Cooking

We can cook!

12:58 PM

One of the biggest stereotype against foreign women I ever faced was the fact that apparently we can't cook to save our life. I heard it over and over and over again in the pas 7 years.
It often comes in a casual conversation with acquaintance or random strangers asking me what I eat (uhh food I guess) and when I tell them I love Indian food and cook it at home they are like "Oh you know how to cook?" A couple of time I replied "Yes why shouldn't I" And they go on saying that foreign women can't cook from scratch because everything comes ready made to put in the microwave. A few asked "How did you learn cooking then" and well haven't we all learned watching parents, friends neighbours and purchased a few cook books? And since I know they mainly want to know how I came to learn Indian cooking, well here is how: When I was living in Chennai I used to spend late afternoons with my neighbour and would watch her cook, I got the basics of Indian cuisine that way, then of course there are cookbooks and TV shows and the fact I simply love trying new things and experimenting in the kitchen when I get the time.

A few of my friends asked me what else can cook, and after telling them I can cook pretty much anything after getting a recipe, and that among my favourite are Indian, Chinese, Thai and Italian, but that I also tried my hand at sushi and tempura, two Japanese dish.
One of my friend commented that it was great and that you can't find all that here though.

Sadly she is right, not only are some of the ingredients thought to find, I found that the choice of cookbooks in many store is pretty much limited. You can find loads loads and loads of excellent Indian cookbooks, but not much else, you can luck on a few good Chinese cookbooks and wok cuisine since it's basically just the same as your humble "kadai", but venture anywhere near "continental cuisine" and you don't get much beside cookbooks telling you how to cook pasta, maybe the notion we eat only these comes from here. True continental cuisine is generally meaty and doesn't really appeal to most Indians, but the little known fact is that there is such a thing as vegetarian European cuisine nowadays and that thankfully it isn't limited to just pasta. I had a few cookbooks on that matter in Switzerland, I regret giving them to a secondhand bookstore before leaving for India now.
The most "adventurous" cookbook writer in India would be Tarla Dalal, unfortunately her recipes, even for the Indian dishes are sketchy, proportions are always completely off and if you weren't a good cook to begin with you can't pull anything from her books off as all of the recipes need a strong alteration process, and you need to guess which steps she omitted to mention in the "How to". Her worst recipe being the one for banana cupcake in the Samsung microwave/convection oven cookbook. You need knowledge of the particular cuisine she wrote about before embarking on cooking any of her recipe. The book in which I had to do the less adjusting was her dal book, making me think she should really stick to Indian basics and not venture in fusion or "continental" dishes, and certainly stir clear of baking.

But more than cook books, what limits you in your cooking in India is actually the fact that there isn't much availability of certain ingredients that belong to international cuisine, this is one of the thing that always surprised me a little really, because Indian food store and ingredients are widely available all through Europe, as well as other food stuff from across the globe.
So that even with a few genuine continental recipes from the Internet you will find yourself having to invent a lot and find tons of alternatives for certain ingredients...unless you plan to cook tomato pasta of course.

7 comments

  1. Yep, I have heard that one too. They also think white women can't clean and keep a house. Ummm, we are not the ones with maids!

    Glad that you are blogging again. :)

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  2. Oh yeah I got the "can't clean and keep a house" thing too and I always found it funny because having a maid in Europe is a major luxury very few can even think of affording on a daily basis.

    I get a bit more time to blog now, and I'm trying to be regular at it.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Hi

    I have just found your blog and loving it. I think I will start to read from 2004 :)
    Me and my boyfriend moved to Kerala, Trivandrum a month ago from Sweden. What an adventure you have.
    Every post I read I found myself even though we haven't been here so long :)

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  5. Hi Tugba, thanks for the comment on my blog.
    How long have you been in India? I saw you posted an other comment in my older posts too :-) Will go down there and reply to it too :-)

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  6. Hi again :)

    we have been in India since 1st october but experienced a lot both in a good and bad ways. Today was the worst day, we had a maid we really liked. Last wednesday she stole money from us.(we were ready to forget it if she did not try again)
    She comes in the morning today and we talk with her. She pretends that she does not understand anything even though her english is really good finally she admitted it after telling her that we will go to the police otherwise.
    She says she will come with the money on Wednesday. Let's see what happens. Still shaky :(
    Just wanted to share with you :)
    Have a wonderful week.

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  7. Och the stealing Maids.
    From experience, don't let it slide, DH and I had one that stole from us, came late and was dishonest, we gave her a first benefit of doubt, then 2-3 warnings as it was small items that got lost and then one day it was a glass too many in the kitchen and the fact she came late, we fired her. You can threaten with the police, see is she brings the money back, but seriously don't count to much on it, and as far as the police, well that will not bring the moeny back either, you might even fall on a corrupt cop that will ask for a bribe.
    I would fire her if she doesn't come clean, and find a new maid, they aren't too difficult to come by and this is sadly a came of trial and errors with them.

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