Posted by: chobhi | September 21, 2015

Women: cooking and writing with innovation

I spend quite a bit of time in my kitchen even if I do not need to. This time it’s all the apples I harvested from our apple tree. Sometimes it is my husband who acts like a woman who is pregnant and has cravings. Other times, I want to save money and eat nutritious foods. Whatever the reason, I do find it ultimately relaxing. Having had a background in chemistry (a subject with a special place in my nerdy brain) I find the mixing,blending, adding and cutting process innovative and downright exciting.

My mother was a remarkable cook and did it with ease. Whereas I go from totally burnt and stone-like bread to  some gourmet vegetarian stews, dosas and quiches, my mother consistently dished out superb creations. She hated anyone giving her directions and I played the sous chef around her picking up little nuggets of information watching her. If people turned up at odd hours, she had a quick meal prepared with whatever was available. When I had jaundice and went back to school, she would cook two different sets of dishes  to accommodate my diet as well. Just like her mother, my grandmother, she would learn new dishes from other parts of India from her neighbors. Innovation was key to her cooking.

An aunt on my husband’s side was  quite amazing too. She would turn up at my place and try to recreate dishes from India. We managed to make ‘ kai murukku’; a very specialized snack, made with rice flour, butter and salt dough where you use your fingers deftly to create the twisted dough in a circular shape.(My mother was a queen of kai murukkus!)

IMG_2268 Once, when I visited this aunt in India, a relative turned up unexpectedly (this used to be the norm for my mother’s generation, sudden guests for lunch or dinner or in between), she combined leftovers quickly to serve him an elaborate Indian lunch! I was very impressed by the quickness with which she managed it.

Now along with the innovation which is challenging and a little different, these women also cooked routinely. Every single day, my grandmother,my mother, those aunts and other women that I watched prepared their breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. They bargained with the vegetable sellers, bought the lentils and other groceries to create their magic in the kitchen;part of the pre cooking process.

As a writer, I have to use some of these skills from the kitchen.Like my mother, I need some solitude (not even a sous chef around) to carry out the writing. Sometimes, I have an epiphany and I rush to write it down to capture it but mostly it is the discipline of just getting down to it. The daily boring process of looking at my work, changing it , or working on a new creation is the reality for any writer. Unlike in the kitchen, where I get my product soon and can taste it, here this is a longer process. Yes, I do ‘taste’ it by re-reading. And my favorite part is the pre-writing when I read good and bad writers to understand what to avoid and what to admire.

I heard about this young woman who used to write consistently when her children as toddlers were taking naps. I do not have that drive. I hear about women who write every single day. I do not have that discipline.

But rather than lament the fact that I am not doing some of these things, I will go ahead and keep creating having the wisdom to discard the ‘burnt pieces’ and hold on to the tasty tit bits of writing to create one day a  fairly worthwhile piece of writing that others can sink their teeth into!

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