In today’s gastronomic world, chefs are nothing short of celebrities and stars who stress on using expensive and exotic ingredients to prepare their master dishes. Yet, all of them lack one important ingredient. That ingredient is love. The kind of love that only a mother uses while she cooks to feed her family. For me, a mother is the real celebrity when it comes to kitchen.
She dons many hats, be it of a food historian who collects and researches recipes from various sources to cook new dishes and simultaneously guard old recipes passed on to her generation after generation or of a master chef who evolves with time and keep experimenting day after day to feed her children or impress his husband.
Today chefs want to leave a mark on world map with their culinary skills. But trust me, no one can grow till the basics are right and the first institution for that is your mother. There is a reason why hotels are now approaching home chefs to curate regional food festivals. When I started documenting Indian culinary heritage and reviving regional recipes, my main sources were the home chefs – moms.
A homemaker from
Lucknow gave me more information about the cuisine than what I collected from libraries or culinary schools. The nuskhas (tricks), which have passed on to her from her mother seemed to be more useful than a culinary degree. This is because no extensive research and documentation has been done for a few regional cuisines.
It is the mothers or the home chefs who have been practicing the same cooking methods and dishing out food with consistency for ages, the world over. If I ask a common question to everybody to recall a restaurant dish that they miss, I am not sure I would get an answer even after much thought. But if I posed the same question to recall a dish made by a mother, there would be a list of answers.
When I started reviewing restaurants many moons ago, the first thing I would do was to compare the biryani or a nihari with my mother’s recipe. Even while cooking, I took advice from her and convinced her to share her secrets with me. Trust me, that’s the most difficult part. All mothers guard their kitchen secrets with their life. But coax them a little to pass on their legacy , and they will happily part with the accumalated knowledge.