If cooking is an art, Mother is my favourite artist. Cooking, for her, is an expression of love in the confines of her sacred space — the kitchen — where she is seen throwing in ingredients with gay abandon into what becomes another masterpiece.
As for me, the kitchen is a laboratory and cooking — an experiment.
Once I sat through an episode of Master Chef Junior in absolute awe, watching little chefs, who I am convinced have tumbled out of their mother’s womb with a spatula in hand, made cooking seem like child’s play — literally.
And then there are cookery shows where chefs, the likes of Jamie Oliver — who usually gets started with picking up ingredients from his organic vegetable garden — makes cooking seem effortless, giving the humble mortar and pestle the grace of an absolute kitchen essential, chic even!
Or the celebrity Indian chef Sanjeev Kapoor, who can make chopping onions look like art.
The husband, who is usually at the receiving end of my myriad experiments, is convinced that cookery shows can be hazardous (to us) for one does not learn to drive watching Michael Schumacher on the F1 racing track, he points out.
The only way one can learn to cook, is to cook!
So over the years, I have picked up a trick or two. Some experiments were a delightful success while we managed to eat (or swallow) what were really not.
There were days when I realised that onions are not the only ones that can bring tears to my eyes as far as my culinary journey is concerned. What has not changed over the years is the rule of wastage. A practise that has stemmed from years of having Father insist that we finish all the food on our plate as there were children who were deprived of a square meal.
The ‘weight’ of his words is seen in my actions, choices and more obviously on the weighing scale.
This rule can even help make our choices easier for by the end of the week, we plan our meals based on what is about to expire. If the yoghurt is nearing the sell-by date — it’s smoothie time, throwing in bananas, berries and the lone apricot that will soon turn food to a mouldy party. If the potatoes are on the brink of sprouting, we mash and dress it up with spices transforming them into patties that is perfect by itself or as an accompaniment to any bread.
Your dinner dilemma just solved itself.
There are often times when we enjoy breakfast for dinner!
Experience has also taught us that it is best to visit your favourite restaurant before the hunger pangs actually set in for a growling tummy gets you rattling off an order bigger than you can actually eat.
With emerging conflict in various parts of the world, The 2018 Global Report on Food Crisis estimates a 124 million people who are facing crisis. This statistic is enough to make the act of food wastage seem criminal.
As residents of the UAE, we do not need a better example than the UAE Food Bank that collects surplus food from hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and farms to distribute them to the needy inside and outside the country through a network of charity organisations.
The best way to put this into practice is to teach our children to fill their plate with only what they can eat and shop only what can be consumed for you can be rest assured that no one better than our children can give us timely reminders to practice what we preach.
Pranitha Menon is a freelance writer based in Dubai.