THE GARDEN WHERE ‘MAGIC INGREDIENTS’ GROW?
memories offer the fertile soil, while scientific curiosity lights the kindle fire
The route from my study room to the kitchen was a rather long one. Throughout my student life whenever I had some free time I would do anything, but cooking. My mother was rather happy to keep me away from turning her kitchen into a mess. Maggi, Bread Toast, khichdi and boiled chicken were the only food I could ‘assemble’ (more like desperate measures) during my hostel life. I deliberately replaced ‘assemble’ from ‘cook’.
Growing up with a large number of kids in a joint family taught me to never demand anything. We had to eat what was served. But during festivals, the kitchen would transform, as everyone would be involved in preparing festive food. Many a time I would wake up to the sound of electric beaters working on eggs or sugar and butter. A common scenario during ‘Eid’ (Islamic Festival) & ‘Bihu’(Harvest Festival). We Assamese Muslims take pride in celebrating our cultural festivals with equal love and enthusiasm. Culture is by far is a bigger denominator than just religion for Assamese Muslims.
‘Bihu’ for me is the time for a variety of sweets prepared majorly of rice flour, jaggery, and sesame. Assam being an agricultural state, rice is our staple crop. Tea, mustard, jute and a variety of vegetable and fruits are grown in the region. Our dishes are heavily influenced by what is available in the season and grown locally. I love Assamese food and will dedicate a whole section on Assamese cuisine and alternative food in my blog.
When I left Assam for my higher studies, I missed home cooked food. I and my roommates literally survived on preserved food. Luckily people from hilly areas have a great understanding of food preservation technique: dried, smoked, pickled protein lasted us 2 to 3 months. In dire straits, food became the most precious commodity.
During my second year of doctoral research, I got married and moved to Dubai, UAE. Dubai the land of opportunity and the cultural diversity brings you closer to the variety of cuisines as it does with people. Well, Fate has its strange ways, as I found myself prey to the culture of consumerism. From test tubes in my laboratory, I am staring at a pressure cooker now. Travails of a homemaker!!
Drifting from boredom to plain curiosity, I started treating my kitchen as a laboratory. I wanted to experiment, measure, mix the raw ingredients to create something new. I would often turn to the ‘Internet’ when found myself ‘lost’. Take recluse in my childhood memories when I needed an emotional connection with the food I was recreating in my kitchen. My forays to the new territories of taste and texture were often mired with observations of my childhood in our typical Assamese Kitchen. Adding a few million air miles, supermarkets in Dubai exposes you to an array of ingredients which are fresh and of superior quality.
As me and my husband often quip about Dubai – ‘we are so spoiled and pampered here’. There are ingredients, I never imagine would be available here. Thanks to globalization, the world is a smaller place with a bigger kitchen. Coming from a place with limited connectivity and communication with the outside world due to its difficult geographical location, Dubai feels like bliss. However, local is always fresher, Assam scores better in its natural goodness and I will surely open up that window to alternative food in a separate section.
Each ingredient brings its own idiosyncrasies to a dish. For me simplicity is the key, each ingredient must shine and serve its purpose. That’s why, no matter how insignificant, it may appear to you. Let me show you its magic… Add the pixie dust…Welcome to my blog ‘MAGIC INGREDIENT’.