When M and I met, I was the type of girl who always ate the same things over and over again. It was rare for me to venture out from my preconceived notions of what constituted great flavors. Then I moved to India and despite the suitcase full of food I brought over to satisfy the kids’ palate, it wasn’t going to be enough. I had no other choice but to expand my taste buds (and cooking skills) along with my mindset toward the culture. I’m glad I did.
The heady, full-bodied spices of Indian food beckoned me into a world of taste I’d never experienced before. I finally fully understood what the phrase, “A taste of home,” really meant. I knew M’s taste of home (fish curries, biriyani, etc) was drastically different than my taste of home (fried chicken, dressing, etc) and one was no more important or tastier than the other. They were just different…like we are. But just as we make the differences in our personalities work within our marriage, we do the same thing with our meals. At least two to three times a week, I cook something “Indian.” The rest of the week is filled with a blend of Americana, Mexican, and Italian foods. . If I must say so myself, I’m becoming quite the Indian cook thanks to a variety of recipes and lots of experimentation.
My time in India gave me an appreciation for foods I had not had in years. When I was growing up, my grandmother would always get fresh vegetables from the local farmer. I learned to shell peas and shuck corn under my grandmother’s watchful eye. I watched her carefully cook and can these foods. My grandmother’s way of cooking with love stayed with me and as a result, I love to cook…I always have, but somewhere along the line canned goods and boxed meals became the norm. For a busy working mom, they were quick meals with decent tastes. Only during special occasions or holidays did I find myself dedicating the time and love to cooking a meal. Then I moved to India where sound of the vegetable walla calling out each morning became the norm. If you want a canned good there, you really have to seek it out. I was in awe of the fresh veggies I saw neatly lined up in bright bursts of color. I wondered why we didn’t see more of this in the U.S.
Then it hit me. We Americans have a very different attitude toward food than Indians do. We gorge on food and it becomes the focus of holidays, occasions etc. We’ll take any excuse to eat and we want it fast. While Indians celebrate, they don’t always celebrate with feasts of so much food that they can barely wobble out. Instead, they focus on a few dishes filled with lots of flavor. While, M. enjoys eating as much as the next man, he’s always commented on how we always have so much food at different events. He says he will never understand America’s obsession with food- the very thing that’s supposed to nourish our bodies –not help ravage it.
I came home with a new attitude toward tastes, cooking and food in general. My spice cabinet and drawer are lined with the likes of cumin, turmeric, tamarind, fennel and more exotic blends. Now, like my grandmother, I cook from scratch with the freshest ingredients possible. I have earned my mustard seed burn stripes to prove my dedication to perfecting my curries. I take my time cooking and savoring my meals. My reward has been a 20lb weight loss and a husband who jokingly says his AA wife shouldn’t be able to cook Indian food as well as an Indian woman. Until the next blog!!