Things You Learn When You Start Cooking

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In my Mom’s words – Covid has achieved what she never could. I now have to learn to cook for myself.

And of course, it comes with its own share of learnings.

  1. Cooking Daal-Roti-Sabzi takes longer than a highly hyphenated chicken-a-la-king or a healthy banana bread. It’s also less fun. Less instagram-able. But after a week of fanciness, it’s what saves your ass (and tummy).
  2. Whether or not a dish gets made is 5% dependent on how much we like it, 10% dependent on how difficult it is to make, and 85% dependent on the number of utensils required to make it. Except when A is cooking, and I’m the one washing the utensils. Then he goes the whole hog without worrying about consequences.
  3. Goondoing aata is either super relaxing. Or messy and frustrating. There is no in-between. Also, I was about to write ‘kneading dough’, but that dainty fanciness is so NOT WHAT IT IS.
  4. You understand the difference between tsp and tbsp in a recipe. Sometimes the hard way.
  5. Things that were created to torture you: Cutting methi. Peeling garlic. Scratchy ladyfingers. Ensuring the aloo stays inside the paratha. That itch in the eye right after you’ve cut green chilli.
  6. Hard boiled eggs are my new best friend. Efficient. Uncomplicated. You get what you hoped for.
  7. You can actually lose weight by eating home cooked food. Or by being so tired and frustrated by the time you finish cooking, that you have no appetite left at all.
  8. You have nightmares about those cringe-worthy times when you asked, nay, demanded that your Mom cook your favourite dishes. Or worse, when you cribbed about the lauki / kaddu that was actually cooked.
  9. You finally understand the real gravity of the question, which till now you easily ignored every time your Mom asked (and you wonder if this is Karma getting back at you) – what do you want to eat today?

Do you find yourself forced into the kitchen? Are you enjoying it? Or are you, like me, creating cribby lists out of it instead?

P.S. I just saw a lizard in my kitchen. That’s it. I’m done. The kitchen is a quarantined zone now. Send some food over, please?

Signs this lockdown is changing you.

It’s happening. As much as we want to deny it, a new normal is slowly defining and engraining itself into our lives. We’re all aching for what our lives used to be, but going ahead and living this one anyway. Not like there’s a choice.

  1. You are more in touch with your family / friends / colleagues than ever before. Not only are you in touch with them, you don’t really ‘call’ people anymore. It’s video call or nothing. And for once, it doesn’t matter how you look on that video call… Makeup? What’s that?
  2. You only access 1/5th of your wardrobe now – that untidy corner with all the baggy t-shirts and torn shorts and pyjamas. There are days when I force myself to dress up just a little. And then proceed to do pocha in my Vero Moda slacks. And then I wonder if I can send a pic to the brand and ask them to do a #RealWomenOfVeroModa campaign. A instead asks me to shut up and concentrate on finishing our chores.
  3. Magic Mop is your new best friend. You also spend more time reviewing and recommending this mop to your friends than you do a MAC lipstick.
  4. You’re suddenly very aware of how many utensils you use in a day. And actually clean the kitchen counter once you’re done.
  5. Your daily achievements now include making a chapati that was actually round and phooloed.
  6. You also finally realise just how much oil / ghee / sugar was going into some of the things you absolutely loved. In some cases this helps in quitting those unhealthy things. Or in other cases (specially if you happen to be a certain Punjabi boi), you shrug your shoulders and devour it anyway 😛
  7. WFH no longer means that one easy day off where you get to laze around in bed, not necessarily very efficiently. Instead it suddenly means not having any clearly defined start and end times, where everything merges into one constant draining flow of never-ending work. I mean, you can’t exactly miss a Client’s call and say you were out at a loud restaurant and didn’t hear them, can you?
  8. The quality of your jokes has fallen to a standard never before imagined. But everyone still laughs at them.
  9. You realise that even though you’re spending a lot more time with your SO / family (if you’re lucky enough to be home with them during this time) you’re spending significantly less quality time with them. Schedule some family time. Or a date night. Without Netflix. Your relationship needs it.
  10. You also realise that if you can get through this lockdown with your SO with your relationship intact, well, you can probably get through most things with them. If you’ve gotten used to seeing each other in torn clothes, dripping in sweat after cooking / cleaning the house and snapping at each other in crankiness, and still manage to feel some amount of love for each other, well, hold onto that relationship, okay?

Things I’m learning while Quarantined

Okay, before you judge me, let me acknowledge my privilege, and how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, the resources to get me through these months, and the opportunity to stay safely home during this period.

BUT, this is my blog, with all of 5 readers (this is a slight exaggeration of course, it’s probably 2 readers), and here I can be as air-headed and selfish as possible. Bwahahaha.

So here are some things I’m learning, in my highly privileged position, these days:

  1. Pril > Vim bar. With the sudden task of washing utensils three times a day (I mean, how do we even eat so much?!), I was having nightmares about those ads in the 90s showing hands washed with regular dish soap vs. some superior dish soap. And I never thought I’d say this, but the crying skin on my hands thanked me the day I managed to get my hands on a bottle of Pril. My hands are now back to their regular criss-crossed weird state, without skin peeling off like a dangerous fungal infection.
  2. Yoga is bliss. I’ve tried out a lot of different forms of home exercise, and there are some great resources available online. But at a time when stress and anxiety levels are at an all time high, nothing can quite calm you down (and stretch you out) like yoga. (So what if I still collapse in that weird chin-down-butt-up step of the suryanamaskar… I collapse in a calming manner, okay?)
  3. Our cleaning maid is a superhero. So one day I got a little enthu and decided to do jhadoo + pocha of the entire house. I of course use the term ‘entire house’ rather loosely here – given that our entire Mumbai apartment can fit into most Delhi homes’ living room. I have never sweat so much in any cardio session. My ass and thighs were screaming murder half way through. I skipped yoga the next day and spent most of it exhausted in bed. HOW DO THEY DO THIS EVERY DAY IN MULTIPLE HOUSES?! I mean, unless she magically turns into The Hulk and throws around the mop and water powerfully everywhere, how is this even possible?
  4. Time management is tougher than it looks. I am genuinely jealous (and super curious) about all these people who are getting bored and coming up with different challenges / ways to get through the day. I mean, HOW DO YOU HAVE ANY TIME TO GET BORED? By the time I’m finished with office work + cooking + jhadoo + pocha + bartan, all I can think of doing is crashing on my bed. My Netflix consumption has actually gone down in this period. I don’t need your lists of the 100 best films / shows / books and where to find them. Get me the how-to-make-a-meal-in-5-minutes list instead. And if it has impossible-to-source ingredients like baby corn, zucchini or cream cheese, I swear I’ll strangle you. In some weird socially-distanced way.
  5. For your marriage to survive, go into the kitchen one at a time. Nothing good can come out of giving each other advice on how to cook or cut veggies. Trust me.
  6. Nothing beats not wearing a bra. It just doesn’t. This is how we were meant to be. Also un-groomed. Like why would you even care if you’re hairy and your boobs are supported when the world around you is coming to an end?
  7. Coffee is still bae. Dalgona, or phitti hui. Frothy or black. Whether it’s insta-worthy or worth the sly sip – it’s still that one cup in my day that I absolutely look forward to. And sigh after every flavourful steaming sip.

Of Useless Updates and Positivity

It has literally been a month since I’ve been working from home.

It’s been 3 weeks since the lockdown.

And while people seem to be struggling with it, I frankly haven’t minded it one bit in terms of being home. I don’t feel suffocated or that the walls are closing in on me, this despite being stuck in a tiny Mumbai home with a non-existent balcony. I think it’s just one of those perks of being an introvert.

I finally feel like I have a better hold on anxiety as well – cutting off from excess negative news has helped in a major way. Sure, there’s still a once in the day check on the Covid-19 numbers, or anything important anyone has said. But that’s it. No clicking on the article to find out just how doomed we are. Staying away from negativity has helped more than anything else.

In other news, been binge-watching The Office because John Krasinski has my heart. Well, also because it’s funny. But mainly for John (Totally have FLAMES plotted out in the back of my notebook).

Also celebrated A’s birthday, with Zoom calls from friends (every birthday we remember just how much we love our friends who take way more effort than we do to do things for us), extremely buttery (but yum, of course) food, and some horrible slapstick movie night. I’m sure it was the most underplayed birthday A has ever had, but didn’t have too much of a choice on this one.

In even more other news – the highlights of my day now involve how well I finally managed to make a chapati (My mother would finally be proud), and how my hair are now really out of control (they literally hid my clip from me for 24 hours. I swear I thought the cat ate it.)

And frankly, I’m okay with that. The highlights being this thing. Not the cat eating my clip.

Just clarifying.

Of expectations and reality.

I saw a post on Instagram the other day, which said something to the effect of ‘If you don’t manage to acquire that skill now, the one you always wanted but never had time for, then the real problem is you. #NoExcuses’.

This, frankly, angered me.

Yes, we’re all at home. Yes, it’s a great time to finally learn to draw, cook, get fit, finish that book… and if you aim to do that / are doing that, that’s great!

But even if you aren’t. If you can’t. If you don’t feel up to it for whatever reasons – that’s great too.

Nobody knows you and your circumstances like you do.

Maybe you’re struggling to balance office work, and cooking / cleaning / washing utensils and are barely left any time to breathe at the end of the day.

Maybe you have a lot of time but can’t get off that couch in front of the television.

Maybe it’s difficult to even get out of bed and face another day of this new reality we’re all waking up to, and frankly, struggling to accept.

I think the only thing that really matters right now, is that we learn to be a little more gentle with ourselves – give ourselves whatever it is that we need, to get through this, to be strong. You don’t need to live up to a random person’s expectations on social media. Given the circumstances, you barely need to live up to your own.

It’s hard enough by itself.

So just breathe. Try and be your strongest self. And get through this, whichever way suits you best.