Of Kitchens........and Kitchens--4!!
Saturday, January 19, 2013
I began my serious stint with cooking after my marriage.Here I must mention that if I'm a good Cook today the credit for this rests solely with Suhas--Sudhir's older sister.I married into traditionally typical Marathi family---they relished a few things in the Colonial Continental Food and some Punjabi dishes but actually needed the comfort of the basic Marathi Cuisine on a day to day basis.Now since I married very young,Mummy hadn't taught me the basics of our Cuisine--besides though we all belonged to the same extended family,the proportions of the Spices used differed in each branch--hence the confusion!!I mean that though basically our Community hails from Goa, it was after the Portuguese Invasion.The forced conversions to Christianity forced a lot of the original settlers called Gowd Saraswat Brahmins( GSBs) to flee from their homeland into the neighbouring areas of Goa.My mother's ancestors settled in Saawant wadi in the Konkan belt of Maharashtra and incorporated the nuances of that Cuisine into their own--- while retaining their own individuality.My father's ancestors settled further inland on the Deccan plateau in kolhapur--and their Cuisine evolved using the local flavour which enhanced their original culinary style.Sudhir's ancestors moved as far up North as Mumbai as it was then called and their culinary style melded with the local one to produce the Mumbaikari Cuisine.Thus I married into a home that used 3 different styles of GSB cooking--the Mumbaikari,the Kolhapuri and the Konkani styles of cooking.While the proportions of the Spices like Cloves,Cardamom and many similar items differ one thing remains constant in all--the fieryness of the Red Chilli!!Of these the Konkani cooking is the most complicated--then the Kolhapuri while the Mumbaikari is the simplest of all.
My sister-in-law Suhas would travel for an hour from her home in the Northern Suburbs to our South Bombay home to teach me the basics of our daily cooking.It is she who taught me the way to cook the Vegetables in a way to enhance their original tastes and the various styles of cooking the Dals.Since we are basically Fishatarians,Fish was a regular item on our daily Menu.She also taught me the way to cook various types of Fish Curries and I began to really enjoy cooking immensely.It was once I'd mastered the basics that she began giving me the tips needed to cook more complicated stuff--that done I began collecting the Recipes from my two Grandmas--Aaji and Akka.Their basic approach to Life was reflected in their Recipes--both were meticulously perfect in the precise measurements of Stuff--but while Akka would use a smaller quantity as a base, Aaji would go all out for a larger one.Surprisingly though despite my Maths. I managed to increase or decrease the scale accurately enough to clone the original tastes.Once we shifted here to the Central Suburbs where we still live, I also learnt to cook Mughalai Food--most of it from Mummy an Ace cook herself but some of it through a Cooking Class run nearby our Complex.My implements consisted of a few Brass Pots and Pans but were mostly Stainless Steel stuff.The "Paataa Varvantaa" helped me grind my Masalas,my Fresh Coconut for the Fish Curries and the Kerosene Stoves were a stand by to stretch out the number Stoves while cooking for Parties.Those days Kerosene was the least of our problems while the paucity of Gas Cylinders was the worst!!However we struck lucky when we were given an extra one within a year of our Application and while this ensured an unbroken supply of Cooking Gas,I retained my old Faithfuls--my Primus Stoves--for they were truly indispensable whenever I needed to cook large quantities in minimum time!!
Later Gas powered portable Stoves were introduced in the Market.These worked for 30 hours each--and I was among the first to buy these because those days we entertained a lot.By now my "Paataa Varvantaa" had been replaced by a Mixer Grinder--but i still have my old Stone--maintained in peak condition--maybe some day I'll flex my muscles again!!Not just that,my old Brass and Copper Utensils are today on the Loft--having been outdone by the later Stainless Steel versions which too have been replaced by Surgical Steel ones--all in the name of better Health Safety.Since the use of Oil has been reduced to minimum I have also acquired quite a few Non-stick versions too--for Mughalai and Punjabi Cooking needs proper browning of the Onions,Ginger and Garlic to achieve the right flavour,colour and texture.I have also inherited the meticulousness of my female ancestors--the last of these being my mother.While Akka taught me to measure the various Ingredients and Spices using my fingers,Aaji taught me the correct way to cook the Konkani Curries really well!!Finally it was Mummy who was the hardest taskmaster---she stood looking over my shoulder--while I fried the Masalas on a low flame for literally hours till it met with her satisfaction.She truly deserves the credit of turning me into a perfectionist----one of my many failings that our daughters tease me about---- who just cannot settle for less!!My culinary Journey and it's Success is a tribute to my sister-in-law Suhas--one of the best Cooks I've seen--and even today the one Cook I truly admire!!