Meal or Ordeal?
I started this year with an urgent need to eat healthy, organic, home cooked food. The goal did come to fruition until the pandemic hit and the whole world went into lockdown. Everything came to a halt, so did my dream of a healthy lifestyle.
With the restriction imposed and sudden absence of our cook, we were left with no other option but to cook and feed ourselves. “ How hard can it be, right?” was my initial thought. As it turns out, quite hard. I am a fairly good cook when in my element, that is, no worries about work or stress from the thousand other chores left undone. But this time it was different. Cook up three meals a day, each day, everyday from scratch. Disaster ensued.
Initially, I was excited about this idea. I knew I can do it, to the extend that I believed this was an opportunity from gods to see me flourish and nourish my body and soul whilst enhancing my cooking skills. There were different phases to this.
The Experiment Phase:
Clearly, I was on some kind of high or Coffee in this phase. Thus, started a series of experimental cooking from the Dalgona coffee to mug cakes to birthday cakes. Went a little desi at times,with samosas, appams, biryanis to even pickles. As it happens with every other drug, it wears off. My cooking high also hit turf.
I had a written meal plan for each week, morning were meant for upma, dosa/idli, toast, poha, pancakes. Lunch would be a simple meal mostly including a curry, a vegetable sabji or thoran as I call it, with a non-veg dish(either chicken or fish or eggs).And yes eggs are non-veg. Nights were experimental again, since the Husband was free from work by then, we cooked up some delicacies albeit great effort. Noodles with chicken manchurian, fried rice with chicken curry, pasta in white sauce and what not.
The Salad Phase:
There was a brief period of insanity which struck and we embarked on a journey of healthy living again with Salads. Although reluctant I gave in, it felt good the first few days but then me being the South Indian I am, couldn’t do without my rice and curry at lunch. I went straight back to it without even the slightest guilt.
Thanks to all the food and health experts I follow, I realised that to be healthy, one does not have to survive on salads alone but a wholesome home-cooked meal, immediate sigh of relief.
But home-cooked meal is easier said than done.
The Khichdi Phase:
The Khichdi(lentil rice) phase. It can be eaten anywhere, anytime, by anyone. You can’t go wrong with khichdi. Its food for the souls. But this phase was also short-lived, thanks to the lack of new recipes(I tried all variations)and the will to cook.
By this time, I was tired, my mind was tired, my body was tired. When we picture cooking, all that comes to mind are the Masterchefs of India and Australia, who love food and enjoy cooking. And THAT IS THEIR PROFESSION. I am no professional chef, I am a simple women who is a fairly good cook, only while in her element.
And my element went up the air a few days into cooking, you see cooking is not only about taking out some ingredients and putting them in a pan. Voila! a dish is ready. NO. It requires a certain amount of dedication, patience, planning and desire.
Planning – You need to plan ahead on what to cook, three times a day. That is a task in itself. Come up with that and you are set.
Shopping – checking whether everything is available in the ingredient list or not and then shop accordingly. Big task but we have bigger ahead.
Time – How much time do I have? And in that time what can I cook? Do I need to prepare something in advance?
Execution – The most important part of it all, cooking the actual dish which you can start only when you tick off the above steps. This step can have its own separate article.
Execution also involves cleaning,chopping, gathering all the ingredients other than cooking. And thanks to our Indian recipes, we have a ton of ingredients in every dish.
It also involves watching a whole lot of Youtube videos for recipes and calling your mum to the point she stops attending your calls. Just Kidding.
Cleaning – No one actually comprehends this step when they start cooking but its as important as the previous few. Also, because no one else is going to clean up your mess. You have no help, remember!
I love cleaning, cleaning is my thing. But that same love turns into an ugly sore after two hours of cooking and tackling a mountain of those dirty dishes. Nobody wants that.
Desire – That’s the foremost reason anyone should cook. I had that desire at the start of the lockdown. I was relatively free, less stressed, less worked up, less demands, less everything.
But once the build up of all these started, everything else started crumbling around. I no longer had the desire to cook. It felt more like a punishment with every passing day.
Cooking is something that one should put their heart and soul into, that’s when it nourishes you, satiates you and helps in digestion not only for you but for others too. But once the soul is gone that food is as good as eating a green smoothie without the greens.
Finally, I had to Marie Kondo my way into it. I asked myself “whether cooking sparks any joy in me?” but the answer was not as simple as I imagined. I did give me a happiness when I had the time and resources, otherwise no. I am sure many working people understand my sentiment here. And relate to it on a more deeper level too.
Solution was to give up cooking on days I absolutely could not give it my all. Thanks to the numerous food portals available these days, we sustained through the lockdown in the absence of our cooks and my desire to cook. Although, it left a huge dent on our bank accounts but it was worth it.
On other days. I just cooked with love and gratitude. Afterall, nothing beats a delicious home-cooked meal.
Do you enjoy cooking? How has been your experience cooking? Let me know in the comments below.