Why we cook and eat.

This morning I was sitting on the floor fiddling with my phone when the baby climbed onto the sofa behind me and started pulling my hair. He made me take off my rubber band and then started running his toy through my hair. Every time he would pull, I would cry out in pain. Immediately he would say “Pyari, pyari” and kiss my forehead. He has learned this from me, how a kiss can take pain away.


This evening I wanted to cook a macaroni in a bleu cheese sauce to use up some ingredients I had lying around the house. The hubby was not very hungry but I wanted to eat something warm and starchy and cheesy so I decided to go ahead anyway. When dinner was ready he started eating just because it was time and ended up complimenting the food and having two helpings.


When I visited my mom recently, she had prepared to make two of my favorite sweets, gujia and gulab jamun – I have never liked gujia or gulab jamun made by anyone else better in my life. She had the mix for the jamuns and the filling of the gujia ready for days so that she could make them quickly when I reached. Each day I was there she made one thing that I wanted to eat and don’t/can’t make for myself.


A couple of months after we moved to Mumbai my in-laws came over for lunch one afternoon. We had no fish to serve the Bongs which I thought would mark me for life as the irresponsible daughter-in-law. In fact we had very little produce that day. So I improvised and cooked up a brinjal and parwal dish in sorshe (mustard sauce). It was much appreciated and even my husband’s aunt who is not very fond of parwal showered me with compliments. Apparently the fish was not missed.


Some days when things go wrong and I get distressed about nothing working out, I will cry. Which upsets the baby to no end. He gets scared and starts crying too. So I pick him up, hold him to my chest, pat his back and tell him that nothing’s wrong and everything will be alright. And magically everything is better.


When we were in the Bay Area, often on Sundays we would have a lunch of boiled rice, boiled mashed potatoes Bong style (alu bhate) and boiled mashed eggs both spiked with mustard oil and green chilies which had become sort of a healing food to make up for our indulgences over the previous two nights. The husband would cook and serve the entire meal and we would savor a quiet afternoon.


Just after we got married I moved to Cornell for 3 months so that it could feel like a real marriage and not a long distance one. The hubby would go to school in the morning and I would go later in the day with our lunches. We would sit outside the cafeteria in his department and eat our lunch along with some of his colleagues and friends. Then we would have coffee and head back to his office. I had basically set up my office in a corner of his office – his advisor was very accommodating. We would work until evening and then head back home to have tea and dinner, before going back to the office for a late night work session.


There are days when my baby won’t eat. I am sure he has a reason, just like adults don’t want to eat sometimes. I will keep trying to feed him because I don’t see that and he will resist. It will end up becoming a test of wills in which the baby ends up having a lot of fun and I end up with a sore throat and a bad mood. Those days I don’t want to eat either.


When my 75 year old nani met my hubby for the first time, she made begun bhaja for him, all by herself. Every time she visited us she made my brother’s favorite besan ladoos and my favorite peanut chikkis. She always had a bottle of her killer hing and mango pickle ready for me when I visited her.


If it isn’t obvious what it’s for – the food, the cooking and eating – it’s all for the love and lives that we share, it’s our way of being connected with each other, it’s a way to be together even when we can’t be there. It’s a grown up way of kissing and hugging to make each other feel better. Because as adults sometimes we forget to do it.


About Aditi

My thoughts are who I am and I am what my thoughts make me.
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