Simply put, its therapeutic. Cooking is creative, it pushes my imagination and transports me to a place of self-discovery. And it all started with a determination to discover what was in…… my mother’s kitchen. Of course, my mum would absolutely not let my sister or me anywhere near the kitchen. The knives were too sharp, the stove too hot, breakable ceramic everywhere. And that never changed even in our 20s! Mum did let us prep the occasional salad, stir the curries, whisk the eggs for breakfast and mix in the instant coffee. But yeah, that was pretty much it. It was only when I left home in my mid 20s that I grabbed my opportunity and began experimenting with food. It is an ongoing experiment and adventure I haven’t shied away from …. Yet 😊
They say a recipe has no soul. It’s the cook that infuses soul into the recipe and here’s my take on where the cook finds inspiration.
Hunger is a good cook
We’ve all been there and in fact, early humans cooked up their first hot meals more than 1.9m years ago! But it’s how you react when faced with this situation that can predict if you’ll make the cut as a good cook. See, cooking is all about perseverance and discipline. Are you going to be the type to go out and buy your meal? No doubt, it’s easier and quicker. It’s also probably more expensive and not that healthy. Or are you going to be the type to look at the raw material and supplies in your kitchen, take a stab at creating something out of nothing and putting up with the momentary inconvenience because you know it’s a small price to pay for the long-term benefits. I took the second option and I can’t remember a day after that that I ever went hungry. An important tip: build the discipline of stocking up your kitchen responsibly and by that, I mean, as if tomorrow was the apocalypse! If you get that right, you’ll go far kid!
You are what you eat
I come from a mixed culture and that means the food was all over the place. Flavors and cooking methods were not distinct but diverse in my home. A typical Indian curry could mimic Continental stew and ‘chutney’ could very quickly transform into jam or jelly. A dish cooked with meat was simply called meat curry – it could be spicy one day and bland the next. The protein could be substituted in the same cooking sauce/ gravy and fried onions and potatoes were the rescue to all dishes on the verge of failure. I took my mum’s cooking for granted then but I miss those distinct flavors now. I had no frame of reference when I started cooking and so I am not stubborn about food. For me, it’s all about fusion, experiments and adapting, which mirrors my personality. I am what I eat. Be open to different type of cuisines, food, flavors and ways of eating. The faster you adapt to foods, the quicker you assimilate into new cultures and societies.
Eating is a necessity. Cooking is an art
It’s all in the presentation. You heard this from MasterChef. You saw it in the contestants and felt it from the judges. Human beings eat with their eyes first and palate second which is why parents have such a tough time introducing their toddlers to new foods, the same toddlers who are ever ready to put any and everything in their mouth. The truth is some of the healthiest food is not always the prettiest. Think Kiwi, Oats, Chia seeds, clams or lentils. The trick is in the presentation. Use a burst of color, your best cookware, practice those plating up skills and come up with fancy names for your dishes. Once the food gets past the mouth, the palate will do the rest.
Don’t be afraid to take Whisks!
My mum didn’t have specific methods of cooking. I had no frame of reference because she didn’t teach me ‘how-to-cook’. She only told me it would come ‘naturally’ to me when it was time. She was right. Not only did it come naturally, but I saw a certain freedom and opportunity in not having any frame of reference. This ignorance enabled me to discover my own brand of cooking. I had no expectations and was therefore ready to take risks. I did not care about judgement because I always knew I had a very rare palate. My love of intense spice, sweet and sour at the same time resulted in me damaging my taste buds when I was barely 10 years old. Those taste buds healed with anti-biotics but if that isn’t an example of taking risks, I’m not sure what is.
Don’t be afraid of combining seemingly opposing flavors. I hosted a game night for my husband’s guy friends recently. They loved the ground beef lasagna and said it had the perfect flavor. The secret was in the sacrilegious blend of Marinara (Italian), Barbeque (American) and Sriracha (Thai) Sauces!
Use substitutes. If you like Mexican food but can’t make a tortilla, make an Indian ‘Roti’ instead. Go a step further and dare to serve Eastern savory with Western dessert. The key is to take risks, experiment with styles, flavor and presentation and you’ll be whipping up a storm in no time.
Take the heat out of the kitchen
Travel and coffee is the cure to almost everything. There hasn’t been a successful chef on the planet who didn’t want to travel or explore new cultures and places. There’s only so much chicken and seasoning can teach you. But a conversation & coffee with old friends or new acquaintances widens your vision and gives your perspective outside the kitchen. Cooking is a means to an end, a social tool constructed to bring people together, foster ideas, discover opportunities and be inspired. So, go out there, explore every café and restaurant in town, take a trip to some extravagant island, lose yourself trekking up a mountain or on a hike. I can guarantee you, you’ll always learn something new you can use when it comes to cooking and your kitchen!
Give Me Inspiration & I’ll Give You a Reason to Cook
Long before Gordon Ramsay, Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver became famous, they had family and friends. These were their first fans. And like them, I was blessed with having people around me that were supportive of my food, at home, at the workplace and even on social networks. They have and always be an inspiration who have played a big part in helping me recognizing my potential. Every ‘like’ on a Facebook or Instagram upload of my food, every encouraging comment, every inquiry about a recipe, every exchange of cooking tips has gone a long way and deserves mention.
Food is just another commodity and like all products, if there is inspiration and demand, there will always be a steady supply.