The most prominent influence on my culinary journey is my grandmother (Ammama). Whenever I was at her place, I observed how she prepared food. Ammama talks a lot while cooking. She is either explaining the process or the ingredients and if nothing else, she shared an anecdote related to the recipe she was preparing. This attitude of hers might have influenced me to learn from her.
She would sometimes allow me to help her. That’s how I learnt how to clean seafood. Sometimes I used to grind a few spices for her using mortar and pestle or chop vegetables for her. She joked a lot and teased my clumsiness. This helped me remember what not to do. Her satire and mockery never offended me. I always took it the way it was meant to be taken, in a light-hearted manner.
While I learnt some complicated recipes from my Ammama, it was my mother who taught me how to cook simple, everyday meals. Mom always emphasized on speed and efficiency. Her recipes are always very healthy. Mom did not use any elaborate procedures or masalas (a powdered blend of spices), her cuisine was very simple. She retained the flavour of the vegetables by not overcooking or using too much of spices. Spices can dominate the delicate flavour of the vegetables so, the use of spices was very limited in mom’s recipes. I think her biggest secret was the fact that she prepared every meal fresh from scratch and served it hot.
Mom was always worried whenever I stepped into the kitchen to experiment. She insisted on her methods and deviating from them did not sit well with her. Since my childhood, I learnt a lot by observing my Mom and Ammama. I was raring to attempt some of my ideas. The occasional kitchen help gave me the confidence to execute my ideas. Not all my cooking adventures worked out, but every failure taught me a valuable lesson.
Soon after my marriage, I had to relocate to Jamaica. I was on my own to execute all the lessons learnt. I was thrilled. My husband loves food; he is never scared to explore new flavours and ingredients. This made it an even more enjoyable experience in the kitchen. Despite having a lot of ideas in my head, the initial few years weren’t easy. Not all recipes worked out the way they were supposed to.
Three years after my marriage, I took my first trip back home. It was during this trip that I learnt a lot of cooking tips and tricks from my dear mother-in-law. She taught me a lot of recipes that are unique to the Rayalaseema region. Ammama hailed from Telangana and my Nanamma (father’s mother) was from Andhra. Furthermore, I have been living in Jamaica for a long time now. Thus, my cooking style is a blending of all these regions.
That’s a bird’s eye view of my culinary journey. The numerous trials, lessons learnt, thrills, and drama of my experiments couldn’t fit in this blog post today. But, I promise you all that I will return with a sequel to tell you what transpired in the kitchen the first time I tried my hand cooking.
For now, I am sharing a few pictures of some of my food preparations. If you enjoy cooking as much as I do, please share your experiences with me. I would love to hear from you.