31 May 2009

The seduction of cooking

I was chopping onions for the Mushroom Biryani and crying buckets. My tear glands are always on red alert, ready to spill into a gushing torrent however small the stimuli. At the end though I was fortunate to have yet another meal where I had the satisfaction of eating something delicious, simple and savory. But for me the cooking itself is not quite so much exciting as the chopping of the ingredients.

Let's start with the onions. You can't really chop onions the same way for all dishes. Sometimes I like slices (like for my Biryani), finely chopped when I am making salsa, in giant blocks for barbeques, or rings for salads. I like the process of methodically peeling and chopping them the right size for every dish. And I extend this curtsey to all my ingredients. For upma, I like my ginger finely chopped, for masala chai its grated and for paneer jal frazee it's in julienne. One afternoon I was chopping a rather unwieldy cabbage for my grandmother who was horrified that I was not cutting it to one-tenth of a mm of the size that she had requested. So, this OCD runs in the family. Phew, relief!

I also like arranging my chopped vegetables into distinct piles. It's rather ironic that I take care to keep their personalities in tact when on my plate everything usually gets blended into a soggy mess; whose complete sensory enjoyment lies in eating with my fingers.

My lone partner in this activity is a Global 9 inch chef knife recommended by the quixotic Anthony Bourdain in his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. I love this beauty. The slim handle and the light blade make chopping vegetables a seductive experience. Keeping the knife in shape is a tough task though. One of my sweetest moments packing up in Seattle was discovering the receipt for the knife that allowed me a free sharpening. It was like finding 5 dollars in your pocket!

I can't wait to be back in my own kitchen with a knife I adore and working with ingredients that I grow. Umm... delicious! I can already smell the mint.

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