Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Covering some basics

I was going to post the recipe for one of my favorite vegetables today, but as I sliced onions, I thought about when I first started cooking. You see, my father taught my mother how to cook after they got married. She was after-all only 16 years old and my father, an extremely picky eater. Growing up, he used to spend a lot of time with his Nani (maternal grandmother) and would see how his sisters were being "trained" to be good girls/wives. He of course learned the traditional methods to everything! Cooking, sewing, putting on henna, embroidery... you name it, he could do it (or figure it out pretty quick). So when my dad and his brothers landed up in this country with no sisters, mother, Nani or maids to cook for them; my dad took on that responsibility. If he could do it for so many years, how could his wife not jump right in! Thats how the daily kitchen battle in our house began... little did anyone know, it would never end!

Over time, and in our (the kids) humble opinion, my mother became the better cook. My father started to reserve his cooking to only delicacies and special events or parties...my mom did the every day cooking. When we moved to Pakistan, things changed a little. There was no need for either parent to cook, but they did have to train all the khansama's (cook's) that ever worked for us. No one could ever please my father, there was always something missing or overdone. When I started cooking, rather started dabbling in the kitchen now and then, it was always a nightmare.

If ever my father saw me in the kitchen, he would observe and then discipline. In his mind, EVERYTHING I did was wrong because it was not the way his grandmother or mother had done it. It wasn't the way he would've done it. There was always a battle and God forbid if I ever made something the way my mom taught me as opposed to his way. For the longest time, I stopped going in to the kitchen any time my father was around. But many years later, I realized how much I had learned through all that tension. In the following few posts, with a lot less stress and fuss, I will share with you some basics that will guide you through any type of cooking and help in honing your culinary skills.

First lesson: ONION BASICS

I'll spare you how I came to learn this fact but there is a "proper" way to slice onions. Most desi cooking, vegetables or meat curry's, require sliced onion. Rarely do you use chopped or diced onion in cooking. After peeling the onion and cutting it in half, its important to remover the "eye", which is the circle at the bottom of the onion where all the layers come together. Also, you slice the bulb in half through the top and bottom; not through the center (wide part) of the onion. Once you've removed the eye, slice across the onion to form semi-circle slices (see photo). Do NOT cut along the onion, meaning cutting the onion length-wise getting thick slices.

I don't know if its true or not, but my father would say that the onion doesn't dissolve nor brown properly if it isn't sliced right. He also insisted that if it didn't dissolve, the taste was different. This second tid-bit I have to agree with. Many times I've tasted vegetables or curry's prepared the way I would make them but the only difference is the onion... it really does taste different if it doesn't dissolve properly.

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