Sunday, December 15, 2013

Stepping up to Plate

Food is one of the most innocent pleasures available to the human experience.It's a pleasure that does not detract from anyone else's happiness (except of course when Nigella Lawson makes it a point to eat chocolate cake on screen) A foodie and food share an uncomplicated, undemanding relationship, refreshing in its simplicity. And here I state the obvious--
 Atomicgitten loves food.
Apparently this trait had it's beginnings at the author's genesis itself. At one week's age, the only thing that got some reaction out of generally indifferent baby was the prospect of feeding. And then came the long wails at twilight because she was bored with milk and wanted solid food. Mother dearest realised quickly that the easiest way to quieten bawling baby was to stuff food down her gullet. Unfortunately for the baby's waistline, the trend continued far out of babyhood; but that can be the subject of another post.

Moving out of home territory ought to have laid a damper on my gastronomic hedonism. Fortunately for me, I seemed to find great cooks wherever I went. So much so that my tastes only grew more fastidious and my repertoire of eating more broad-based. (Though it must be said of the Mater that, when she deigned to accommodate these demands, her skills proved more than ample to the task.) If it wasn't poor Gitler who had her lunches usurped by us marauders, it was Kutty who was lucky to get a bite of her home cooked lunch after it made the mandatory pass. Then there was poor sweet Chitra Aunty who smilingly ignored our shameless gluttony and catered generously to our vethakuzhambu/sambar sadam/dosa/filter coffee greed. Life was a lovely thali waiting to be licked clean.

B.A passed into M.A and the age of shamelessly finishing off somebody else's lunchbox or 'dropping in' at a friend's place right in time for a meal came to a sad end. But the heavens continued to smile upon on my palate. I was gifted with a room-mate who was all but born with a frying pan in her slim hands. Besides being a certified expert in all things fashionable, Rikosama is also a chef of formidable skill. And while she is always more than happy to do all the cooking herself, we realised that the only way we could establish a mode of demanding food off her was to participate in the process in one capacity or the other. Hating dish-washing and having had a couple of tussles with prep work on a few occasions, the author took on the sous-chef role and enjoyed slicing, dicing, icing, flipping, dipping and generally tripping on the whole food extravaganza. Along the way some of the cooking knowledge seeped into my food steeped cranium but nothing enough to alarm. Trips home were punctuated by amused surprise and ill-concealed disbelief on the part of the family at reminiscences of hostel happenings.

It was only when the Mater took a spill in the bathroom and was rendered shorthanded that the author's culinary talents came to test. It was generally understood that my skills covered the broad spectrum of multiple styles of egg, instant noodles, sandwiches and the occasional curry but whether this could see us through a month and a half of sustenance was suspect. Besides, whatever skills I might have they could not hope to reproduce the palato-orgasmic nirvana  that Amma dished out and lesser mortals with shoddy vocabulary deemed to call just 'food'.The first 'proper' meal was partaken with some ill-concealed fear, but my mother and brother gamely bit the bullet and emerged minus food poisoning. The most surprised person was the author herself. Apparently all the gastronomic goodness she had been imbibing had accumulated not just in her love-handles. In the middle of receiving, she had also learnt to give.

We are presently in the season that emphasises the joy of giving. And after finally getting to the other side, the author can confidently guarantee that the joy of feeding is just about as much as eating itself.The author has been blessed with the company of several exemplary chefs in her life. It has not helped her waistline, but it does remind her of the enduring goodness of life, which I believe is a lot more important, if not attractive. A full belly goes a long way in easing the pain of existence. And with such exemplary examples of generosity, the author hopes that her plate and what she plates can prove as full of goodness as those she has had the good fortune to partake from.