Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The story so far...

My love-affair with food is something new... As a kid, it was my brother who loved being in the kitchen! And we all thought he would be a celebrity chef one day (No, he is not gay!). I was always the confused one - a tomboy, yet a romantic. A rebel, but could give up the cause to immerse myself in my books :D And the kitchen was definitely alien territory! I loved my mom's sambhar and alu bhaja (aloo fry) and kobarkai patchadi (coconut chutney), and being a Telugu Brahmin born and brought up in Bhubaneshwar meant I had the advantage of relishing typical South-Indian cuisine along with the sea-food of Orissa and the pungent kick of mustard oil...
I also remember slobbering over Enid Blyton's description of midnight snacks in Malory Towers and St.Clare's without actually being aware of what sardines, tongues, and anchovy were! They just sounded so good... (I know better now!) But I never entered the kitchen even to make a cup of tea or coffee!

17 years of my life I took for granted all the yummy home-cooked food made painstakingly by my Mom and my Amamma (my paternal grandmom) where everything was made the traditional way. From papads and potato wafers to wild berry and mango pickles, from Kandi Gunda (a traditional powder of mixed lentils and spices) to coconut chutney made in a huge stone mortar and pestle, from 5-6 varieties of Charu (Rasam) to innumerable chutneys made of practically every vegetable and fruit, from Oriya/Bengali style Fish Fry to Chowmein and Chilli Chicken - my childhood was a gastronome's delight! A huge bungalow with a massive backyard and 7 varieties of mango trees, 6 coconut trees, and trees of guava, berries, custard apple, lemons, and curry leaves, meant I had the most amazing childhood filled with comfort food of every kind.

Watching over pickles & vadiyalu drying in the huge backyard while sitting with a book in the shade of the awning with our dog chasing away the crows; packing amazing koli bodis (dried berries made into tangy fritters) to share with friends; sunday lunches that were no less than a feast fit for kings; and my dad's love for chinese food - all this laid the foundation for my present epicurean quest i guess.

But this idyllic existence did not last as the next 10 years of my life were spent in hostels, paying guest accomodations and pokey rented flats with a sorry excuse for a kitchen. That's when I really started cooking... with little money to eat out and unable to afford a cook on a student's limited allowance, I started experimenting in the kitchen. The first ones to bear the brunt of my escapades were Kakki & Prasad Uncle (my mausi and her husband in Chennai) and my cousin Neha. There was no lack of lofty ambition, and I started off with Tomato egg drop soup, beef vindaloo and mushroom soup - all with varying degrees of success (read disaster!). I remember trying to make idlis with the pressure cooker whistle on and my aunt laughing her head off at my understanding of "steaming" in a cooker!

But even through the experimentation phase, i somehow knew what was missing where, could judge what I could add to the recipe to enhance the flavors...

Then Mumbai happened and a career in media meant no time to eat, forget cook! I could now afford to hire a cook and eat out more often. Even today I love trying out new forms of cuisine and never order the same thing from a restaurant if I can help it :)

Post marriage, the tiny kitchen in our brand new 1 bedroom flat inspired me to start cooking again. And this time I had a willing taster in my husband. But it was a tall order - having to live up to my mom and my Mom-in-law's expertise and ease in the kitchen! But there is something called genes thankfully... and growing up surrounded by food afficionados had had its effects i guess. I realised I was more adept than I thought I was. Sid enjoyed everything I made, even though I sometimes suspected he was saying nice things just to please me! (And that's quite strange considering how blunt Sid usually is...) Now our friends G&A have been added to my list of willing guinea pigs who try everything i churn out without flinching...

This and many words of encouragement from Sid, and food blogger and woman extraordinaire Arundati, have finally made me take the plunge into the world of blogging. This blog is a start, hopefully - a way to begin changing all that i do not like about my life right now, and a way to incorporate more things that i love and enjoy into my everyday routine. Now I can only hope that I can sustain this enthusiasm and take out the time to stop and smell the spices...

5 comments:

Siddharth said...

How do you do this? Summing up life in just a page? With the way your cooking is going, i wish the weekend was 7 days long. :)

rajsmusings said...

Madamji,

Aap bade chupe rustam nikle :) This time we missed being your guinea pigs, hopefully next time.

Regards
Raj

RV said...

Loved reading your introduction post Swathi. I am came here through Arundati's blog and I am glad I did it. I shall peek in often to keep up with your recipes and musings. Wish you all the very best and Welcome to the Blogosphere!

Srivalli said...

Thats a lovely intro, as said I wish it was so easy to sum up life..but you have done it so lovely..:)..

Swati said...

@ raja - Promise to make you both the guinea pigs on ur next Mumbai visit!
@ RV - Do keep visiting the blog and thanks a ton for the warm welcome..
@ Srivalli - Thanks for the generous compliments... Means a lot!