Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Flour, sprinkled, unchained

So, now i have proudly gone on to baking breads - different flavors and shapes from a modest beginning of cakes and cookies.
There is something very liberating in being able to bake your own bread. It's like if the world crashes over and there is no food left on earth, i can bake MY OWN BREAD. (Of course, assuming all ingredients for making the bread are not destroyed!) But you get my drift, right? It makes me feel very independent and like a domestic goddess, ruling over my kingdom of sugar and butter and milk and flour.

I am a very neat and precise cook, i plan when i am going to cook / bake anything, i take a stock of the ingredients needed, i shop well in advance in case anything is unavailable. I have, honestly, no idea how it feels to start off with a recipe and realize some ingredient is missing. I rarely use the "what should i substitute for...." webpage in the middle of cooking. That page is only used in case of ingredients not available at my local grocer's when i am out shopping!

I lay out all the ingredients, measure them. Now, this i agree, i do very precisely with all equipment that i have ordered over the months from ebay and Amazon and have been gifted by my ever supportive guinea person(!) - Sagar and my comrade in arms, cousin - Renu. But intuition kicks in every time. I never, if at all, stick to these measured quantities. A little dash of, an extra little sprinkle of, a small little table spoon, a pinch more... of ingredients always ensues. Nevertheless, they are all measured out and kept, as are all the bowls and utensils that will be needed, including the aluminium foil required. Imagine opening the cupboard with flour or chocolate covered hands to take it out in the middle of the recipe! I realize that it is not a big deal for most, but for me it is nothing less than a nightmare - that tiny little drop of chocolate hanging on the hinges or the handles, accumulating over the years, till it takes over the cupboard, then the kitchen and then the whole house and turning into this huge chocolate monster...wait a minute, THAT is not a bad idea. A chocolate monster. It will be legal to bite it to kill it :)
But coming back to the point!
So i keep everything ready, there is a newspaper spread over the kitchen counter which is my work area, or a wipe cloth. Wash cloths are ready, utensils are washed the minute they have finished the work they were supposed to do and wiped and put away in the cupboards. My utensils must be feeling like prisoners, being made to do hard work and then marched back right to their little cells without ever being able to enjoy the sunshine or the breeze!

And i think this need for precision and neatness is what sometime frustrates me about cooking. If it a quick recipe, it doesn't bother me much, but come elaborate recipes and i start to lose my cool. Then i am like a controlled robot on a suicide mission - looking for the most efficient way to kill all the joy that i get from cooking.
I love cooking. But it doesn't give me unconditional joy - because i am so focused on the peripherals that i lose the essence of it.
Cleaning, making sure everything is neat and organized occupy most of my cooking time. When actually it should be my recipe, my quirky additions to it, permutations and combinations of ingredients that should be what cooking should be about.

Looking at a cake rise sitting next to my oven, instead of washing up.
Taking in the yummy fragrances, rather than throwing scraps and pieces in the dustbin to clear the space
Admiring the pretty pictures in my cookbooks, rather than wiping the kitchen counter
Getting the pretty little plate to put my cake on, instead of putting utensils back in their place.
I should be scribbling notes on the recipe books, instead of organizing my recipe papers and books and placing them back as they were

And this revelation suddenly hit me yesterday, when i was busy making my bread. It was annoying me that the flour was falling everywhere even though i had laid the newspaper down strategically. And then in a fit on annoyance, i threw some flour down. And then, as they say, history was made!

It was so liberating, like some chain had been thrown off, and i  could do as i pleased. A big smile came on my face. And my eyes refused to see, and my brain refused to register all the stuff strewn around about me. All i could see was the dough in front of me and what i had to make out of it. A beautiful creation was to be made, and how could i even be thinking about the stuff lying in the washbasin? I cannot believe i have been like a robot in the kitchen, when of all the places in the house that is the one place which fosters creativity and spontaneity. Playing in the flour, licking the chocolate off my finger and the spoon, having the utensils just sit there, this is how cooking is supposed to be. The cleaning up might take me 5 minutes longer than usual - but who cares?
I want to be in a messy kitchen, with flour on my face and chocolate on my hands, but oh, what a feeling of joy it is going to give me.
Cooking basics 101 be damned. Organisation and neatness are never used to describe great chefs or awesome home cooks.

My mother is a great cook, not because her cooking style is neat, but because her food tastes heavenly.
And as my mother always says - "The one thing that makes your food beautiful is the secret ingredient you put in it - LOVE"!



Source: pinterest.com



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