The Joy of Cooking

Life is always unusual and unpredictable. It never fails to surprise us.The pesky issues of life always catch us off guard.We cannot predict the fateful events. Our tested and best plans fail before the wrath of nature. Time again we are entrapped. The whole world is on tenterhooks due to the deaths and destruction since the day Covid 19 contagion surged its tentacles. It has left all of us in a wild goose chase.We couldn’t pit our wits against this deadly virus and its new variants are wreaking havoc.We are in a state of stupor and shock.We are bearing the brunt of palpitating economy and palpable emotional break downs. In the face of uncertainty, to survive and remaining sane has been a daunting task. We are one of a kind for whom adversities are not new. There are reasons and repercussions for every calamity. What best we can do amid unprecedented chaos is to safeguard our well being.

It has been a tough task to cope up with the stress and surviving the pandemic this far. Undoubtedly, we all had an ample time to do what could divert our attention from the intense fear of Covid – 19. As they say an idle mind is a devil’s worship. So it was both challenging and conscious effort to make the best utilization of the lockdown times to pursue different passions and remain at least engaged. As people continue to navigate life through Pandemic, many of us could find interests in diverse activities. We explored different things to be at peace and be purposeful. Those might be little things but more than anything else it was need of the hour to spend our leisure time that way only. With each passing day we realized the importance of these pursuits. We changed our perspectives and understood how meaningful in these turbulent times those can be for us to make our small world beautiful.

I believe Covid-19 has unfolded many bitter realities which we had forgotten to address. We were paced up to a frantic life and ignored the pursuits which are actually the endeavors where the real happiness lies. We used to take life in such haste and senseless manner that on the way we forgot to address the pressing concerns. We felt as if our importance lies in the limelight of only doing big things in life which might be just a thought, or we have already aligned ourselves to achieve big goals. But as a fact those have drained off our energies and enthusiasm.

So far, in this year we had such a horrible experience that more than anything else, we firmly believe, sustaining this pandemic should be the only worthwhile concern. Not just economically but also emotionally Covid-19 has been rampaging the world. Till date, least we could do about its far and wide consequences but our well being is within our hands. We can do our bit to stay sane and safe during these dark times. We could not give up on life and helplessly wait for our end. Lets cut the sordid story short and lets look at brighter side of life to make these times also memorable by our own ways and means.

When the freedom is curtailed, it is not an easy task to enjoy the lockdown period within the premises of the home and that too with the limited family members only. Discovering and pursuing the new hobbies could turn the sluggish period into soul seeking pursuits because when we make selfless efforts to cheer up others, only than we could feel and find our souls at peace. Life is not all about us but it’s our moral responsibility to ensure that we also keep pleasant and amicable bonding with others. When we do simple and selfless things for our loved ones, we create a space to nourish our relationship with them.

As of now we don’t have many options to explore, but cooking is one such passion which is not difficult to pursue. In cooking every ingredient has specific place and importance. From cutting to cleaning, peeling off and mincing garlic cloves, chopping tomatoes, sautéing onions and spices, simmering the stew/contents, aromas wafting from the kitchen, cooking is all about discipline, patience, compassion; and it boosts our confidence when we manage to prepare delicious dishes.

It can connect us within ourselves. Cooking doesn’t happen by chance, it’s in fact based on age old customs and conventions. Its an art which can teach us a lot about different perspectives of life. It is a special route which can help us to create our place in someone’s heart. Cooking teaches us modesty to perform tasks that go beyond our ego. It is an art by which we can create demanding menus. When we prepare and serve hearty meals to our guests, and family members, we nourish their souls and win their hearts.

We have never fiddled with our meaty cravings. We are accustomed to having meat at least twice a week. Even nowadays when our favorite butchers  (Pujjs) are selling it at 600 Rs/Kg, we couldn’t confront them. Due to the strike of meat sellers on the retail pricing issue, and other logistic constraints, we mostly prefer to eat chicken. We are toiling hard to learn and experiment with different recipes among which Butter Chicken, Chicken Changazi, Chicken Handi, Chicken Manchurian, KFC Chicken, Kadai Chicken, Afghani Chicken, Chicken Biryani have been our favorites. Yes, the joy of cooking is incomplete without sharing our platted and photographed dishes on social media. Delicious food not only satiates our taste buds but it is nothing less than a divine journey to our souls as well.

Since the onset of Pandemic, most of the people have desisted eating outside and have came to the conclusion that home cooking should be preferred. It has now became a new norm. People from all walks of life are trying their best to hone their cooking skills. It has been a cherishing experience for the males as well. They mostly rely upon the youtube tutorials, and cooking shows, to learn and try their hand at the new recipes. But at the end it is the rewarding experience for them to be the helping hand for their female family members. The happiness that others share on relishing the tasty food makes these wanna be chefs feel special; and the excitement of kids cannot be described in words.

In a lighter vien, my kids have put on  weight not because of excessive eating but due to their obsessive watching of the cookery shows. They hardly miss the shows like, Cut Throat Kitchen, Master Chef Australia, Kids Baking Championship, Food Paradise, Magic Mom Plates of Flavor and Antonia Lofaso. Although they help their mother but at the same time they have become her food critics. Every other day they are teaching us something new about the eating etiquettes and food presentation. We (me and my spouse) are puzzled by their cooking terminology and never thought could have become familiar with the words like chocolate ganache, fondant icing, dough kneading, isomalt etc. We could heave a sigh of relief at least they are feeling concerned and contemplating on minute details of cooking, but still it’s not that easy to feel better when they are so much stressed due to shutdowns and lockdowns from last 17 months; and even when slow speed 2G online classes are agonizing their mental and physical well-being.

Bottomline: The family that eats together stays together. Savoring these precious moments with your loved ones, connects you with one another. It does not matter there has to be exotic food to relish, even collard greens (Haakh) can do wonders, if cooked out of love.

Cooking can serve as an outlet to safeguard you from falling into the whirlpool of Pandemic anxieties. It can be pleasant and productive to keep your peace of mind intact.

Cooking is a skill which prepares you for the life. Who else can understand it better than those students and expatriates who are studying and working in other countries. So learning it at an early age can keep you connected to your roots and at the same time it can be highly beneficial for your health as well.

Lastly, serving the square meals to those who couldn’t afford in these turbulent times is the noblest service one can do for the humanity. Let’s do our bit to keep the flame of cooking passion and compassion for the trodden alive!

(I dedicate this write up to my Dubai buddies Mian Faisal, Adil Shah and Shakeel Mantoo whose cooking I always admired)