I grew up having home cooked meal four times a day. A meal together was celebratory.
During many festivals in a year, people from extended family came together and made different kind of food. I hardly remember what we celebrated in those festivals. But I can never forget what each family cooked and what we ate.

Until recently every woman I met, spoke to me about the importance of cooking.They explained how it was always the job of a woman to cook and stay home. Which is fine, if any woman wants to follow that tradition. If it’s a choice. 

Though I always savored home cooked food, I adored science, mathematics and the world of fictions more than anything. I never cared to learn cooking. Things only changed after I grew up and left home for studies and job.

cooked three

Food now is equivalent to nostalgia. I find food, especially home cooked food, a way to bond with my family and friends. Just like my past life, my childhood days. I love cooking for people I care. I love cooking to go down the memory lane.

Cooked eight

I also remember recipes that no cookbook can offer me. The family secret recipes. The way my aunt made anchovies with eggplant, the secret spices she used, the spice that had to be added at last for flavor. The way my grandma made aromatic chicken curry without onion, garlic. The way my best friend’s mom made yellow cake in pressure cooker to celebrate my birthday. The way my mom can cook any tasty meal with no oil and fat. The way a kind chef made the best scrambled savory pancake for me on a sunny morning in Napa. The way a cousin made chicken in spinach gravy. The way I understand a local culture through its food. The way my dad made my favorite fish curry with seasonal vegetables.

Cooked six

In my kitchen, I tried to recreate each food I loved in the outside world. I wanted to relive those magical moments inside my four walls. Maybe that’s how I became a good cook, and if I write a memoir one day, there will be at least five chapters dedicated to food and memories associated with each one. That sounds festive, right?

Cooking is art. Cooking is science. Cooking is love too. And I realized, cooking is liberating. It’s like knowing how to drive your own car, and life. I can choose my ingredients- fresh, preserved, organic, local etc. and in that way I know what I am consuming in everyday life. I can use butter, olive oil or water exactly the way I want.

My realization got a base this year when I watched the Netflix series “Cooked.” Michael Pollan, a professor from Berkeley, in the series”Cooked” explains how cooking brought civilization. He discusses all old civilizations( Including India, my root) and their traditional process of cooking food, the transformation that we all went through because of industrialization, and story and science of the ingredients. It is my most favorite series on TV this year. Pollan has also written five best seller books and they all are on my “To-read” list right now.

Cooked seven

Cooking is not my full time job, sometimes I ignore it to focus on my hobbies and work, but I can live my life eating home cooked meals- even just well cooked rice or a bowl of  soup. Those meals don’t have to be American, or Indian. Till now I learned to cook Ethiopian, Mexican, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Italian, French, Japanese, and Greek cuisine. Well, which proves I love anything but raw salads these days.

** Do you find cooking liberating? Do you loved cooked food? Have you watched “Cooked” or read “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation“?  


Author: Archita

Musings about life and photography.

27 thoughts on “Cooked”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post. I love to cook but am not ready to venture outside of following recipe. Hopefully after more experience I will get there. I am intrigued about the series and his books. I will have to check it out. Also, very jealous of your four home cooked meals a day. Sounds good! I really agree there is something wonderful about cooking for the people you care about. I just can’t stop doing it. Its so fun…and to start with the ingredients and end with the final product…so cool! Also, I really like the presentation of the food in the pictures. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hemangini, You have such a beautiful name. Cooking is fun. Indian meals are great. I wrote the post in a hurry ( like always) so I skipped posting all other great pictures of homemade vada pav, panipuri, pakodas, chai, bhelpuri. 😦 But again, they can appear later.. 🙂 Have fun with family. Thank you for reading. 🙂

  3. Is the secret in making chhana? You use lemon or curd? Share it with me dear. Cow milk is necessary I have read somewhere.

  4. cooking is a fun activity. Just like you, I also like to do it whenever I can but I don’t stress on it right now. I enjoy meals with my family and Indian meals are awesome <3. I loved the pictures. Almost makes me hungry at 12.48 am. lol
    Hope you are having fun eating something wonderful daily.
    Good night. Bless you

  5. Good luck, Claudia. I understood family secret recipes are magical. 🙂 I love cooking only when I cook for family or friends. It’s plain nostalgia and fun. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. I was so bored of Tin rasgullas here, I had to make it in the kitchen. 🙂 I could make soft and spongy ones, Indira. 😀 I was plain lucky( or a good chemist in kitchen.) 😀

  7. I so envy your history of food and family. While I loved my own family, my mother wasn’t much of a cook, so meat, potatoes, and canned veggies were the fare most days. I love cooking, but have fallen out of step with it the last year or so. I’m picking up where I left off, though, and hope my grandsons one day ask me for that “special recipe”.

  8. I so envy your history of food and family. While I loved my own family, my mother wasn’t much of a cook, so meat, potatoes, and canned veggies were the fare most days. I love cooking, but have fallen out of step with it the last year or so. I’m picking up where I left off, though, and hope my grandsons one day ask me for that “special recipe”

  9. Your food looks so good! I love to eat good food, but I’m not all that interested in cooking it. I cook to live instead of living to cook!

  10. Such a sweet note, Michelle. Thank you so much. You and Christy are two amazing friends I’m so proud to have here. Like you, I too love cooking and I’m still a learner. It’s amazing to host dinner parties for friends and family and make it a carnival. Like you, I too love gardening. Though I have a very small space for it ( side effect of living in silicon valley) I can talk about food for hours and days. I’m ready to participate in your foodie series. Thank you for considering me. I’ll be honored. My favorite food is anything from my list of comfort foods- grilled cheese, chicken noodle soup, stir fried chicken with pasta, rice and fish, okay this list will go on! In short, anything healthy that I can make in 15 mins and eat in 5 mins. 🙂 I love baking, I love to bake anything from sweet potato to bread. But Two things I love the most: making a healthy sandwich, and making my morning smoothies with veggies and fruits.

    Please let me know when your book gets published( In case I miss it), I’ll be ready to buy and read. Good luck with it, Michelle.

  11. Like you, I too find cooking therapeutic sometimes. 🙂 I’m glad you loved Gulabjamuns. I made rasgulla at home last year, something that my grandma or mom never managed to do. I started calling myself a “chef” from that proud moment. Ha ha. 🙂 Thank you so much for reading, Indira. ❤

  12. Hi Christy, Love you for this note! You cannot imagine how I happy it made me this morning. ❤

    I learned cooking only after leaving mom. My mom thinks I never missed her, I just missed her food. That can actually be true! My mom is an amazing cook, she cooks international cuisine too in her homely kitchen. I got my first food knowledge from her and then I when started travelling, nothing looked alien.

    I've heard only good reviews about Blue Apron service- I'm yet to try them. But I know it's fun and helpful in busy life. I try my best to manage time to go to my local farmer's market on weekend. I love it. Local farmers from twenty miles of radius sell organic fresh California vegetables there. It's the biggest joy of mine. Picking strawberry to pasture chicken eggs. Talking to the little girl who sells local honey. Buying a bunch of tulips on my way back. And of course never forgetting a fresh baked loaf from the local bakery( will write about it soon.) Those fresh veggies, and occasional good chicken are my cooking inspiration on most weeks. As Indira pointed out, cooking is therapeutic. It's true in my case. More stressed I feel, more I cook. Like you, I love baking too.

    But I never wrote about cooking. I don't like that line I hear occasionally "Women are supposed to cook" from my colleagues, friends and of course extended family. I do so many other things too, read like a maniac, paint, write, photograph, work. Still the society judge a
    woman based on her cooking skill. Which is why I never posted even one of my five thousand of food photographs until yesterday. Sad right? I'm planning to open an Instagram account to keep in touch with you all, and post my food photographs. Last but most importantly, I would love to join you, Cayman and Michelle in favorite recipe/food memory series. Thank you so much for considering me. ❤

    ** Have you watched this TEDTalk? It actually inspired me to embrace all my hobbies and accept myself the way I am. D

  13. Thank you for leaving the bread crumbs this morning. Of course, I follow Archita, but I didn’t have this post in my inbox!! WP monkeys :/
    YES – we need A for our cooking series. We need a cool, funky name too….

  14. Hi Archita!
    Christy sent me your post via e-mail because she knew I’d love it. I so did. First of all, your writing always brings a sense of calm to my heart when I read. You have a soothing way with words and photos – memoir-worthy for sure.
    The topic of food is one near and dear to my heart. Like you, I haven’t written a lot about it on my blog…but, I’ll weave it into one of my next books – already making plans.

    My training is in nutrition and dietetics – I took the clinical route, but my original intention was restaurant and hotel management. I learned to cook from my mom and honed my skills as a baker and cook in a hospital kitchen. I’ve cooked in fancy restaurants as well as in dive diners. I still work in healthcare, so my passion for food is reserved for friends and family. It’s my love language–a trait I learned from my grandma, my mom, and my sister. The only happier place than my kitchen is my garden…and that garden feeds the kitchen.

    “Cooking is art. Cooking is science. Cooking is love too.”
    So true!

    As Christy noted above, I would be honored and excited to have your words in our future foodie posts. I’m still conjuring a plan, but if you’re willing – I’d love to have you!

    Now, I must know two things: What is your favorite food? What do you most like to cook?

  15. Interesting post Archita. I find cooking therapeutic sometimes. All phonographs are so yummy especially Mouth watering.Gulabjamun.

  16. Archita! I love this!

    I grew up with southern comfort foods, and while I learned to bake, I was never much of a chef or a foodie.

    Until this year. I’ve been trying new recipes and new foods–even using the Blue Apron service–and taking pictures galore. It’s been fun!

    I’m toying with the idea of a learning to cook series with Cayman and a favorite recipe/food memory series with Michelle. You definitely must participate! I had no idea you were such a chef. You are full of lovely surprises.

    ❤️ Christy

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