01 August, 2016

a family that cooks together stays together...

what classifies as "cooking"?

is it only when one cuts, chops, cleans, mixes, tastes, serves, and cleans up? what about shopping? what about raw material selection? or can it just be defined as writing a recipe? or following one? or can it be defined as any one of these? or is there a minimum "you have to do" list?

some great commercial chefs neither prep nor clean up. but great home cooks do all of these...and more. so, how much does one HAVE to do to claim one has cooked?

here is what the gadgil family did yesterday: on a glorious, drizzly sunday morning in pune, my wife natasha (tashuji), my 2-year-old kymaia, and i trooped to the fish market in camp and bought half a kg of bombay duck and about the same amount of prawns. the fish were cleaned and cut by the vendor, and we were home by 7:30, just when the traffic was beginning to stir in this sleepy but beautiful town

parvati, the cook, came on time at 8:00, and we started to wash the fish and prepare the masala. it was decided to make mildly spiced bombil curry (so kymaia could enjoy it too) and a spicy kolambi bhaat (for us). a bottle of good shiraz was handy as accompaniment, and the table was laid (with little kyamaia helping her mum with the cutlery). the kitchen was abuzz with onions and tomatoes being cut, fresh spices (mostly coriander, cumin, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, coconut, green chillies, ginger, and garlic) being ground, tomato paste being prepared, and coconuts being grated the old-fashioned way, while the stubby bottle of fresh imli paste (made by me a day earlier) was taken out of the fridge to be brought to room temperature

with the oil sizzling in the large pot, the onions were cooked till golden brown, the spices added, and the cauldron bubbled with the green rassa for the bombil, while elsewhere, basmati rice (with a bit of salt) cooked and looked white as snow. in another pot, the tomato paste and masala was added before the prawns (marinating in turmeric and salt, with a dash of lime juice) were chucked in to cook with a lid for 10-15 minutes

the rice, now cooked to a fluffy white perfection, was put in a wide plate (paraat) and the spicy-red kolambi rassa was poured on it, while being folded gently to save the grains from breaking. parallely, the extremely delicate bombil were lowered very very carefully into the boiling green rassa, the heat was switched off, the pot covered with a lid, and the bombil (fresh and juicy as they were) cooked gently in the mix, without any additional heat

a bit of white rice was removed separately and garnished with coconut and fresh green coriander. the serving bowls came out, and were duly filled. the bottle of wine was popped and poured with reverence...it was only 10:30 on the clock!

of course, we didn't care about the time, or whether wine at this time was really appropriate...we just sat and devoured the meal with our hands (nopes, no cutlery was really used...as it would have been an insult to the original konkani people who would have taken great offence at it, if it had been...just like they'd take offence at the imli replacing the kokam!)

so, back to the question: did i really cook the meal? someone went to the sea and caught the fish, someone else sold them, someone else cleaned them, someone chopped the veggies up, someone ground the spices, someone's recipe was used, someone stirred the pot, and someone laid the table, while someone else cleaned up after.

the answer is actually very simple: who cares? :-)

here's the prayer we said before eating, though:

वदनि कवळ घेता, नाम घ्या शेतकऱ्याचे
सहज हवन होते, नाम घेता मुखने
जीवन करी जीवित्वा, अन्न हे पूर्ण ब्रह्म
उदर भरण नोहे, जाणिजे यज्ञ कर्म

अन्नदात्या, अन्नकर्त्याचा विजय असो
बुद्धि व परिश्रमाचा विजय असो

bon apetit!