For years I branded myself as a “bad cook.” I could bake really excellent cookies, cakes and pies, but regular meals were often a flop. I had some infrequent successes with my mother’s recipes, but when I picked up a cookbook and tried something new, more often than not it was mediocre or just plain bad. No matter how hard I tried or how closely I followed the recipe, the result was always the same. It was disheartening.
My husband, on the other hand, is a natural cook. He’s one of those guys who can throw something together by instinct, not measuring things out, setting the timer or looking at a recipe. And his meals are great. It’s very unfair.
It was always our joke that he handled the cooking and I stayed out of the kitchen. It’s a good thing that the world we live in today is kinder to non-cooking, non-homemaking women than it was in the past. Still, as a food lover and a general DIY person, this failure irked me. A lot.
When my husband and I spent some time at his parents’ house, my mother-in-law took care to show me how to make yummy treats like samosas and paneer. She called me into the kitchen to watch the servants as they rolled, stuffed, fried and baked the most delicious things. Yet I couldn’t help asking her, if only in my mind, “Why are you showing me this? I can’t cook. You should be showing your son.”
After my first trip to India, I decided that enough was enough. Cooking couldn’t be that hard. If I practiced and tried hard enough, I could master it. And I would start with the food where the spices do most of the work for you – Desi food.
So my mother-in-law, pleased as punch, bought me a paneer maker and started sending me recipes. I’ve done rather well with her recipes, but I still find that following recipes from cookbooks leads to failure. And the question rares its ugly head at me again: is it me? Am I just a bad cook?
Maybe it IS me, but if so, how can I become better? For those of us without the inborn talent, what does it take to become good cooks? It’s a question that plagues me, and I intend to find an answer!