Food is an essential, integral and important part of all our lives from birth to death.
The role of cooking is significant for everyone as it is really the process of converting raw ingredients into consumable food with flavor and taste.
My journey with cooking started very early in life - when I was less than 10 years old. More out of curiosity and sometimes necessity. A cross cultural marriage exposed me to a different world of ingredients, cooking processes and dishes. As a result, cooking ended up being a personal passion project for me for 2 years in which I read, experimented, learnt and watched many cooking shows (my all time favorites are Nigella Feasts by Nigella Lawson, Masterchef Australia, Hell's kitchen by Gordon Ramsay) and documentaries to just appreciate the art and science of cooking better. Global travel gave me the opportunity to experience cuisines from all over the world which opened my mind, eyes, taste and appreciation for diversity.
My culinary experiences over the last several years include cooking in different parts of the world and experimenting with different cuisines which has left me with numerous lessons, insights, opinions and realizations.
Here, I have articulated noteworthy aspects about cooking – aspects that are worth writing, worth reading and worth sharing, and in my view, these will resonate with anyone who has tried their hand at cooking – irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, profession, interest, level of expertise.
Cooking is a process.. And like any process there are inputs, execution steps, tools, techniques, catalysts, deviations, exceptions and outputs. But it is a creative process – one which requires knowledge, creativity, skills, technique and craft. And what’s of paramount importance is to really understand the process of cooking.
The basics of cooking will always stay the same – no matter what decade you are in, no matter how much technology advances, no matter who cooks. It can get simpler, easier, automated, and quicker – but the basics cannot really change. I personally use a pressure cooker to prepare healthy recipes.
The more you try.. the more you fail, the more you experiment, the more you learn, the more you innovate, the more you create, the more you succeed. All only enrich your culinary experiences; and no one can take this away from you.
Fresh ingredients like vegetables, fruits, freshly grounded spices, etc. make an ocean of difference in the final flavor of any dish – one which affects the final color, aroma and taste.
More so if you grow your own vegetables at home or a farm, the taste of a home cooked meal is just in a different league. Even if you pluck them and have them raw, it usually is pure and delicious.
Yes! Like with everything else in life there are all kind of cooks – excellent, great, good, just okay, bad and really bad cooks. And every kind of cook has different kind of days in their culinary journey – fantastic days, good days, not-so-good days and really bad days. It’s the law of averages at work again!
I don’t have personal scientific data or evidence to prove this, but can vouch for it from my personal experience and the experiences of expert cooks that I know. If you are experiencing a positive thought or emotion, no matter how many errors you make in the process – the end result is usually good. And on similar lines if you are experiencing a negative thought or emotion, no matter how hard you try – the end result is not really good!
Look back at your own culinary experiences or draw in from experiences of friends / family or look at the top chefs across the globe, and you will hear a re-sounding yes to this! As with anything else in life, if you cook from your heart with love, it invariably turns out superb.
The same raw materials, the same ingredients and the same process – and yet the same dish by two different cooks can taste radically different. Again, this is my hypothesis, but there is magic in some hands, and it’s almost impossible to re-create this magic. It is a unique and exclusive endowment on a gifted few.
And of course, there will always be something exquisite about Mom’s cooking – something which you can never really replicate or re-create. It’s always in a different league, and maybe just a habit which you have grown up on. And like everything else in life, you realize its value only when you don’t have it.
Like with everything else in life, automation, tools and cooking appliances can be a big boon for cooking. They can make the culinary process faster, easier or more efficient. They also come with their own share of banes – like additional cleaning, maintenance, storage space, etc. It’s a personal choice on whether you want to use them or not, and to what extent you want to use them. There’s no right or wrong – it’s what’s most relevant in your individual context.
A good dish is one which is a visual feast to the eyes, tickles your nasal passages, can render music in your ears, mind, soul or is accompanied by a specific music or sound, is great to touch and feel and of course, appeases your taste buds. Not every cook can do this, and it’s not possible for every dish. But the one’s that do tease and please all sense organs almost transport you to a different world! I personally love chef Heston Blumenthal approach to multi-sensory cooking and flavour encapsulation.
Every family has their trademark recipes – those which you acquire the taste and appreciation from childhood, those which have a history and legacy as they were handed down through the generations, those which any outsider will never probably understand in entirety and those which you can only fully enjoy with your very own family. And if you devour such a dish after ages, you will relish it completely!
We have many such family recipes - which are cooked in very traditional authentic and elaborate ways. Some are made just once a year, some only for a specific occasion (like a birth or death in the family). And I can vouch that they are simply awesome!
So what's cooking up in your mind and kitchen today? Let me know
Nischala is the Global Marketing Head at Wipro. She is a new age marketer who enjoys work which has a jazz and bass of logic, creativity and making a global impact. She is also an advisor / mentor with several global initiatives involving startups, technology consortia and #WomenAtWork communities. Her expertise is to craft and design high impact marketing strategies for emerging and high growth technology areas like blockchain, AI, next generation solutions. She believes the equation to marketing success is moving the dot from mind-share to market-share to profit-share. Her claim to fame is being among India's 2017 Top 100 Brand & Content Custodians, a TEDx talk, being among Twitterati and featuring in several global "Best in blogging" lists. Nischala holds an MBA from IIM Bangalore. You can follow her on Twitter @nimu9