Looking back

Sometimes it’s hard to quantify what I see as my food heritage. I’m a British national of Indian origin whose palette for all practical purposes developed and matured in India. My mom is an absolutely tops cook with remarkably adventurous tastes for an Indian woman of her generation and happily absorbed all new culinary experiences that 70s- England had to offer in the time she lived there. She very fondly remembers food she ate there, as do my elder sister and dad. Growing up listening to them reminisce about the food they ate when they lived there, I am to this day, confused when I hear that English cooking is supposedly awful. I mean, how bad can it be when three people with wonderful palettes (scratch that, two people, my dad will eat anything appreciatively, he’s easy to please) thought it was pretty good? I mean to go there and find out for myself someday. Meanwhile I find the recipes by English cooks that I try are holding their own, so even despite skepticism for the early brainwashing, I’m inclined to agree with my family.

My mother’s mother is a sublime cook and there are things that my grandma’s experienced hand can turn out that just never taste exactly that way when I cook them. My grandma raised three children. The two daughters are both great cooks, something they both shrug away saying it was expected of their generation. But my uncle going into catering was unusual for the time. He has the same great palette and his food is nothing short of exceptional. This family knows food.

Growing up in a family like this meant that you started an early love affair with food, or at least with eating it. My siblings, cousins and I were always a well-fed bunch, though we were picky. But there was always something everyone could eat served at the table (though we rarely ate at that table). I remember begging my mom to be allowed to help when I was a child and was extremely excited about the first time I was allowed to boil noodles, make chapatti dough and make an omlette. My enthusiasm waned a bit over my teen years as other things like college came to the fore. But the interest never did.

Today I think it’s safe to say that, despite our parents’ strong fears that we would be contrary, the next generation has turned into pretty good cooks. My cousin took up the cause of food like his dad and is a chef in New Zealand. His sister is a deft hand at cooking. Both my sisters are good cooks with different styles influenced by mom but all their own. My aunt’s daughter lives in Bangladesh and wields a mean chicken curry. And my husband thinks I’m an awesome cook. I think he’s biased.

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