The first time I was planning to come to the US, I was very nervous about the new responsibility that was enthrust upon me. Like every dutiful mother, mine too had a ton of advice,
“You should eat well”
“Don’t eat too much junk”
“Call me for any help…”
“You whould be fine… I think” she added as an afterthought.
Her doubts were definitely not calming me down and to be constantly reminded of my lack of skills to take care of myself made me dread the upcoming 4 month long US project and made me wish that the most coveted US Visa had never happened.
The maids in Bangalore and Chennai had until then ensured that we had good, healthy food whenever we needed them. To know that I would soon have to manage them all on my own gave me jitters, enough to consume me entirely the entire time I was preparing for the trip and had me feeling utterly helpless. Cooking, until then, seemed like a herculean task, so much that, I couldn’t imagine doing it on my own, that too day in and day out, for an extended period of time. It was at that juncture, per my friend’s wonderful advise, I made the decision to take you along with me. And looking back I think that’s the best thing I have ever done in my life.
You remember, our first time together in the US? When we were in New York City, we were bang in the middle of Manhattan at Times Square surrounded by plenty of restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. I took in all that the city had to offer and thoroughly relished every new flavor I came across. Chinese, Cuban, Greek, Italian, Mexican, Thai….I did not miss tasting any of them. Yet, I always missed a little something. There seemed to be a gnawing hollowness in my heart which seemed to grow bigger and bigger with every passing day. I was clearly feeling homesick qnd nothing seemed to fill up the void in me – not the constant video calls with folks back home, not even the multiple trips to the Indian restaurants around, including our very own Saravana Bhavan that was a stone throw away from where we lived.
You always knew what I wanted and craved for didn’t you? You filled the void in my heart without batting an eyelid, that too in under an hour. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I got to taste home made Sambhar and Dosa after a very long time. Just in the first mouthful, I could feel my heart sing in happiness having had what I yearned for from day 1 in the US, a simple home-made fare, the taste of which tricked my mind to beleive me that I may not be all that far away from home. I polished off the dosas and sambhar in no time and since then there is no looking back, we have been the thickest of friends.
You seemed to conjure up gourmet stuff out of thin air. Right from interesting soups with carrot and orange, to the extremely flavorful thai red curry, to the surprisingly delightful beetroot leaves dal, to even super delicious desserts… with you around nothing seemed impossible. It felt like I could conquer the world whenever I tasted the food you dished out, one after the other. Thanks to you, I got closer to my friends, parents, and sometimes even with strangers. A way to people’s hearts is clearly through their stomachs, and you prove that over and over again with all that you create.
I still remember Dad’s reaction when he first tasted the 10-minute veg kurma you dished out. You know how finicky he is when it comes to food, and he is not one who is very generous with compliments. He was visibly dumbfounded upon tasting that veg kurma, he couldn’t believe that something made at home could taste that good. In his own words, it tasted like the “Navaratna Kurma” that we used to have in the long-gone Surya Hotel in Coimbatore. He loved it so much that he loudly wished for this dish to be made more often. Hearing him praise the kurma so much, I looked to you and smiled slyly, while mom gave him a look of anger mixed with annoyance. Later she remarked that how not once has he complimented her cooking in their 35 years of togetherness and a few days after your arrival he is suddenly a new man?
You know before this most recent trip to the US, when people told me that I am going to be in the middle of nowhere, I am going to get super depressed and that I will want to be back soon, I knew they would be wrong. How could I ever get depressed when I knew all along that you would be with me and that you would never let me down. Just one dish from you and no matter how bad my day is or how horribly white and cold the place is, I would cheer up, and in no time, everything would be alright with the world.
Although I value you a lot, it is sad that it is only while in the US, I know of your importance in my life. When at home I almost always take you for granted. But on a positive side, thanks to my work trips, you have seen more of the US than any of my family members have, for you have been my constant companion in all my trips except maybe for the 3 week long Stamford one. It was too short to take you along I had decided that time and it was one the most terrible mistakes I have ever made. That was the most depressing trip I have ever had to date, for you were not around to cheer me up.
As I am writing this blog, I watch your unassuming, calm self sitting quietly, so much unlike the real you and I couldn’t help the overwhelming sense of gratitude swelling up in my heart. Yhank you for all that you made me into -it is with you I learned to make my first Dulce de Leche and in turn the best dessert in the world – the lip-smacking Banoffee, it is with you I learned the endless possibilities of OPOS (One Pot One Shot) cooking, and it is with you I learned the power a well-made Biriyani can have over the guests. You are not just my constant companion, you are my teacher, and my loving magician, for it’s with you I learned that with a little bit of patience and concentration we can create magic with the simplest of ingredients.
With you around, I do not feel too alone hereor anywhere, for you bring my home closer with every dish, even when I am thousands of miles away. And thanks to you, I get to be a good host. I get all credits for all the delicious fares, for my guests do not know that it was you who made them simple, doable and even enjoyable.
Thank you dear Pressure Cooker for all the humbling life lessons and thank you for being around always. When you are around it’s not just my tummy that feels satisfied, it is also my heart, and so does my soul.
P.S : All of the dishes mentioned in this post has my cooker play a key role in. 10 min veg kurma, beetroot chapati and carrot orange soup are made from recipes sourced from Kannamma Cooks
Amazing how little things in life play such an important part… Very tastefully articulated 😀
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Thank you so much for your kind words Rashmi 🙂
I loved the build up. The intrigue had me hooked until the end. I had guessed sambar powder, maggi masala and several other things, but to no avail 🙂
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Thank you Anupam 🙂
Beautiful articulation of thoughts and memories in words… you are amazing dear…. read your previous blogs also… the way your writing connects with the readers is beyond description!
Keep it up and keep writing!
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Thank you Poonam for your very encouraging words, it’s people like you who inspire me to keep writing 🙂
Nice build up, made me kept guessing for long. Thanks for being an amazing cook and delighting with finger licking desserts. May you always have continued bonhomie with your companion and other friends (knife, frying pan and mixer with whom you separated for a while).
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Thank you Baheti ji 🙂