Posted 6th August 2015
Mother arrives today. She brings with her a fountain of knowledge, suspect kitchen gadgets and boundless love for her progeny. I wish I could say I am looking forward to many shared moments of cooking with her. Downloading age-old recipes passed through the generations. In my childhood, cross cultural home of an Afghani Delhi maternal side fused with growing up in West Bengal to a paternal Bengali side.
Well, I can’t. Because I didn’t learn how to cook from my mother. She hated being expected to cook and was far too busy being fabulous outside the kitchen. And we were both far more interested in stewing grand plans and brewing big ambitions than making chicken curry together when I was still living at home.
Cooking with mummy is, to me, the ultimate Indian cooking cliche. It kicked off in earnest with Bend it like Beckham and the Aloo gobi sequence and has taken a life of its own since. I’ve lost track of how many time I’ve been asked if my mother taught me how to cook. The answer is always a resounding no. Nobody taught me how to cook. I figured it out myself and still am, frankly. So are many of my friends from India. The ones who can be bothered to cook at all, that is.
Truth be told, she did have a strong interest in cooking. Until she had a pesky family to feed. Then she transformed into the commander of the kitchen troops, directing the cook on recipes to make sure we had wholesome and unbelievably tasty food on the table. Always. The real cook back then was my dad. I watched from afar dazzled by the spectacle in the kitchen, but dared not venture into what resembled a battlefield involving stained cookbooks, open pots and jars of spices dotted everywhere and the bedraggled cook looking slightly worse for wear.
This is why I don’t cook like anyone, I cook like myself. Mother has become a source of great inspiration and quite the cook herself since we all left home to make a life for ourselves. I’ll often call for ideas or run recipe theories past her, to see what she makes of my thinking. But she is more likely to bark instructions at me while nursing a gin in my kitchen than sharing centrestage with me at the cooker. Conversely, I am quite happy for her to spin out one of her recent dinner party dishes, while I kick back with a glass of the vino.
So let’s dispel this stereotype shall we? How did you learn to cook? I’d love to know!