Khoya needs to be stirred while Vegetables will cook in their own steam

I am not ashamed to admit that I didn’t know how to cook. I picked up the skills on the way and can now proudly claim, I can cook to survive or may be a little better than that. I think everyone, and that means both genders, should learn to cook. You may not do it every day but it does give you the confidence that you can. And you never have to give in to the cook’s threats. This lockdown has further affirmed my belief.

Today I don’t want to talk about my cooking or my expertise (rather the lack of it). I want to share the lessons in life that cooking taught me. Here are fifteen of them, in no particular order;

  1. It’s OK if you don’t get it right first time. In fact, more often than not, you wouldn’t. Don’t lose heart, stay put. Practice is the key
  2. You will burn your hands. Otherwise you’ll starve. It ain’t going to be easy but you’ll reach there.
  3. Everything takes time. Give it time. Anyone who’s tried flipping a chapati or a dosa before it’s time would know what I’m saying. You end up with a mess you can’t stomach.
  4. Know when’s the right time. That’s in continuation with the previous one. It’s all about timing. Too early it’s a half-cooked broth and if you are too late you have a charred mess. Burnt hand and fingers. It ain’t going to be easy but you’ll reach there.
  5. Seek help. There’s absolutely no shame in it. Never be afraid to ask. Ask and ye shall receive.
  6. Learn the trade. Shortcuts are there but they never take you far. Try not to give in to that temptation.
  7. Learn the rules and then break some or make your own. Especially true for the novices. Follow the recipes religiously, to the ‘T’, till you get it right and then make the desired modifications.
  8. Be adventurous. It may sound contradictory to the above but once you have the basics in place, its time to have fun. If we kept doing things the way our ancestors did, we would still be living in the caves.
  9. Patience is an underrated virtue. Think under cooked onion, that’s what impatience gets you.
  10. Have faith in old wives’ tales. There’s usually a basis to them if we just look into it. They are a result of years of cumulative wisdom. If a metal ladle in boiling milk prevents it for spilling over, just do it. It works.
  11. Balance is everything. Be it in cooking or in life. A pinch of sugar on a savoury poha just adds that requisite flavour. Overdo the pepper or chilli and you have water coming out of all crevices of your body.
  12. What works for you may not work for others. A one-size-fits-all policy never worked for anyone. Everyone has individual tastes, he likes spicy, I don’t. Just agree to disagree and revel in the differences. 
  13. Step out of your comfort zone. Learn new things, enhance your skills. Same food every day is the most boring thing that could happen to anyone.
  14. Planning and time management does wonders. That’s the only key to multi-tasking. Have you ever seen your mom juggling tiffins and manoeuvring her way through the morning rush? A bit of planning beforehand and a little preparation, the night before does the magic;
  15. Be kind to yourself. Round chapatis are not the benchmark of how good you are. Never let anyone or anything get to you. Be you…. that’s one of a kind.

Hope you liked what I wrote. It would be lovely to hear what cooking taught you, besides cooking of course.

-Dr. Shivani Salil

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