Life Lessons From The Kitchen

Written By Aditi V

Author Bio: Aditi is a med student that likes, in no specific order, to eat, sleep, cook, read, write and laugh. - Facebook: @aditi.vakil17

Support/love/care doesn't always come in the most obvious or traditional forms - but that doesn't mean it isn't there. Case in point: my parents don't always eat (by which I mean actually eat it as a meal) what I make, but never once has Mum told me not to disturb her when I ask for ideas on how to plate the dishes, nor has Dad ever scolded me for ruining what would otherwise have been his traditional tomato-gravy chicken (which is so good!) because I decided to experiment. 
 
Some things just aren't to be cooked, even if it doesn't seem anything could go awry. I have one word for this: avocado. Yes, it brings to the table the same texture and creaminess that mashed banana or squash does, but unlike the others, avocado becomes so nastily bitter when cooked! I like to think the same applies to people - for one, heat (or pressure) can change them in ways you wouldn't expect. And sometimes, if you want to keep them around, you're only going to be able to do that by not trying to change them. 
 
Just because you can hack something, doesn't mean you should. Did you know that you can make custom, healthy peanut butter by blending, blending, blending roasted peanuts? The custom part coming in because you can add cocoa/honey/whatever makes you happy to the mixture - not that that's the point. The point is, while it's tempting to always make my own, sometimes I don't need as much as I'd have to make. So I do the practical thing and buy some. Sometimes. 
 
'Sometimes' actually being the key word - in other situations, you've got to wave goodbye to practicality to be able to embrace that little feeling called 'satisfaction'. I'm fortunate enough to be in a situation where I'm able to ask the house help to chop up onion and bell peppers and garlic - and when I step into the kitchen, things are obviously much faster. But it takes away from the authenticity of the experience, too. There's times I've taken to chopping up the vegetables I want to use - and even if it's been messier and more time consuming, there's an immense satisfaction in saying that I truly did everything from scratch. It's the same with anything else  - there's just no substitute for hard work to feel truly accomplished. 
 
There's no winning with some people and certain situations, and there's nothing you can do about it. You just have to accept it. If I were ambitious enough, I'd be the founder of the 'You Can Never Have Too Much Cinnamon' club…after being disowned by my parents for harboring such deviant beliefs. They will not eat more than a teaspoonful if they suspect there's cinnamon in my cooking! Oh well. You win some, you lose some. 
 
Along those lines, it's also helpful to remember that people won't necessarily want something just because it's good for them or because you mean well. And again, you just have to accept it. Fact: Cinnamon is renowned for its blood glucose stabilizing/lowering effects…
 
Too much of a good thing is also evil - variety (balance) is the key. My sweet tooth has often stirred me towards healthy desserts and baked goods - but there have been days when I question what possessed me to try two types of pancakes, cookies and brownies within the span of the same week. Even if they're all for different days, the adage proves itself: familiarity breeds contempt. All your friends can't be pastries. Mix things up. 
 
There's only so much you can fake and substitute out - at one point, you either run out of options, or you get caught. Fun cooking tip for the day: when you want to cut down on sugar in, say, fruit cake, you can use mashed banana as a substitute. Applesauce can sub out for butter, and both reduce the requirement for oil, too. But if you want to try to make an entirely healthy cake, you're just going to end up with flour and fruit. In which case you're better off eating fruit salad. 
 
Even if something is simple, or routine, it is possible to fail at it (and that's okay - just know that the possibility exists). The idea of making an easy cake in the microwave from biscuits felt like genius to me when I first heard it - after all, biscuits already have the flour, sugar, shortening and rising agents - and the first time I tried the recipe, it worked beautifully! The next time with a slight variation, I assumed five minutes was five minutes and returned to the kitchen in four, drawn by the unmistakable scent of burnt everything
 
It's brave to not-hide your mistakes and show your vulnerability, and people appreciate that more than you'd realize. This came to me in the most surprising of ways, when I decided to advertise what a disaster my experiment with cooking avocado had been (I'm not getting over this anytime soon). Not only did it make a funny story, I had a couple of people tell me that they thought it was cool that I didn't mind talking about my fails. 
 
Nothing new or interesting happens unless you challenge the status quo. After egg-banana pancakes, I found myself wondering if the same would work with vegetables like butternut squash and carrot because of their shared texture - and what do you know, now I've got another way of eating my veggies for breakfast! (Of course, I later took to targeted Google searches and found that squash, at least, has been a thing with other people too - but I didn't know that at the time). 
 
Pictures tell a very censored, tailored-to-make-it-seem-perfect story. With so many photos all around about everything - how people look, what they're eating, the places they've been, it's easy to get carried away and envious about how incredible their lives look, I get it. It's only now though, having manipulated my food for pictures that I'm beginning to glimpse the extent of how far it can run. Take a second look at that picture of crepes/pancakes with yogurt. They were meant to be pancakes, but I'm a messy cook and the only proper crepe was the one in the centre. The ones at the sides are honestly fragments scraped off the pan placed over each other to make them look like cute tiny mini-crepes. 
 

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When your heart's in it, nothing else matters. This sounds cliché, but it's so true! The only thing I'll add to that thought is, when you're in that moment doing something that truly makes your soul sing, you have no doubt whatsoever about it. You don't have to tell yourself that you liked it. When you end up realizing that your 'didn't take too long to do that' was actually a good two hours, you smile. No regrets whatsoever. 
 
This one's another cliché on taking things for granted, but it can't be repeated enough - we do too much of it and if we honestly took a moment to appreciate everything we're lucky to have, we'd have gratitude to last a lifetime from just that. Think about it - if you wanted to make homemade granola bars, would you be able to? Do you have access to electricity? An oven? Running them for an hour? Seeds and nuts and oats? The twenty minutes it would take to mix everything up? Just in case you don't catch my drift - there's millions, billions of people who don't. You're lucky. Don't forget that. 
 
Everything is about context - even scars. My left forearm has an eight-centimeter (I measured for this article, haha) burn mark from the time a hot pan was closer to my body than I realized - but I'm okay with it. It's not something I've ever thought of much, but once, after a routine 'sorry', someone went on to tell me they knew of some cream that could help me 'fix' that. I didn't feel offended by their suggestion that there was something wrong with me, but the conversation did stay with me anyway - I hadn't thought about how people could see things so differently. To me, it's nothing but a little reminder of a difficult-to-eat-now-but-still-delicious quesadilla, but someone else sees it as a problem. I don't think it's a far cry to extrapolate that to the people around us and their scars - or glories, for that matter. Context is everything.