Like 99.99% of middle class Indian Parents my parents have or at least had an unswerving faith in education. They also had an almost blind belief in the Indian education system and honestly in the late 70's when I started school it was not such a bad one. I mean yes it did not allow exploring or free thinking but it provided wholesome disciplined learning and that suited me fine. I was never the kind to drop out and start Facebook after all.
My Mother never forced me to study in so many words, neither did she send me for tuition or spank me with a haatpakha if I refused to do homework. However it was somehow understood that the only thing I was expected to do reasonably well was study, academically and rank at least amongst the first three in class. I was one of those boring, obedient kind of child who would rather study school books than study the lifestyle of an ant and so the deal suited me fine. It probably helped that I also could read as many fictional novels under that pretext.
To make it easier for me and also maybe because Ma stayed home and had some sort of help, very little was expected of me regarding household chores. Of course there were set things I did but nothing major and hardly anything in the kitchen."Ekhon porashuno korar shomoy", she would insist that this was a time for studying.
My Ma did not think cooking was something that needed to be taught early on. She believed it was a skill anyone could pick up when the time was right and according to her there was a lifetime left for me to learn those. In absence of Food Network and amidst drudgery of home-cooking she clearly did not put a lot of value to it. I guess she liked it given that she was always cooking one thing or the other, setting up 2 kinds of breakfast and a minimum of 4 dishes for dinner, experimenting and never delegating a meal to a cook. But what I mean is she never thought "cooking food at home" was an important thing. Nothing that demanded accolades, appraisals and a year end bonus. In those times phrases like "Cooking is therapeutic" or "Cooking brings me close to home" were not flung around freely.It was not really a choice, rather a necessity, something you did to feed family. There was no getting away from it. Period. If you loved it good for you, if not bad for the family.
So I got away with cooking maggi in almost raw mustard oil at 12 and was heavily applauded by Baba for making a simple cup of tea at 13. Cooking was not expected of me.
Food though was something I loved and was often chided for my finicky tastes. My kaku, uncle had once said that I should get married to a rich restauranteur because though I would never want to cook myself, I preferred to eat well and in my own terms.
But as they say "Life comes a full circle" and there came a time in life when it was cooking that became worthy enough for me to spend a major chunk of my time and energy for. And wonder, wonder I even liked it. As my Ma had said it wasn't too hard to pick up either, if you kept an eager mind.
When I first started my blog I don't think I even mentioned it to my parents. It was a minor thing. He..e..l..l..o it was about cooking. Home cooking at that. They would think "What was so great about it", I thought. But because I wrote about my daughter I gave my Dad the link to read up anecdotes about his granddaughter when they were thousand miles away. It was just one more means for connecting in the modern world.
Soon they got hooked and they would now read the blog often, if not regularly. Baba would sit in front of his desktop later at night, the phone would be off the hook, the wire connected for dial-in and over a slow ethernet connection they would read whatever part of the blog decided to load. Okay, I might be romanticizing and he might actually be checking Facebook instead of reading my darn blog.
My Ma would discuss recipes that I had blogged or could blog. She would sometimes cook something from the blog and tell me so. Of course 90% of the recipes there were hers so I am not sure why she would do that. Maybe to make me feel good or something.
I would discuss some of the e-mails, readers sent, with them.Baba would share pics of the vegetable market he had taken with the blog in mind.
But my Ma never wrote a recipe for the blog for the simple reason that she does not believe in boundaries of cups, teaspoons and tablespoons. While cooking she never measures, always relying on her perfect sense of andaaz, her fingers trusted to pick up the right pinch. I mean which Indian home cook measures their ginger, and it was okay. If she told me ektu jire..I cooked it at home and replaced ektu with 1 tsp only if I was to blog. Else I too relied on my "pinch". A week or so back I told her that what with the work on the book and the impending summer vacation I don't get time to update the blog as often as I liked and it would be nice if she send me post ready recipes.
"But I don't measure..like you", she panicked.
"Err..well you could. It doesn't have to be precise to 3 digits after the decimal but anything to give an idea.", I said.
Yesterday, with a "ping" an e-mail landed in my mailbox. The subject said "Lau er Malaikari" -- Bottlegourd cooked in Coconut Milk. and the body had the recipe written in Bangla with the cinnamon measured to an inch. It was a recipe Ma had seen on TV and tried at home. There was a picture to boot. It was overwhelming to say the least. I have come a long way but so has my Mother. From "ektu Darchini" to Darchini -- 1", it has been a long walk.
That single status on FB got more likes than even my Book announcement. Thank you so much for this and though I rarely say corny lines in public, Thank You Ma and yes you too Baba.
12.Vegetable Oil -- for cooking
13. Ghee -- 1 tsp to drizzle at the end.
Heat Oil in a wok. Temper the oil with tejpata, dry red chili and the whole garam masala( cardamom, clove and cinnamon)
Next add onion paste and fry with a tsp of sugar. When there is no raw smell of onion add the cubed lau and saute at low heat.
Add salt, cover and let the lau cook .
Once the lau is done add the ginger paste and fry for a minute. Add the coconut milk and let the gravy simmer and come to a boil. The dish will have a clinging gravy and when that consistency is reached switch off heat. Drizzle little ghee on it and serve with rice.
Some other blogs where parents share space with their blogger offspring
Shilpa's Aayis Recipes
Nag's Edible Garden
Mandira's Ahaar -- with podcasts from her parents