People praise my cooking.
My husband loves it.
Friends go ga ga over it.
My mom takes great pride in telling everyone that I am an accomplished cook.

My chapatis depict the shape of a full moon.
My paneer is as soft as the skin of a newborn baby.
Curry is always a perfect shade of burgundy.
Am I proud of my cooking?

Yes, I am.

But is it really me cooking?

My maternal grandmother was born in a poor family and cleant temple floors to make ends meet.
She learned to make simple sweets because they could never afford sugar or ghee regularly.
Her flavours were uncomplicated yet profound.
That sweetness runs in my veins.

My paternal grandmother was a bitter old woman who had seen too many ups and downs.
But her mango pickle?  Oh my my ….
People used to line up outside her home every summer to borrow a little mango pickle.
Her pickle was presented to potential grooms when they came to select a bride.
That sourness of the mango tickles my palate even today.

My oldest aunt who lived in Rajkot, taught me to roll the chapatis when I was 11.
I would hold her saree and peek at the round shape of happiness on a hot iron gridle.
Her laughter is etched in my palms.

What you cook does not depend on what you learnt in a cooking class.
It’s not the organic produce or fancy sauces that will determine the taste.
Neither will beautiful crockery make the food appetizing.
It is not one ingredient or a secret recipe that makes the food magical.

I must remember that I am able to cook the perfect yellow dhoklas
and create silky smooth gulab jamuns
is because of all the women who came before me and burnt their fingertips! 

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Shivani Adalja

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