One habit I have fallen into at work is having lunch with a bunch of colleagues. And its most important benefit is it works as a motivator to cook lunch. Lunch isn't available in office, so if I don't take mine I can eat something at the Café Coffee Day next door or go out with a colleague and eat some of the unwholesome unappetising food at one of the eateries nearby. I probably would eat out more often or just take something like a sandwich or instant noodles if I didn't have this nagging almost-subconscious feeling that my lunch has to reasonably conform with other people's standards. It's an indication of how shallow I am, but on the other hand, I am eating healthy, home-cooked food.
Over the last few months, the Guy had evolved into the default cook in the household. This is my cue to say I taught him to cook - all he could make before we got together were tea, banana milkshakes and upma. Not to say he didn't make all of these very well, but his repertoire was limited.
I couldn't cook much either, till I moved to Pune and had a flat all to myself. For the first month or so, I didn't have a gas connection. At the end of it I got so tired of eating out (especially as restaurant food in Pune - especially at the kind of restaurant you can afford if you're eating out daily - was unfamiliar and unappealing after Delhi's Punjabi dhabas) that we got a gas connection and I was determined to learn to cook.
The Guy was very helpful throughout: not only did he uncomplainingly (and often with generous praise) eat everything I turned out, but he also helped with the cleaning, the cutting, and whatever else I asked him to do. (Even now, when I am cooking, he often does much of the actual work.)
So in a few months I could pretty much turn out regular meals: rice, dal, sabji, pasta, soup. I never did learn how to make roti, though. But I don't miss it: the occasional tandoori roti at a restaurant does it for me.
But even after assisting me all these months, the Guy didn’t learn how to cook. Sometime, when I wasn’t well, he would try to cook khichdi, or rice, but he would inevitably come to me (often, pressure cooker in hand) to make sure he was adding the right amount of water, or salt.
Then his US trip came up last year. We had time to prepare, and I nagged him till he learned to successfully cook khichdi, dal and rice by himself. And in his one month there, he cooked. He experimented on himself and colleagues, and was encouraged by the praise. He discovered the excitement of cooking – that I guess you inevitably feel when you’re learning and that wears off when it becomes a routine chore rather than an adventure.
His period of enjoying cooking coincided with my getting tired of it, so little by little he began to take over. And I discovered that at this too, like in so much else, he’s better than me.
Then I was going through a difficult time professionally, and I changed jobs and found the change a little overwhelming, and then I was ill for a couple of weeks. So the Guy supported me in every way: apart from talking to me and hugging me and taking me out, he also cooked my lunch for me nearly every day.
He had begun to get tired of it, and I had been promising to take over. It didn’t materialise, though. You see, when I cook, I like him in the kitchen, and I make him help. But when he does, I seem to get under his toes, so I take myself off. So we would start off together and then I would find myself in the way and leave, and we would be back to him being the de facto cook again.
But now he’s gone, and I am trying to reclaim the kitchen. It doesn’t give him a break though, because he has to cook his own dinners – or eat out.
Usually when he’s away I’m too lazy to cook and live on Maggi or Ramen noodles or toast and eggs. But it’s too long this time to risk that kind of assault on my health. I’m hoping this period will rekindle my love for cooking.