guess one was zero stress on how things would turn out. Also since everything is offered to the gods before we eat, tasting during preparation is forbidden. So there’s nothing much to do but put the ingredients together and allow the science of cooking to do its magic!

Ah the interplay of big-time science and subtle magic in action! You see it as vegetables change textures when you boil them and then again when the coconut paste is added. Or the aromas transforming as the red pumpkin takes in the tamarind extract and jaggery syrup. Also soaked urud dal turn to a fine paste in the wet grinder (tip for all amateur cooks like me– replace your regular mixer-grinder with the wet grinder – its got way more character!). The changing of raisins as you sauté it in desi ghee. Simple hot water doing the trick to change the crisp vadas to soft dahi-ballas!

So after this really satisfying morning of cooking and festival celebrations, I seem to be changing my perspective towards cooking. Seems like I am going to be spending just a little more time in the kitchen maybe weaving my own magic! More on this to follow……

1 comment:

writefree said...

So glad that you are excited about cooking, you have to teach me how to make Tam food efficiently. The pre-grinding steps to make the curry powder/sauces itself wears me out!

-vani