Good food is that which appeals to all the five senses. For an untrained cook like me, that is the only guide when I enter the kitchen. And much to chagrin of one person, I don’t often enter the kitchen or enter it only when I am alone. Most folks learn cooking through someone or through books. I learnt the basics from my mother and the rest of it – all by doing. Mind you – I have earned enough overcooked, undercooked and, quite simply, ill-cooked trophies to prove that – the only trophies that made it into the trash.
It seems to me that if you are attentive enough, you know while cooking, how the dish will turn out. We may not notice it, but the perspiration is not only because of the heat in the kitchen.
When it appeals to all five senses, it even sounds great; the relaxed dying down of the sizzle as it makes its way from the pan to the plate lets you know when the time is just right. Just as the sizzle has sizzled out, the smell – the strongest invitation of all to pick up the fork, knife or the spoon. It’s a preview of what the tongue will experience – the trailer of the feature-length movie. The synchronised dive of five fingers to feel what the nose just experienced. The knife cuts through it as if it was going through butter left out in the sun or the just-right feel on your fingers is an obvious instruction to the mind to send the food straight where it belongs. It obviously tastes great – the sense of eager taste buds rising to soak in all the pleasure of good food, attentive to the incoming bonanza after an eager period of suspense-filled wait.
Most importantly though, the eyes first decide the entire experience of good food; it therefore has to look good.
The chicken-tikka-omelette I made, didn’t look quite good enough. Though the smell, sizzle, succulence, and slurp-factor were just right, it was darker than I would have liked it to be, like the tableland of the Deccan Plateau in the summer, spotted by the boulders of pepper. I wanted to see something better. The full experience couldn’t be ruined by these judgemental eyes.
Over the uneven mountains of the diced chicken in the omelette, the forests of lettuce made for a good surrounding. The white winding and curving roads of mayonnaise from an easy squeeze bottle, all through the mountains in the dense forest, made for a good journey in the heartland of good food. I travelled far in a beautiful country. And now, let me relax with one small prayer:
Thank God for Lettuce!