So Obama is in town and Brussels is being spit-polished for his 24 hours here. It took one US president and 10 million Euros to clean two stations. A lot of blogs I follow have been doing the 100 Happy Days thing and while it’s too late to get on that wagon, I was thinking about a few reasons to be happy. Isn’t it sad that happiness is not the default state.

One thing that’s kept me happy the last few weeks is dinner. For the first two weeks after the husband moved away, I dreaded the thought of going home to a cold, dark house and cooking for one. My brain would shut down at the thought of dinner and I would walk the aisles of the grocery store like a zombie, sometimes putting random things in a basket, only to come home and realise that I cannot make much with milk, a carrot and yoghurt.

My grandmother was a fabulous cook. As all grandmothers are. She has forever ruined chicken curry and gulab jamun for me because nothing else can ever match up. I was always of the opinion that talented people are born with it. Dancing, singing, culinary prowess, these talents are just waiting to be unleashed upon the world. I was always a little skeptical when my mother and aunts told me that my grandmother really got into her cooking stride post 50!

I left home at 22 and learned to cook the usual stuff the usual way. Experiments with food always involved trawling books or the web for recipes, a lot of pre-planning and shopping for speciality ingredients and then working through the recipe like it was gospel. A lot of the experiments were successful but there was never a complete sense of accomplishment. I think being a researcher does that to you. It needs to be your idea, or at least a variation, in order to qualify as a success.

The other issue was of course buying the right stuff to put in there and slowly but surely I gave up on stocking my larder with things that were used once, banished to the dark recesses and eventually thrown away.

Then things started to change in a way that I like. Slow, subtle but sure. It started almost imperceptibly. A salad here, a smoothie there. And slowly graduated to bigger things. I would read a recipe and feel the tastes and aromas. I could think of ways to combine what I had, replace things, mix things, fry, chop, boil, saute. Soon enough I stopped wanting to cook a dish and started wanting to create a flavour. A little bit later, I didn’t even know (or care about) the end result. I just wanted to cook. And before I knew it, I was making my grandmother’s chicken curry with nothing more than a craving to be satisfied. The results were surprisingly good. The rich colour, thick texture, slight sweetness – it was all there.

A meal is not a chore any more, I don’t crave store bought food or restaurants as much as I used to. It is also a strange sense of power, this. The knowledge that most things are re-creatable.

 

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