My love for cooking has not diminished a bit over years, as I continue to explore my palate and attempt to please other’s, I go through various experiences which has made me learn a lot about myself, much beyond food.
My wife made an interesting observation. according to her, I have an ‘old fashioned approach’ to cooking. At first I did not give much thought to the comment, as my wife considers a lot more of me to be old fashioned. I assume she means that in a ‘not so good way’ and I see it to be in a ‘very good way’. However, true to my usual way, a long after the comment, and days after the observation from my wife, I truly saw what she meant when she said ‘old fashioned way of cooking’.
When you watch any show on cooking, one common sight is that of the chef tasting the food many times throughout the cooking, and for sure towards the end of it. Having grown up seeing my mother and grand mother cook, at no point I have felt a need to taste the food/dish I am making, until I actually serve myself, along with rest of the people. The idea of having to taste the food to be able to check what is missing, less or excess is completely alien to our way of cooking. This practise of not tasting, though rooted in religious beliefs, has become more of a challenge to one’s culinary skills. On television, when the chef dips his spoon into the pan, and brings it this mouth and takes a swipe at it, one can almost see my eyes cringe. Well, tasting is definitely not to my taste.
Being a software coolie, we have been taught the benefits of quantifiability over and over. Anything we do should be measurable, and we don’t do anything if they don’t measure it. When it comes to cooking, the idea of a measure has been very common, however the emphasis on the measure, and the equipment to do the same, have reached great heights in recent past. There are thermometers to measure the temperature, there are measuring spoons to measure your pinch, there are measuring jars for the liquids, and there is no end in sight. In my way of cooking, largely handed over from my grand mother, there is just one equipment ‘eye’. I love the phrase in my grand mother’s recipes ‘kannalathe [measure by eye]’. It baffles me, having learnt the modern of dealing with things, which guarantee assured results, how can one [read me] believe in the outcome of something as untrustworthy as one’s own eyes. [irony, intended.]. I measure the amount by my fist-fullness and more finer amounts by how much my thumb and the fore fingers can feel. The color and aroma are the two other big give aways as they clearly indicate what and how much should go in.
A close friend of mine used the word ‘plating’, something which I was not familiar with. On looking it up, I realised how nice plating makes the food look, and how much it can enhance the appeal of the food. To be honest, I am drawn to the nicely plated food at restaurants, and I occasionally ignore the lack of quantity which gets nicely hidden with brilliant plating tricks. However when it comes to my cooking, I choose quantity over plating, and convenience our cutlery. I can still serve and present them nicely, and also throw in couple of resourceful cutlery to play with, however this aspect of food gets a very limited attention from me. May be “what” is old fashioned to today’s “how”.