Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mindful cooking

Cooking is one of the three core skills of the good housewife (the others are cleaning and washing or laundry); all of which I learned from the age of about five at my mother's side. They may seem to be simple enough - so much so that those who can afford to, farm these out to others. Today, many women, and I am sure, men, relegate these "chores" that are necessary to our humanity, and I daresay, civilization, to outside contractors. That's alright, as long as they get done.

In our family, however, we have traditions of cooking from many strands - grandmother's creole recipes, grandfather's Chinese style, another parent's Indian dishes and yet another's French customs. Cooking day in day out, every day, and especially on Sunday, doesn't necessarily lend itself to thinking a whole lot about why you might have geera next to rosemary, or amchar massala and star anise, three kinds of peppers, two kinds of cabbages in your refrigerator; and two thymes, mint and basil in the backyard. At the end of the work day, you pull what comes to hand with the ease of many decades of practice; and the meal is ready in an hour, or 45 minutes; and eaten in less time that it took to prepare.

When my own children started asking for recipes I realised how little was written down, how much was in my head and more so, in my hands. They would call from far to find out how to make curry, or pelau. Others would ask too, about callaloo, or apple crumble. So I decided to write the blog: wildgirl-inthekitchen.

These days, as I cook, I pay attention to everything - how much, how long, high heat or lower, how it looks and tastes. I make mental notes as I cook, this seasoning or that, olive oil or regular cooking oil. And at the end of cooking - just before serving - the camera is the newest kitchen tool. What you have in the blog is how something was made on a specific day with certain ingredients. It's not gourmet, not for any cookbook; these are just journals of an activity that is the cornerstone of life; a meditation if you will, for continuous improvement.

After a lifetime of watching my mother and father cook with dedication and discipline; after performing these tasks for another lifetime, I conclude that love transforms even the simplest foods.

2 comments:

  1. I can remember the day that it dawned on me that someone must have created the recipes that were in the cook books, made them up if you will! I was about nine years old. I was so excited! To imagine new combinations that were waiting for discovery.

    I ran straight to the kitchen and started to stir in the ingredients of my choice. I was going to make a cake.. an original cake!

    Of course the cake didn't rise, because I had not put in baking powder, and it was a bit gloopy, because it had too much liquid for the flour. But I cooked it and ate it anyway.

    It was then that I realized that there were basic principles that I would have to learn, to be a success. So the study of these principals began. But the excitement of making new combinations is what has provided for me, many hours of joy in the kitchen. A real meditation.

    Looking forward to some of yours!

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