There was a time during grad school when it seemed like nothing was going my way. I wasn’t getting any positive results to my experiments or publishing while my colleagues were. I barely passed my qualifiers. So I took a writing class, because as an adolescent I used to drown my sorrows in poetry and I desperately needed the solace of the written word. Only this time it was a creative non-fiction class because the poetry class was full. But it was a good thing because now I can write this blog!
I continued to try my hand at cooking different kinds of Indian food. I bought a big Anolon non-stick pan – the first of my culinary investments which have now reached thousands of dollars. I delved further into South Indian food and introduced myself to Bengali cooking, the former a longing for my past and the latter an acknowledgment of my future (the husband is Bong). Until then the only time I had eaten Bengali food was when I visited my then boyfriend at Cornell. As I flip through my file I find a page with a recipe for Plantain curry followed my Maccher Kalia, co-existing peacefully on paper. I understood why the food of my childhood tasted the way it did and learned to appreciate Bengali flavors even though they were very different from my childhood tastes. The sounds and smells of mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves merged with the taste of whole garam masala (bay leaves, cinnamon, cardomom) and ginger on the pan and my tongue and everything else seemed worth it. Here was something I could do. I remember throwing a dinner party to celebrate my wedding with a menu of Kolhapuri chicken, achar ke aloo and malpuas (along with some store bought food) which was much appreciated, so much so that we ran short of food! What a thrill to be good at something. At last some of my experiments were working out and giving me some instant results.
Perhaps my most cherished memory of this time period is of Friday night when I would indulge myself and eat out. The rest of the week I ate home cooked food because it was cheaper and healthier. But on Friday I didn’t hold back. I ate huge meals, finishing off an entire Chipotle burrito with Guacamole (which was an extra $1.50 but that was okay on Friday). My husband often teased me that I was substituting food for love. I don’t think it was love. But food was substituting for something. When I was eating I didn’t feel guilty about not working, which I did every moment I was not working. Food made me feel good, even if it was dal-rice-subzi. I am sure it has something to do with certain chemicals triggering off certain reactions in my brain. I don’t know. But when I ate I didn’t mind who I was. Or where I was.