Every time I teach a cooking class, I hear someone say that when they cook the same thing at home it tastes very different. They followed the recipe meticulously but it still tasted different.
Many a times, I hand out recipes for our hands-on cooking classes and even though everyone is following the same recipe, the food tastes different on each table. Why is that? Its the same ingredients and they are all following the procedure set out in the recipe very carefully.
From my own experience, I always loved my grandma’s cooking above anyone’s cooking in the world. Not even my mom could make a Parantha (Indian flat bread) like her, even if it was made out of the same dough. She could make a simple dish taste spectacular and years on, many people still remember the taste of her food. She stopped cooking a very long time ago, since she gave the reins of her household to her daughter-in-laws.
One thing I learnt from her was to cook with your heart in it. I also learnt a little cooking superstition from her. Whenever she was cooking a meal for a guest visiting with us, or if she was thinking about a certain person whilst cooking for them and the meal didn’t turn out as she wanted, she would say that that person is not trustworthy. If the meal she made came out even better than she planned, she would say that that person was exceptionally honest and could be trusted by the family. It was amazing, how she judged people just by cooking for them. I’ve asked her many times how their intent towards us can be reflected in the food she makes? Her answer was always the same.
My Grandma’s logic was that when a mother cooks for her children, her love for the kids flavours the food she cooks for them. Every time she stirs the food, adds ingredients or spices into the food, she’s adding a bit more love and affection for them so it always tastes good. Her kids love her and that makes the food taste spectacular. She used to stir in a little blob of clarified butter or just butter into the food, and cover it up so nobody would see her extra love for the kids!
When she cooks for guests, her heart is thinking about their visitors and their visit, so the energy from the visitors also enters the food as she cooks and the outcome always tells her if that visitor is good for her family or not. A simple philosophy but she lived by it all her life.
What do I think?
With a food-philosophical hat on, I strongly believe in cooking with your heart in it. The magic of cooking lies in the hands of the chef, because until you feel the texture of the ingredients, feel the taste of what you are adding and what you want to achieve, it’s impossible to get the perfect dish out. I find it impossible to create new dishes when its noisy around me, I need to hear my brain and feel the food to be really creative. When I cook for my family and friends, I take extra care to make the food more heart warming and it always tastes and looks better than what I make for my food blog, which is not fair!
With a logical hat on, I could argue that it’s all in the measurement of the ingredients? When you follow a recipe at home, you may have a different size of spoon that could transform the recipe altogether. I have found big variances in different types of measuring spoons when I was testing things out for my cookbook, hence this springs to mind.
There is no secret to good cooking. There are millions of good cooks everywhere in the world. The one thing they all have in common is their desire to make something delicious. Follow your heart and cook! Keeping things organised in the kitchen definitely helps and having all ingredients prepped up and ready to use is also helpful.
When cooking Indian food or anything with lots of spices in them, it’s all about balancing the flavours to how you want them to taste like and experimenting until you get there. Having the spices handy in front of you, like an artists palette inspires me to add different flavours in my food.
Do you have any cooking superstitions that you follow in your kitchen? I’d love to hear some more grandma’s kitchen stories!