I’ve tried to avoid writing. I cook instead. It’s less introspection. But introspection has a way of catching up with you no matter how much you avert looking it in the eye.
Of my (sour) relationship with food: While the forced, violent feeding of my childhood was an obvious factor in damaging this relationship, I hadn’t noticed the subtler one which is papa’s obsession with keeping the fridge empty.
Papa grew up poor; so poor that sometimes he hadn’t food to eat. He hates wasting food, but he also hates over-eating and eating left-overs. So he tends to cook small/minutely measured portions. And if there is as much as a bowl of rice left, he will nag people to eat it till the bowl is empty. Add to it dadi’s loud, angry support and you get a cacophony of loud food-obsessed yelling in the house, every hour of the day. When they are not cooking, feeding, they are discussing what to cook next.
There are days when upon hearing all this fussing around eating, feeding, and finishing food, I imagine standing in an empty ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ mustard field yelling, on and on.
When I started cooking, unmeasured, large-ish amounts, it made them uneasy. He began hanging around the fridge and ask “till when are we keeping this in the fridge?” which after a fungus infested pita bread scenario turned to “when am I throwing this?” as soon as something comes out of the oven.
All this crying: I was expecting Via Dil to lead to some beautiful conversations and connections, I was not expecting the crying. There were multiple times when while talking about a memory or after reading my experience of cooking their food, the person would cry, and sometimes I would. I may never have experienced something as pure as this before.
Cheesecake: I have strong feelings about cheesecakes. It is the patriarch of baked food, which is to say that it is fussy, attention-seeking, and has weirdly specific demands which when not met it whines! It needs its own cooking pan, a water bath and gradually decreasing temperature and a minimum of 7 hours to cook! And every recipe has a superstitious sounding tip, like mine one asked me to crank the oven door for an hour AFTER baking it for 1.5 hours, then wrapping it in foil and refrigerating it, so it doesn’t get
a crack, and that is if you have cream cheese and sour cream which take 48 days minimum to make from scratch. WHAT!? Do you also want me to do unpaid emotional labor for you, cheesecake, and take your last name?
Daughter of god: I have been noticing people’s emotions around food a lot more since I started this project. My favorite is experiencing R get emotional while eating Caesar Salads. She gets saturated with gratitude, loses her words, and ends up saying things like “I can now understand why Mary, a virgin who somehow birthed a child called hi the son of god. You, you must be the daughter of god” through her atheistic mouth!
Old & New ways: I started cooking Craving first, which means that I missed hummus so much I had to enter the kitchen and find where the pots and pans live. When this shifted to Intention first cooking, I had to find new ways of being in the kitchen. This is where I am currently: I listen to my ‘Folk Songs’ playlist while I cook (opposed to the earlier just do this fast and get out of here, no songs way) in the afternoon (earlier I would cook after everyone slept at night) because that is when the kitchen is slightly empty and I can hear the family engaged in some cute activity or another. I clear the counter and wash all the utensils I used because I was taught growing up that cooking isn’t done till you have cleared up after you, which makes sense because why should someone have to work because I took up a project; who am I, Sanjeev Kapur? I was made aware of other good things I learned about food in my childhood: you should at least taste whatever is cooked and not make faces at food even if you don’t like it. It makes my life and the project easier.
Finally, I never thought I would say this, but I do yeast recommendations and wear an apron (that doesn’t even say ‘Kiss the cook’). I have finally become the grandma I always felt like. I have become the grandma I always felt like. The wholesome kind. Not the kind who would explain to you that the ‘wtf cheesecake’ was a take on ‘NY cheesecake’ and follow it up with an eager “gedit gedit?” Not her.