Science of cooking – The Hindu

The pressure cooker, up to this point a marvellous invention, now played a dangerous role.

The pressure cooker, up to this point a marvellous invention, now played a dangerous role.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Cooking had never taken its toll on me. I fancied myself as an authentic, self-inspired cook. Never had to rely on videos, only handwritten recipes and culinary antics with the spices were all it took to keep my family satiated.

All that was busted when our son inclined to cook for a healthy survival rather than as an interest.

I had no idea how to explain the physics and mathematics of cooking, but he put his faith in my experience and began his foray into cooking. 

He would not accept any guesswork or approximation, which were my strengths, as I only depended on instinct and instantaneous hacks

Hence, what ensued were frustrating moments of self-despair, tinged with determination, sometimes followed by minor aversions of accidents in the kitchen. Here nothing rang truer than the quote by Julia Child, “No one is born a great cook; one learns by doing.” 

The pressure cooker, up to this point a marvellous invention, now played a dangerous role. 

Theoretically, everything made sense, but how precisely it worked needed to be explained. I had to be exact with the quantity of water, whistles and the cooking time.

Another set of instructions involved soaking the pulses and draining the extra liquid.

There was the confusion over red, brown and white rice. Lentils and beans proved to be a real challenge. The food processor also had a role to play in creating chaos. Selection and mounting of the jars, using the right speed and checking for the right consistency required experience coupled with operational skills.

For a novice, these led to obvious catastrophic situations in the kitchen. Desperate and frantic video calls ensued. No amount of patient explanation could temper things down. And then, there was the choice of vegetables. For a while it was potatoes all the way, this soul food for a short time did ease my load of imparting training. He experimented with various permutations and combinations with this humble tuber. It was a short-lived affair. Soon his inclination towards non-vegetarian dishes proved to be the yardstick.

Here began the exploration with condiments, seasonings and herbs, With the salting, the lime-squeezing, and the roasting of the whole spices, he was quite precise.

My short-cuts of ginger garlic paste or chilli powder were brushed away with an emphatic refusal. Everything had to be fresh and finely chopped. Well, his convictions paid off and he could bring to the table delicious dishes. As the genuine manager of the kitchen and after taking a comprehensive inventory of the situation, I have now developed a variety of tactics to achieve maximum efficiency.

I have exhorted him to innovate and try new things. Finally, after several months of drifting around the gastronomic maze, it is finally crystal clear to him which way to turn. He will no doubt navigate himself and presumably savour the flavours and the moments along the route.

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