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Life Lessons from a ‘Wannabe Cook’

First things first - I am neither a good cook nor a food expert of any sort. Actually, I’m not even a passionate foodie. I have no credentials whatsoever that are associated with such topics. For that matter, I didn’t start cooking until I was 21. And that was solely because I had to fend for myself after leaving my mom’s yummy cooking behind, thousands of miles away.

Secondly, I have absolutely nothing to do, even remotely, with motivational speaking, writing or any such talent that benefits others.

I’m sure by now you are wondering what the point of this narrative really is. Believe me, there is! In fact, more than just one! Maybe you will relate to some of them, in different contexts, or maybe you are one of the chosen ones who have a perfect life. Either way, I hope you will ponder over these for at least a few seconds…..

Recently, I connected with a dear friend of mine after a long time. And yes, it was on Facebook. Is there really any other way now-a-days? She wrote on my wall, “So when did you become such an expert cook?” Her question was obviously directed towards all my food related posts. I shot back a witty (or so I thought) but true reply to her “Well, I write better than I cook”. This exchange really got me thinking though. So, what had changed in all these years? How did I start cooking actively and even enjoying it to some degree? Was it the circumstances, or my attitude, or a feeling of responsibility, or some combination thereof?

So here goes point # 1. Life changes! You not only have to adapt accordingly but find ways to enjoy the change.
As a single student first and then as a newly married couple, there was a lot of flexibility in when, what and how we ate. But with the kids, came the responsibility of setting the right habits and feeding them healthy food. Even today, if I had a spare hour and had the choice between cooking and playing tennis (or reading a book), I would much rather do the latter. I don’t usually have that luxury though. The kids have to be fed, and fed well. Then why not just enjoy the time when I have to cook? Frankly, the results turn out much better too. So I started making it a fun and creative activity. Mix up flavors, mix up techniques, mix up ingredients…just stay away from pre-set recipes. Let the imagination rule. Over time I have started liking it and in fact enjoy baking quite a lot, A little change in my attitude towards cooking made a big difference. I think this goes for everything in life.

Lesson # 2 Weed out the things, routines, practices (and under really extreme conditions, even people) that do not add value to ‘your’ existence and happiness.
I have to clarify here that the term ‘your’ could be the singular you or the collective in, your family, your friends, your community and so on. In the case of the ‘Wannabe-Cook’, she dreaded (with a capital D) the chores associated with the actual cooking process - the cleaning, the cutting, masala preparation and the list goes on. To her all this was pure drudgery that eclipsed the creative process. The solution? Toss the boring things out…totally out! Get pre-cut, pre-readied ingredients and outsource time hogs like chapatis. What hinders your happiness? Time to say good bye?

And finally, point # 3. Be a student for life. Keep the fire burning!
I know for a fact that I can never be a Rachel Ray or a Sanjeev Kapoor. Oh well, I don’t think I can even be as good a cook as my mom or some of my awesome friends. But you see, that’s really not the point. It’s not about comparing or competing with others. It is about trying your best and learning as you go. For me, it is simply about becoming as good a cook as I can ever be, a “Wannabe Cook”. It’s all that matters!

Here are some of Wannabe Cook’s personal favorites.

Spicy Raw Mango Rice

Seviya Upma

Matar Paneer

Besan Laddoos

Ukdiche Modak