Monday, April 26, 2010

The Cook'ing' Monster

Dear Rushina,

When people ask me what my hobbies are, I automatically say ‘cooking’ and they automatically reply, “Oh? What can you cook?” And if there’s a friendship to be made, what follows is a respectably long conversation about the foods I love cooking, punctuated with a lot of swallowing and lip-smacking (one’s own of course). It has occurred to me that no one ever asks about the things you can’t cook. Which is funny, because the failure to cook presents as great an opportunity to forge a meaningful bond as accomplishments in the kitchen. For example, I cannot bake.
And not because I haven’t tried. Mrs. Lal, my home economics teacher in school had magic hands. Watching her bake sublimely fluffy muffins and cakes made me feel like I could do the same. I returned home for the holidays, inspired by her classes and proceeded to turn our kitchen inside out and impress my parents. I followed all the steps (neatly handwritten in my home-ec notebook), used the same ingredients, waited for the stipulated time for the cake to bake and opened the oven to find that my cake never rose. I blamed the baking soda and tried again with a fresh packet and failed. Then I tried another brand and failed. Then I tried yeast and failed. My cakes, brownies and even cookies (which don’t rise too much) never rose to the occasion. Finally, my poor father who had to taste each batch regardless of the outcome, gently suggested that I try using the oven for something else.
Some years later, blaming my disastrous baking summer on my age (I was thirteen), I decided it was time to put down the white flag and wage a war against baking soda again. This time secretly during the day, when my parents were at work. We also had a new cook by then so she encouraged me without knowing what trauma awaited her. Unfortunately, all the ingredients conspired against me and all I had to show for my efforts was hot gooey batter and a very demoralized cook (she was on my side). The ceasefire was once again in place.
I have used the same oven to bake fish and roast meats, with great success. But baking cakes, cookies etc remains my valley of the shadow of death, that dark secret place of shame that lurks in my happy world of cooking.
After you introduced me to the purple foodie’s blog, I haven’t been able to get baking out of my thoughts. Perhaps its time to fight my cook‘ing’ monster.


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