Friday, March 24, 2006

Whose recipe is it anyway?

Like everyone in this world does, I too believe that my Mom is the world's best cook.

From Bombay's pav bhaji to the south's idli and dosa, to Hyderabad's biryani, to Kashmir's dum aloo, to Gujrat's dhokla to Bihar's litti to Orissa's pitha to the Indian sadakchhap pani puri (the way I like it), she can make it all and more.

And she's a Monica when it comes to the kitchen. Even to this day, although my friends swear by my cooking (well, some do), I dread making rotis for her. That, in spite of my belief that I have come a long way from the days my rotis used to be papads. Don't laugh now! Everyone's first roti, as a rule, is an Australia-shaped papad.

And what I find immensely admirable about her cooking is that she only picked up these skills after she got married. Being the daughter of one of the wealthiest guys in the state, she'd never had to enter the kitchen, let alone cook a meal before she got married. For someone like that, to give up a university lecturer's job, and go to Etah, a small town in Uttar Pradesh as the wife of a guy she barely knew, must have needed real guts.

She often relates how she started picking up culinary skills, along with bits of hindi, from her neighbours. Armed with her broken hindi, she attacked recipe books and hindi magazines (they had zillions of Indian recipes) with a vengeance. And soon, she was such a pro that the neighbours would ask her for cooking tips and recipes.

I still remember how envious my friends used to be in school, when I would open my tiffin box during lunch, and be surprised every single day, while they had to be content with their daily dose of paratha and alu ki sabzi.

When I came to Singapore, she was really worried about my food, cos I had never really bothered to learn any cooking when I was in India.

"Don't eat too much of Chinese food, okay? It has a lot of MSG." She'd warn me.

"What do I eat then?"

"Cook your own meals, beta!" She'd say.

"Me? Cook? Hahaha! Good one, Mom!"

Within a year of landing in Singapore, I had started cooking.

Often Dad would often email or sms to tell me that Mom made this really cool dish and it was really yummy. And I'd call and ask her, "Dad said you made this really cool dish and it was really yummy! Gimme the recipe!" She'd give me the recipe over the phone, with a gentle warning "Share it only with Apa (my sis) and no one else, okie? My recipes are only to be passed down within the family."


Then there was the oft-used panic call.

"Mom, haaaaaaalpppp!!! The sabzi is too salty!!! My hungry friends are gonna be here in 15 minutes!"

"Okay, don't panic. Make a ball of dough, and add it to the boiling sabzi. It will absorb all the extra salt."


After graduating, when I had my housewarming party, my housemates and I cooked for the 30-odd invitees. So I called and proudly told Mom about my accomplishment.

"You cooked for 30 people??? You mean one-three or three-zero???"

"Three-zero, Mom."

"Achha? What did you make?"

"Papdi chaat, zeera chaawal, rajma, salad, alu ki sabzi..."

"How did you make them?"

"Huh? You want me to tell you how I made each of the dishes?"

"Okay, only the main ones..."

"What is this? A test?" I asked suspiciously.

"Arre tell me na, I will tell you where you went wrong..."

"I did not go wrong, Mom. Everything was perfect. Believe me."

Actually, it wasn't. But I wanted to get some things right on my own. Also, her asking me questions like that made me really nervous!

Whenever I tried out a recipe and called her to tell her about it, she'd wanna make sure I'd made the perfect version of it. And because I like to experiment, often skipping conventional cooking rules, I'd be unwilling to tell her the exact steps I followed. I just can't help it, it's a compulsive habit to make my own little changes to any recipe I try out. And I'm not sure she'd understand exactly why I had to go and make changes to a recipe she had tried and tested. She was the pro, wasn't she? In fact, even when I gave her recipes I had come up with myself, I often doubted if she really tried them.

"So tell me na... how you made it." She'd urge.

"Errr... Okay..." I'd say grudgingly and proceed to relate her own recipe back to her.

"Wait wait... garlic? You forgot the garlic??"

"I didn't forget, Mom. I left it out on purpose."

"But why???"

"Errr... Because I don't like garlic! You don't have to add garlic to everything na..?"

"But beta, when I gave you the recipe, I told you to add garlic. It would have been much tastier with garlic."

Heavy silence from me.

How do you argue with something like that?

So yesterday, Dad sends me an sms. "Your Mom made alu gobhi ki sabzi with pav bhaji masala. It was great!"

"WHAT?? Really??" was my response.

Wow. Mom actually tried something that did not follow conventional cooking rules!

So I called her.

"Dad says you made alu gobhi ki sabzi with pav bhaji masala?"

"Oh yes, I did."

"So how did you make it?"

She started telling me the recipe, when I interrupted her.

"Wait wait... tomatoes? You added tomatoes???"

"Errr... yes, I did."

"But why??"

"Errr.. You have to add tomatoes to a sabzi like that na..?"

"But Mom, when I gave you the recipe, I told you not to add tomatoes. It would have been much tastier without tomatoes!"

Heavy silence from her.

What goes around, comes around, eh? :)


The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

ahhaha i'm back in form...

, just like u, i think my mom's cooking is the best, and whatever i make, therefore, doesn't match up to the par.....

but indeed, cooking is kitchen is like my second lab for me...and all my friends are my ..guinea pigs! :)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

p.s: i think i'll make alu gobhi today. :-)

my mom's to die for! all her friends would come home , and drink it up like soup!!! it was hilarious. and then they'd say that she's hiding the recipe from them, because they could never reproduce it. :-0

i still can't make that kinda sambhar....

oh is this my silver lying here, let me just take it on my way out...

Sumit Tada said...

Silver! Silver !
Medal in the first try!!

Sumit Tada said...

I have been readin ur blog for some time now, but thot about commenting today only.....Why cant other bloggers post as frequently as you??
Well......I can also cook few things like roti,rice,omlette,tea and few chuttneies.....ok,ok not much but not very less also for a guy like me who has never been away from home for long.....I know the real test will come when i have to live alone but i have 1 and half yr to practice.....I hope my mom also will always be "just a call away" to bail me out of any trouble.

Sumit Tada said...

Hats off to you lady!! After posting the comment on ur blog,I looked at my gmail tab in firefox and bingo....I got a comment from Sayesha on my blog!! You shud be given some kind of trophy........and you can easily defeat "Bombay Cafe" in "after sales service" okie maybe this isnt the right term...lekin "bhawnaon ko samjho"....
BTW great indian laughter challenge is one TV program which no one can "hate". Although i have only seen it on recorded clips in PC but its too good to resist....I dunno whether ppl in Sinagapore have access to it,but its surely worth the time and money spend..

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

Now, let me read in time, I'm gonna snatch away the gold from the other girl. :P

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

Cooking? Hehe...all I can cook are aloo stuffed paranthas and I think that's a BIG achievement. :D That's it...nothing else.
Aloo gobhi made with pav bhaji masala?! No matter whatever it's made with, I'd still hate it...ugh. Aloo gobhi sucks.
Oh, and I don't think my mom's the best cook in this's my dad. My mom's cooking is nothing compared to his delicious dishes. ;) (Note: Aloo gobhi is not delicious) :P
Hey, I came here before ROHIT!!! YIPEEE!!!!!
See ya around...I'm back now. :D

Jeevan Baretto said...

Hey even I've tried cooking in the hostel. Not for one or two days.. But for one whole month when the mess was not running during the vacations. Actually I had stayed back for my project work.

But I knew only one recipe, the khichdi. Cooked it with people from three different states. One from Assam another from Haryana and the other guy from Delhi.. Howz that..?/ An Indian Khichdi... he he..

Rajesh said...

Cooking was such an outlet for me during my days in London. I used to spend my whole evening cooking and as my english flatmates describe it 'smoking kensington'. But all i can make is some half decent sambar and potato fries, which were my staple diet for some 3 months. I think I'll never be a good cook, I can never have that kind of patience ;)

Chirag said...

Haha, good one. Hats off to all the mothers. God's best recipe.

Jeevan Baretto said...

N ya.. I can make the rotis fit any perfect circle.. believe me I am good at it.. :-) or ask my mom..

Anonymous said...

i'm here for the first time after that whole crazy comments war that happened here.. seems like sayesha's back with the real nice posts :D keep it up ~

*and now my mouth's watering to eat all those yummy things you just blogged about.. slurp*

V said...

My first chapati was NOT an australia-shaped papad.
Really.Believe me.My first chapati, on the contrary was an excellent success!

Vikram said...

First of all, you didn't mention Masala Dosa from Karnataka... :O


Secondly, my first roti was "underwear" shaped. Infact, even my last roti was. Australia shape is something which will need a lot of training for me.

Arrey, even my friends used to envy what I got in my lunch box in school. It was something new everyday. :)

Aj said...

I can make perfect rotis
had a challenge with my sis n mom once
I won and have never looked back since.. Its a skill after all
you just have to properly use a big circular utensil :0

nyways sayesha m back after so many dayz..hav jus posted a new post


Liz said...

My cooking sux! :( Maybe you should give me a few of your "ammended" recipes...ones that your mum might not mind letting out of your family =D


Sayesha said...


Hehe.. you sound like you're singing Shahstriya sangeet, or rather, appreciating it! :)

//and all my friends are my ..guinea pigs! :)

Hehe... Usually I'm my own guinea pig! :P

ps: I can drink baltis of rasam! :O

Welcome! :) A guy who can cook is a real turn-up! Keep up the good work! :D

//okie maybe this isnt the right term...lekin "bhawnaon ko samjho"....

Hahaha! :D

I dunno about great indian laughter challenge (unless you're referring to my friend Virdi's laughter)... I have no time to watch TV :(

#World-selling girl,
Aao thakur! :D
Alu paratha?? :O I want!!!!!! NOW! :(

//Aloo gobhi made with pav bhaji masala?! No matter whatever it's made with, I'd still hate it...ugh. Aloo gobhi sucks.

Hey, that's my recipe you're talking about! :/ Come here, and I'll make it for you! Apni ungliyan chaba jaogi! :D

Wow, khichdi with khichdi? Sounds interesting! :)

Potato fries as staple diet?? Only a guy can get away with that! :/

Hear hear! :)

Hahaha! Okay okay roti-master, I believe you! :D

//seems like sayesha's back with the real nice posts

Hmmm... I'm not sure if that's an insult or a compliment... :/ but thanks anyway! :D

ps: I want pani puri! :(

Bol le bol le... bolne mein paise thode lagte hain! :D

Offo Karnataka ne patent kiya hai dosa ko?? Sheesh! Tu banayega na mere liye when I get there.. then we'll see Karnataka mein kitna dum hai! Muahaha! :D

Secondly, my first roti was "underwear" shaped.


//you just have to properly use a big circular utensil :0

SHEESH!! Dhikkaar hai tujhpar! You should make it the authentic way man, belo your way to circular glory! :D

Hehehe... pssst... between you and me, I can give you some originals too.. just dun tell my Mom! ;)

Dreamcatcher said...

Everyone thinks mom cooks the best. I think they take special mom training classes and the food - I think it has something to do with the smell of their hands..even dal chawal is ultra special when mom makes it :) such a delightful post Sayesha.

Sumit Tada said...

Arey yaar koi batao naa inhe ki "The Great Indian Laughter Challenge" is such a wonderful program (if you ignore Navjot Singh Sidhu,that is)
And Sayesha, no need to watch the TV,even I have only seen selected clip from the serial on PC. This way you can watch them whenever it suits you and also avoid the not-so-good parts and the advertisements!
That "bhavnaon ko samjho" part was taken from one of the Raju Srivastav's clips only...

Aethyr said...

my first roti was sooooooooo thin that u can almost see thru it and it was certainly not australia...atleast aus err...remesbles round shape , if i can say. mine was no where around round it was rhombus, pentagonal, hexagonal,qudrilateral..u get the idea ...right!!

Kusum Rohra said...

Er... mera case thora different hai, my mom is a self confessed non-cook.And i make lavvvvvly rotis :). The funniest thing is once while discussing what we love best abt out mom ka cooking ... i had said that she doesn't cook heheh

ritzkini said...

Moms..are a world apart,yaar..super-special in whatever they do !
Oh no..look what u'v done ! now i am reminded of home !!

Siddhu said...

I read this at 3 in the afternoon, having had nothing to eat (with there being absolutely nothing in the frig).

U don't know how terrible I feel right now after that cullinary ride.;)

Lalit Singh said...

Thats egg-jaktly what i do when i cook... call up my mom for any halp(thats not a typo)
here is one of my recipies

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

girl who sold the world..challenge accepted...khullam khulla!!

ahahahhaa (= wicked laugh, not shastriya sangeet!)

one more thing, for those who miss mom's cooking, i found that even if i add some of the masala that my mom grinds up and sends with me every now and then, it comes close to eating mom's home cooked food..

oh! dear! i want my mommy nowwww :'(

amit said...

achha khana sunkar muh mein paani aa gaya... tang aa gaya hun hostel mein crap kha khakar.... ghar par khane kab bula rahi ho :)

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

@The Girl From Ipanema: GOOD! Let's see who's the first to comment next time. ;)

ahahahhaa (= wicked laugh, not shastriya sangeet!)
MUAHAHAHAHA...that's my wicked laugh. :P

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

Come here, and I'll make it for you! Apni ungliyan chaba jaogi! :D
SHEESH! You wanna turn me into a cannibal?! Itni badi gustakhi?!!! :O
Wish I could take revenge but mere aloo paranthe khane ke baad unglian chabaane ka stamina nahin hota. ;) Muahaha.

Shreemoyee said...

Yes, cooking is a matter of practice, chemistry and experiment.. and getting it right. After having done some of each, I can finally call home people to eat my "Haath ka Khaana"

Sayesha said...

Thanks! :)

//even dal chawal is ultra special when mom makes it :)

Hear hear! :)

What? Siddhu??? You want me to watch something with Siddhu in it? Oye, seedha tell me you don't like me. Yeh ghuma phira kyun re? :/

Hahahaha! Your translucent roti sounds interesting! :P As long as you can get something symmetrical, it's okay. Except Vikram's underwear-shaped roti! Eeesh! :/

Hahaha! Generation reversal ho gaya lagta hai! :) She can write posts about your cooking! :p

Oye! Meri galti ho gayi? Tu toh India mein rehta hai, ek domestic flight li aur chal diya ghar! And domestic flights are getting cheaper and cheaper! Mera soch! One-third salary chali jati hai flight mein! :(

Welcome to the Club. My frig is almost empty too, just has some water, some grapes and one batli of Thums Up muahaha! :D

Hehehe... we can't do without that phone-halp eh? ;)
ps: Tera recipe looks damn good lekin bada complex hai yaar! Bana ke bhej ne na? :P ~ ~

#Ipanema girl,
Yeah man... the masala from scratch plays a big part too! :)

Singapore toh aao, khoob khatirdari hogi! :)

#The Girl,
Hahaha! Kal khaans rahi thi kya? Clueless and I were talking about you! :D

Welcome to Sayeshaz! :) I echo every word you said about cooking... it took me a while before I mustered the courage to invite people over! :)

Vikram said...

//Except Vikram's underwear-shaped roti! Eeesh! :///

Underwear is also a symmetrical object. ok? huh? huh? huh?

hehehe :P

Sayesha said...

//Underwear is also a symmetrical object. ok? huh? huh? huh?

Sheesh! I know that, you ullu! Read my comment again.

"As long as you can get something symmetrical, it's okay. Except Vikram's underwear-shaped roti!"

Arun Pillai said...

cool post

Sayesha said...

Hey, welcome to Sayeshaz! :) Thanks for commenting. :)

Kusum Rohra said...

heheh fundoo idea, i think i will have to ask my mom to start her blog and dedicate it to me, my cooking, my lovely nature, my lovely smile, me the gift of God to her.

Wait a minute, something tells me i am gonna get kicked outta home now :)

Sayesha said...

Yeh padhao Mummy ko, phir dekho Mummy kaise chutney banati hai teri! :D