Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Zen and the Fear of Cooking

I’ve been mortally afraid of cooking for most of my life. As long as I was living with my parents, I never as much as held a ladle in my hand and boiling water was the closest I came to cooking. The kitchen was simply “the room in the back that tasty food came out of”. As far as I was concerned, it was a black hole into which my mom disappeared periodically, only to reappear with breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The first time I was forced to venture into cooking was when I came to the US. My first cooking experience was a seminal event in my life and I still have a photograph capturing the moment for posterity. But inspite of faithfully following the vastly simplified recipes prepared by my mom, my attempts were unmitigated disasters (and so was the kitchen, which looked like it had been hit by a hurricane). The rasam was simply glorified tamarind water and the less said about the sambhar the better. I gamely kept going but got the hint when my otherwise thrifty roommates opted to eat out whenever I cooked. So I did the right thing. I moved out.

It still amazes people when I tell them that I lived for a year and a half in a house that had no kitchen. But that’s exactly what I did. Armed with an electric rice cooker and podis in every imaginable color, I lived - or should I say, survived - in a kitchen-less house until I graduated.

By the time I came to California, the Indian ready-made market had advanced quite well to serve the needs of bachelors like me. So the stores stocked ready-made rasam and sambhar, pastes to which you just had to add to water and boil. Even I couldn’t screw that up! With help like that and frozen, pre-cut vegetables from the local Safeway, my cooking repertoire was considerably expanded.

With my wife taking care of the cooking, my cooking-free days continued after marriage. But the fact that she did all the cooking and I was clueless about the efforts that went into it led my wife to have a really strong, psychological hold on poor, clueless me. This is how an evening conversation between us usually went:

Me: Hey, I picked up the kids from school and bathed them and fed them and put them to bed and finished the laundry and chopped the vegetables and washed the dishes and cleaned the house.
She: I cooked. So we’re even.

Driven to desperation by the one-sidedness of these conversations, I finally worked up the courage to plunge into cooking again. And you know what? It’s not that tough after all! I have since made rasam and sambhar the old-fashioned way and a whole bunch of vegetable curries. And my wife knew I’d broken off my mental shackles completely when I recently made bhindi masala, an item which even she hasn’t attempted to make so far!

I know I’m not gonna give up my day job any time soon. But my recent cooking, though a small step for mankind, is a giant leap for me! It has helped me break through a psychological barrier and given me a huge bargaining chip in future arguments with my wife. So this is how I imagine a future conversation between us will proceed:

Me: Hey, I picked up the kids from school and bathed them and fed them and put them to bed and finished the laundry and chopped the vegetables and washed the dishes and cleaned the house.
She: I cooked. So we’re even.
Me: No we’re not!
She (sheepishly): Yeah you’re right. Lets go get that big screen TV you’ve always wanted.


At 12:17 AM, Blogger NS said...

forget the cooking, but u do SO MUCH else at home..:) how wonderful!

post some pics for us to believe ur newly gained cooking expertise..

At 12:53 AM, Blogger Visithra said...

Hehehehe kitchenless house?

Lol the last line - i have only this to say - you wish! ;) hehehehe

At 4:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually cooking is a very nice hobby :-D I enjoy cooking. Mind is occupied, and by the time I complete cooking am tired and hungry. Whatever I cooked, tastes very nice and I get a good sleep :-D

Some advantages of staying alone ;-)

At 5:54 AM, Blogger Me too said...

Shouldn't let my husband lay eyes on this post, lest your imaginary conversation might become a real threat!!
Mrs. BB, does he really do all that??

At 6:52 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

But my recent cooking, though a small step for mankind, is a giant leap for me! - ROTFL!! Well-written post, clearly reflecting the cooking skills (or the lack of it) of Tamil bachelors :)

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Kumari said...

Hilarious post and I love it when The Mr cooks and I get to sit quietly on the sofa watching my fave program :)

In our house the unwritten rule is I cook lunch and he cooks dinner :)

3 cheers for the liberated Indian men :D

At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was funny! things you do to get a big screen TV!!

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Kumari said...

Btw, Since He does "so much" he firmly believes he is entitled to the new GPS, more RAM and more hours of Futbaal. Sigh.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger Vijay Ramamurthi said...

ithaan, kalyanathukku munaaadiye..big screen tv vaanganumgrathu :)

At 8:51 AM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...

hmmm...really can't believe that you survived in a kitchenless place with just a rice cooker and podis.....

I guess the making of bhindi masala has been the ice breaker...

Good Luck for the big screen TV..................

At 9:23 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

nithya, if the results of my cooking were good enuf for pics, i would probably quit my day job! don't think i'm there just yet :)

visithra, yeah yeah i know! but a man can hope, cant he? :)

bhuvan, have to agree. was a li'l sad :) and lets hope ur hopes about cooking-free future comes true :)

ferrari, based on the li'l cooking i've done that seems true. wish i'd gotten into it when i was single. with so li'l time, it doesn't feel like a hobby when i do it now :(

me too, will let mrs.bb answer that :)

filbert, thanx :)

kumari, so cooking twice every day?! wait till u have kids :)

sk, "things you do to get a big screen TV" - said the wife whose hubby's gonna buy a big screen TV!

kumari, sure sounds like he is(edho ennaala mudinjadhu:)

vijay, LOL. good point. lucky i atleast got a 27in tv when i was single. illena i'll probably be squinting to watch something on a 13-inch tv now!!

vidya, LOL. and after all these yrs i've finally realized that the last part u've said is true! i can't believe i even OFFERED to chop vegetables and then clean afterwards in lieu of actual cooking!!

At 9:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

loved your article! was a really enjoyable read for the morning! i've gone thro' similar experiences as a grad student in Pittsburgh when i couldnt cook to save my life...literally! but the thing was, my roommates were just as inept as I was, so we all ate out quite a bit! but now, i am a "Podi"-yan so, I can live with paruppu podi+ thaengai podi and of course, the uncomplicated veg. dishes i prepare...but hope to reach a stage where i can come up with a write-up about my cooking "skills!"

ok, time to get bck to work...

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

cooking is fun...but washing the dishes that pile is not...grrr

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did not have a clue when it came to cooking until I came to the US. When there was no choice but cook, magic happened! The "chef" inside me emerged so much so that I taught my wife to cook. (She too had no clue before our wedding). How about this: whenever my wife' cooking goes bad 2 days in a row, she would ask me to cook!
Cleaning the dishes is a different story completely.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

Add a line at the end,
She: In your dreams!

;) The woman gave birth to those 2, after carrying that weight around for 2 years and in the process acquired some permanent physical reminders. you better not forget that ;-P

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

mitr, yep. there was an old american couple that rented out the basement in their house. fully furnished with couch, bed, desks, tv and vcr. guess that was their son's place till he moved out. lived there for 1 1/2 yrs :)

ram, we lived in this small univ town where options to eat out were limited. and no car either! so if they ate out inspite of that u can imagine the standard of my cooking :) LOL @ 'podi'yan. me always a podiyan :)

balaji, that seems to be the general sentiment here :)

pd, if i hadnt moved out to a kitchen-less house, the chef inside me might've emerged too! sadly, i'll never know :(

munimma, hmmm... there's one at every party!! and don't worry... she'll never let me forget that :)

At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bb, basement-la irundheengala...vaazhkaile padi, padiyaa muneranum-nu solluvaangaley...neenge, floor, floor-aa munnerirkeenge...wonderful!

btw, the podiyan comment...dont u remember the movie that i stole this line from?!

i once told a friend, "enge amma and paati sepankizhangu roast panrachey elaam, 'idhukku unakku oru vaira modhiramey tharalaam'-nu solluven...innum oru milligram of diamond kooda avaalukku vaangi tharale!"

adha madhiri Annee-ku edhaachu promise pannirkeengalaa?! adha vaangi kuduthirukeengalaa! (in case, annee is reading this-- sorry anna, for kalappi uttufying!)

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Arvind Srinivasan said...

Cooking = so many things, hmmm never know what you get into huhh ! ?? ;)

At 12:35 PM, Blogger anantha said...

BB: I can totally identify with your experience, prior to getting married, that is. For the first six months of my time in Ohio, had lots of trouble. Learnt cooking by talking over the phone with these three gals who lived next door. They are my god-mothers and complaints about my cooking should be directed to them. Anyways, from being cursed (lol) by my father that I will end up without food to eat cos I refused to go into the kitched (my mom had stupid rules like no left/both hands to stir etc.), in six months, I became confident enough to try out recipes, and thats my USP these days :D
Mebbe i should post my Pineapple rasam recipe again ;)

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Aatma said...

Balaji, I am in the same boat as u once were - my culinary skills are pathetic - and i am still a bachelor :) What u said now - kinda inspires me - lets see if i can give that rasam a try again ;)

At 5:36 PM, Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

SSSH....me too...If I cook for the weekend..I get food for the whole week.!! So..I cook during the weekends.!
Your life without a kitchen is amazing.!!
So How is the Big screen TV.!!

At 6:46 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, no i dont remember. which movie was it from??

LOL. coincidence, the same seppankazhangu roast is one of my favs among dishes made by annee. but nalla velai, andha madhiri promise ellam pannalai :)

arvind, yep :)

anti, me wishes me had 3 gals living next door during univ days too :)

and yeah, u should defly post the pineapple rasam recipe. me nowadays on the lookout for cool-sounding items with relatively simple recipes to make my case stronger :)

aatma, good. if this post inspired atleast 1 bachelor to try cooking and avoid the post-marriage psychological hold i was under, its purpose has been served :)

narayanan, inga no one gets the chance to cook weekdays. so all cooking done on weekends :)

on big screen tv, see munimma's comment :)

At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thenali (jayaram in the kitchen scene in the 2nd half)

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like you got a raw deal. Chopping and cleaning dishes is far worse than cooking. Taking care of kids, although it gives a certain pleasure to you as a father, is pretty difficult too from what I have seen. Hmm..but most husbands are "manaiviya paatha shivering shivering.." type dhaane :-) Its good that you didnt know cooking. I wouldnt be surprised if wives these days demand that everything be done by you while they sit back and watch megaserials.

Most girls who come to US for higher education dont even know how to cook. They used to come to the guys apartment now and then to eat stuff. I am not generalizing. 70% of the case is like that.

At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zen and the fear of wife's nu titlea maathunga :-)

At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Mrs. Balaji. After a few requests for validating the information posted about BB practically carrying the world(family) on his shoulders, I decided to respond. Yes, he really DOES everything from cleaning to taking care of the kids. Just does not do it all at once tho'. Now cooking is on that list too..

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Raju said...

LOL at Mrs. BB's comments..

Well-written post, Balaji.. Sonna namba kashtamaa irukkum.. Neenga sonnadhu ellam nanum seyyuren veetle.. plus, in addition, breakfast and making chappathis in the night.. sometimes i cook some curries too.. My wife is an excellent cook but I cook when she is tired or busy chatting with her friends or wants to have a break..

I used to comment 'I am not only the bread-winner but bread-cooker and bread-eater too' (on a lighter note.. bcos she also works). :-)

At 12:11 AM, Blogger Vidya said...

Mrs.BB - LOL I thought so..

Wonderful post Balaji.. Cooking is a nightmare.. oh eating is so much easier :)

like Vidya said she was patted on the back for sambhar when what she made was vatha kuzhambhu.. mine was the other way around.. :)

At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. 355 ferrari spyder replicas Forex+trading+signal+software Waterproof vibrator discreet Isp information Acuvue 2 free contact lenses credit report equifaxcom mattresses foam cheap didrex

At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very cool design! Useful information. Go on! http://www.infovaltrex.info/2002_chrysler_dream_cruiser_series_1.html Pockect fold wedding invitations contract hire vw Chloe sevigny blowjob clip

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very interesting site... » »

At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read Oral surgery costa rica American general life and accident insurance co http://www.web-site-design-2.info/Communitywebsitetemplates.html Domain name registrar transfer 20 Amway e85 water filters Ceremony flower picture wedding where did paintball originate


Post a Comment

<< Home