Blame it on the pandemic or consider it as a blessing, but cooking became a necessity because of the restrictions on dining out and/or ordering in food for many months. From celebrities to common people, everyone tried their hands at different dishes this year. While some did it out of compulsion, many others enjoyed the process and even took it upon themselves to become regular at it and learn the intricacies. From making one dish to cooking up an entire meal for the family, the year taught millennials how to become independent.
“I took to cooking since I was sceptical about having food from restaurants,” said 30-year-old Sachin Nagaraj who cooks for himself every day and “occasionally” for friends and cousins. The interior designer’s first dish was vermicelli kesari, a sweet he used to enjoy eating as a kid. “I enjoy cooking as it gives me a sense of satisfaction that I have cooked my own meal,” Nagaraj, whose tuna chukka and Bangalore mutton phaal, have become the best bets for his family and friends, told indianexpress.com.
Nagaraj has been learning from his mother, a friend who is passionate about cooking, and from YouTube. “I learnt it’s important for us to try new things, and for me, cooking turned out good. So it’s never late,” Nagaraj, who cooks between his work-from-home schedule in Chennai, shared.
Also making the most out of cooking this year was 24-year-old Jayaa Auplish. “Cooking is not something which ever intrigued me. Usually, my parents or our domestic help would cook for me. But, Instagram posts by my friends and family inspired me to cook this year,” said the Delhi-based content specialist.
Starting with a simple mushroom soup that was relished by her family of five, Auplish can now whip up many of the classic snacks.
“I wouldn’t say countless dishes but definitely many of them. To name a few, I cooked biryani, kebabs, dal, noodles, pizza, samosas, kachori and many other tasty treats.” Inspired by her elder sister and parents, Auplish has also tried baking. “Once I tried to make an oat cake which didn’t turn out well. On the other hand, my chocolate Oreo-Nutella cake has been appreciated by family and friends. Over the past few months, I have become really passionate about cooking and baking. It is both thrilling and satisfying. It gives me the freedom to indulge and experiment with new ingredients,” Auplish said.
But, cooking also has its share of challenges.
“I tried making a coconut-based mutton white curry, and it turned out to be super-spicy; I was overconfident while adding green chilies — a lesson learnt,” said Nagaraj, who spends two-three hours for a three-course meal, and a “half-an-hour” for simple dishes.
For 25-year-old Dhwanit Gupta — for whom “work has been an important part of life” — lockdown presented him with an opportunity to “actively cook”. “Earlier, my mother or our domestic help used to prepare food at home. Since there was no help during the lockdown, household chores were equally divided,” said the Jammu-based businessman.
Considering rajma is a speciality in the north, he attempted it first. “I tried cooking rajma, but it was not edible. My family was sweet enough to eat it. I added salt twice and the curry wasn’t mixed properly,” recalled Gupta, who has picked up the basics from his mother and from the internet.
Since his mother likes to see him cook, Gupta has stirred up varied delicacies like saag and makki roti that “turned out amazing”. “Besides, it gives me a chance to explore different delicacies. It gives me so much peace. I will definitely continue to cook.” He currently takes two-three hours on an average.
So, what are some of the learnings?
“Patience is the key to tasty food. It is important to multitask in the kitchen, like keep the ingredients ready before switching on the stove, chop vegetables in advance. Most importantly, throw the waste and keep the kitchen clean while cooking,” Gupta, who cooks for six people, said.
Auplish, who puts aside her phone to avoid distractions while cooking, said: “It’s like you need to focus if you want your dishes to turn tasty.”
And the best part about beginning to cook? Besides pointing out that cooking as an activity that enhances “mindfulness and creativity” which is therapeutic, both Nagaraj and Auplish stated what generations have always believed — food is the gateway to the heart. “Food really brings people together. It is a delight to watch my loved ones enjoy the food that I prepare,” said Auplish. Agreed Nagaraj, “I’ve always enjoyed when someone cooks good food and feeds me. The role reversal is equally great where I get to cook and feed people.”
Emphasising that cooking is an important skill for everybody, Auplish said she finds it “much easier to eat healthier food when I cook myself”. “A few days ago, I saw an interesting video on how to make junk food healthy. So, I am now thinking I will try and make unhealthy dishes like fries, fried chicken, momos, etc., in a healthy manner,” she mentioned.