Not an Accidental Chef

By Mr. Sarvesh Joshi and voice over by Ms. Akanksha Seth

What is the worst term which you can think of when I use the term “lockdown”? “Caged”,       

“Suffocation”, “locked in a prison”, “Man vs Wild” or “cooking on your own”?

                                                     Source: Economic times

Not at a stroke of midnight, but at 8 pm on 24th March 2020 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day lockdown, we had little idea that our lives would turn upside down. We had never anticipated the impact of COVID-19 on households…more so on bachelors.

Yes, it was an actual lockdown with only essential services allowed for. The movement of people and goods was suspended initially for a few months. So much so that out of fear and as precautionary measures, people had curtailed their household help services too. Now for a significant percentage of bachelors, their household help is everything- facilitating home cooked food every day. Based on this premise, I had been taking the services of my cook as a part of an essential service.

The next day after imposition of lockdown when my cook did not come, I called him if he is fine or not. He said, for the next 21 days he will not be available. This gave me a mild-level panic attack. It meant I had to cook on my own, for all the three meals of the day, and worst part…even do the dishes.

I had read it somewhere, that it takes 21 days to form a habit. This sounded exciting and was enough to motivate beginners like me to walk an unchartered territory of cooking.

                                                       Source- Pinterest

I have always been an ardent follower of a TV show,”Masterchef”. This time I had to become one for the next 3 weeks. It was the most challenging brainstorming I had ever done. I took a blank paper and pen and started writing the dishes which can be easily cooked and take the least amount of time.

                                              Source: Starplus

After brainstorming, I found the repetition of Maggie and its variants like “cheese Maggie”, “paneer maggie” atleast twenty times would be a decent enough start. However considering the health aspect, a decision of rejecting the option of Maggie twenty-nine out of thirty times, I added to the repertoire healthier options like, “Matar Mushroom” and “chapatti”.

              Source: CookingShooking Youtube channel ,Chef Yaman Aggarwal

When you search for a certain dish on YouTube, you get multiple results. The way they cook, it looks so easy. But trust me, it is not that simple. The biggest challenge is getting all the ingredients and then getting them right is the caveat. Also, the background preparation work behind making any dish fetches a lot of time. So in this dish, apart from matar (peas) and mushroom, we needed turmeric, garlic,onion, coriander powder, Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder,garam masala powder, tomatoes, green chillies, black pepper, and salt. My “mission cooking” started off with chopping the mushrooms, frying the combination of cinnamon, cumin seed, chopped onions and then adding salt, ginger-garlic paste, Kashmiri mirch powder, chilly powder, and frying this rich mixture till it turned golden. Who would have thought, the person who could not differentiate between red chilly powder and Kashmiri mirch powder would be actually trying his hand at cooking sumptuous delicacies one day? Then I added peas (matar), curd, chopped tomatoes, curd, mushroom and finally some water to make the gravy. I tried following every step mentioned on that video.

I followed it up by attempting to cook perfect “round chappatis”, which eventually turned out to be a disaster. It was more of an expectation versus reality scenario for me, as I cooked rectangular kind of shape, which, having no other option I had to consume, thinking them as chapattis. I clearly remember it as I was too embarrassed to send the pictures of my meal to my mom.

The mission cooking lasted for three hours, after the completion of which, I felt a sense of achievement. Maybe similar to Bear Grylls on Man Versus Wild after he ate any eatable find in his jungle expeditions. I can’t put it in words, but so many flashbacks which included all the master chefs in my life-the cook, my mother, the food delivery apps were hovering in my mind all throughout the time I was trying my hands at cooking. I cooked something or the other during the lockdown, but my first day during Lockdown remains my most memorable experience to date.

                                     Source: Man Vs Wild,Discovery Channel

While I now claim myself as a person who can cook for his sustenance, all the master chefs in my life- especially Women, have gained extra respect from my end. Particularly for all the hard work they put in to provide their families with such sumptuous delicacies round the clock.

The author is an Analytics Professional, presently associated with a Middle-East E-Commerce firm

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