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COOKING IS THERAPY What you serve must heal, nurture and uplift
COOKING IS THERAPY What you serve must heal, nurture and uplift

If you’re feeling blue or bitter, or ready to batter or deep fry someone, don’t cook. The dish invariably will not come out right

“I have no communication problems with the wife,” said the husband of thirty years. “I know she’s upset from the way she scrapes the cooking pan.” Joke may be, but with an undeniable clove of truth. How you treat the cooking pan and its contents depends wholly on how you feel at the moment. Beware the consequences!

Am I in the mood for cooking, is a good question to ask when you tie the apron. “Ever get out of the cooking mood? There is nothing worse,” said a foodie. “Except, someone might do it, or better; yet, you go out to eat.” Not always. Sigh!

“Celebrity” chef Gupta created Kesariya Badam Shorba for Bill Clinton when he visited India in 2000. He has served Prime Minister Manmohan Singh his preferred grilled items and sugar-free desserts, Sonia Gandhi her soups and A.B.Vajpayee the deep-fried dishes and grilled fish he loves so much. Is there a secret to his VVIP standards? “Food cooked with patience and affection is bound to be tasty,” he said.

Siri-Ved Kaur Khalsa who tosses fantastic salads for her Yogi Eats customers calls for divine intervention. “Even when the freshest organic vegetables, herbs, and ingredients go in, the recipe followed carefully, sometimes, the dish doesn’t come out quite right,” she said. “It tasted fine, filled the belly, but something was missing.” It must be your mood, she asserts. “If you’re angry, stressed, mad at your spouse/partner, tired of making dinner every night, you put all that emotion into the food, like poison. The food will probably taste bad, be burned or underdone, and those who eat it are likely to feel crabby, and get indigestion.” Scary! So chant and sing, keep time with a rhythmic chop till the stuff under the knife absorbs all the vibration.

“Indifference has no place in cooking,” says K. Damodharan, TV cook, Principal, MGR Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology. “Impatience, inattention, irritation and frustration are bad ingredients. If you’ve had a mood-out, been crying, I guarantee the meal will be a mess. And you can’t make chicken Manchurian during a TV serial commercial break!” He adds tiredness to the no-no list. “I know what my wife will do if she has to cook for guests she’s not fond of.”

He was caught on the wrong side of the tawa once, he says. “I had to rustle up rawa kitchadi for unexpected guests at the end of a long day. I forgot the veggies, added the wrong garnish and for good measure, spooned in some sugar.” He adds mischievously, “There’s no danger of dishes going bad when you have a tiff with your partner. Cooking itself is the casualty of the quarrel!”

“Cooking is mental participation,” says Pavithra Sivakumar, a self-taught speed cook. “If you’re boiling and haven’t had time to let off steam, you are simply not there to sauté and stir-fry. Even a minor spat just before you light the burner can occupy your mental cooking space. The sequence gets upset and you’ll end up with overdone veggies and underdone dal.” Hurrying through doesn’t affect taste, she says. “I’m on auto-pilot, the food comes out fine. When I’m upset with my son, I could be standing in the kitchen, unable to focus.” The sabji is bound to be a mix-and-non-match. “Of course, all this applies only to those who enjoy food preparation,” she points out. “If you take cooking as a chore to be finished, your mood doesn’t matter at all.”

If you’re feeling blue or bitter, or ready to batter and deep fry someone, don’t cook. If she has to (business!), Khalsa prays: “Okay God. This food has to be made. Please flow into it and keep my emotional garbage out of it.” What you serve must heal, uplift and nurture, she feels. Cool, chill out, says Pavithra. See cooking as therapy. Damodharan primes himself. “I plan for the shoot. Arrange the vessels, masalas and cutlery, wipe out all other thoughts. I have to look pleasant on camera.”

“The concept of bringing a positive spirit into food while being prepared is the foundation of Ayurveda and yogic cooking,” says Khalsa.

 FOOD AND MOOD

Had a squabble? Before mashing the potatoes, drink water, make some tea, wipe out bitterness as you would with a cucumber.

Play some uplifting music on your stereo while you cook.

Sit under the fan. Sing a happy song. Stop replays of the quarrel.

Focus on the job at hand. Other things can wait.

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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