“through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us. . ."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The secret of great cooking

Parvati away at Ernakulam, helper on leave – the two of us, father and son, have to manage things at home. I make Dosa and chutney for breakfast. K says,-’ Acha, nice dosas!’. I smile at him, though do not divulge the receipe. The thick batter was originally for idlis; I diluted it for Dosas, and as expected, it became too watery. Usually a little Atta flour would thicken the batter back, but I couldn’t find any. Improvisation is a key factor in home cooking. I found a pack of leftover Puttu podi; powdered rice for making that special Kerala breakfast item, Puttu. I boiled a little water, added the podi to it to make a thick paste and then mixed it with the Dosa batter. A sprinkle of turmeric powder, crushed ginger, a little Chicken Masala (Yes!) and the Dosas were transformed from their usual bland selves to something with a divine fragrance and taste!

Long ago when Parvati was carrying and exhibiting that voracious appetite typical of pregnant women, I used to make her delicious stuff, especially omlettes. To the eggs would go thick cream, turmeric powder, garlic & ginger paste, salt, finely chopped vegetables such as carrot, tomato, cauliflower, cabbage, coriander leaves etc, etc. The omlettes would come up golden brown and fluffy soft with Amul butter. ( If I believe in anything, they are turmeric, garlic, ginger and curry leaves) Parvati would oblige me by leaving not even a morsel and a blissful look on her face.

In the ensuing years, I would occasionally pop into the kitchen and make something. Chicken curry, Rava uppma, chutneys etc were my forte. One day Parvati asked - ‘How come the stuff you make tastes so good? You use much too oil, don’t you?’ How silly! She asks questions and answers them too! I tell her- ‘ No, there is a secret ingredient that I add last’. ‘What?’ I tell her - ‘Love’.

This is not to say that women of the house, who usually has the run of the kitchen, cook without love. But they don’t add it into the dish, you know. Cooking is part of the daily chores and they have only enough time to check the salt and spice and palatability of the food. When I go into the kitchen once in a while, I cook for my family and all the time I cut the vegetables or marinate the chicken or add masalas or fry onions – all the time I am thinking, is it going to be good, can I add a little of this and a little of that and would it taste all right? And then with a flourish I lay it before them and watch furtively for that first reaction and then heave a sigh of relief when they say, ‘Wow!’.

You see, there is a lot of love going into that.

*************** Balachandran V, balanpnb@gmail.com


  1. You are a superb painter of life. I can picture every step, every aroma, every bit of love placed tenderly in each meal..

    Masterful intriguer of words, you are....


  2. ayyooo...very much loved this one.its all abt love.cooking is an art and of cours an art of expressng our love too.wud we b dat conscious if v r preparing for som1 who hav no place in our life? ..im going to try that chiken masala tip ! i hav read a book long time back,jibran's.there it was said the bread made with a tinge of love wud taste sweet and without that,it wud b bitter.

  3. dnt tell me these pics are of ur cooking ! ano ? allello ?
    u knw i love masala dosa.wenever i got to kottayam,i'll hav one from aryaas

  4. i have always regreted that my culinary skills ended at maggi noodles. Thank you for showing me a glimpse of that world

  5. Ha,that's superb one.Yes,what you wrote is correct Balachandran,women are used with the routine.But there may be other factors like the lack of interest,that peculiar 'don't care' stuff and so on.I think most of our women who are far ahead in practical wisdom and all,is far behind using those tips in kitchen.And there is always a feel to be less adventurous.That's there with we women folks always.We won't gamble.That will the last choice. Even the traditional perspective matters.My mother who was such an amazing cook,but didn't had interest in anything than our traditional items.I think this is with us in everything we do.I mean 95% of Kerala women follow the same pattern.It's applicable in dress code,displaying of love,inhibitions in sexual matters,choosing a career and everything.It's all about personalizing and being unique.

    I am not a big chef and all.But I hate being monotonous.In anything I do.I love to keep the passion on.Just when I sense monotony,I would soon find something to temper.These are all simple personal choices no ?

    Having said that,it's applicable to men as well.As you wrote here,not all men can bring flavour to the dish.I remember reading John Paul's cooking experiments like these Balachandran.That's the creativity,the sensuality in you.P would have enjoyed it immensely.

    If it was not imposed on them by birth,most women would have been Nigella Lawson and more !


Leave a word, please!