After my first enthusiastic attempt at cooking, the kitchen dint seem to excite me any more – especially during my teenage years. I was a highly rebellious person. Like all rebels who love their independence I seemed to follow the law of every action has an equal and opposite reaction! So when I was nine and not allowed into the kitchen, I wanted to cook. But at 14 when I was expected to help in the kitchen, I wanted to be miles away from cooking. Tch, tch….Not something desirable in a “brahmana ponnu” (Brahmin girl). Predictably my amma (mother) and patti (grandma) were highly unhappy and would wait for an opportunity to lament on how I was failing miserably on an “oh so crucial” front – women of the Ranganathan household were known for their delicious preparations. Adding to their misery was the fact that my cousins were becoming experts in the kitchen.
Obviously no amount of nagging, lamenting and authority could counter my fiercely independent nature spiced up by generous amounts of feminism, though I did have my spurts of dabbling with food. Obviously amma and patti dint have the energy to nag me all the time :).
Once on a lazy afternoon on the rare occasion when I was not being pestered (amma was taking her afternoon nap), my brother and I made some Kesari Bath – a delicious sweet made of rava, sugar, milk and generous amounts of ghee. Amma wasn’t that easy to please though, she complained that both of us had wasted all the ghee in the house – she could hear the ladle clattering against the ghee vessel. The truth however was that there was very little ghee in the house and my brother and I took to scraping whatever little was left. I thought we did quite well, given the strained resources at hand :).
My amma is a typical Brahmin lady with her “as shiny as marble” skin, big red pottu, “vaira thoodu” (diamond studs), “vaira mookutthi” (diamond nose ring) and nine yard podavai (saree). Her expertise in the kitchen is legendary. She’s never had good eyesight, with one blind eye and a high power that no technology can counter in the other. Her culinary skills are so highly developed that she cooks with the aid of an impeccable sense of smell. So you can imagine how difficult it is to beat her standards.
This cacophony of “oh my, how will she manage cooking” reached obsessive heights once my marriage had been arranged. Great lengths of time were devoted to voluminous discourses on “How will Latha manage cooking after marriage?” – and as with typical Indian festivities, my large family of dozens of uncles, aunts, grand uncles, grand aunts and cousins soon joined in this never ending conversation.
Finally the great and grand Ranganathan family decided that I should stay with each of my aunts for week and learn new recipes. Besides I was the “chella penn” (favourite daughter) of the household and I could spend time with family.
Well, I definitely did end up having a great time, pampered with all the yummy delicacies my aunts cooked up. The only work I was allowed to do as a “to be” bride was to scribble notes. I did end up experimenting most of the stuff I wrote down in the first year of my marriage – with little intervention from my husband (though my husband insists that he taught me cooking to this date). Ah but to match my amma’s legacy….now that’s another story…