Would you believe I never learned to cook? Culture being what it is in India, boys are not obliged to learn to cook, and believe you me, I had no interest in learning to cook in the time I could go out and play in the street! :-)
So, long story short, when I got a chance to go work in the US, I took it, but soon found out that the US of A is not very kind to strange foreigners who have chosen to be, stupidly it seems, vegetarian. Since I was working for an Indian company, hence getting money enough to buy food but not 30 days in a month in a restaurant (Indian restaurants are really pricey, it seems all over the world.), the next option was ...you guessed it, cook!
Don't be silly, if I can't afford to eat out how can I afford to employ a cook? I meant cook not as in noun but as in verb..cook for myself. So, that's how I started to learn to cook, willy-nilly as one would say, cook or starve kind of situation. Still being the lazyass I am and a computeraddict on top of that, I spent over a year in US, cooking, on an average, about 3 times a week. Rest of time there were other options like microwaveable pizza or french fries.
Cut to 2006. I moved to UK. And immediately found out the brand names for readymade, microwaveable pizza. I spent about 6 months, on that pizza, rarely making pulao when the mood struck me but otherwise spending more time in front of the computer than the stove.
But then, I made a trip home, (you know about that right, last March?), and Indians express their love and affection through food. So, not only my mom was making my favorite dishes but cousin sisters, friend's wives trying to fill the void for Indian food created in 6 months, in 10 days.
The result was that as soon as I got back and tasted the readymade pizza again, I was like, "Wha...! You must be kidding me?! This is horrible!!". Well, I simply had to start cooking and I did, courtesy of the British stores that carry quite a good variety of Indian spices, cooking sauces, pickles and even real Basmati rice.
Cut to now. Recently I have started "enjoying" the cooking. No, I never had that attitude that cooking is women's job, but I did consider it something akin to magic that they could make such delicious food and seemingly so easily. I had started to learn by trying to make aloo-paranthas (hmmm, how to explain that, well, round items, like roti, but stuffed with mashed potatoes that have spices also mashed in. Does that help?). They used to be my favorite item, (ate a lot in Frankfurt) and I could make them even before I left India. But even if it was man's job or woman's job, it was not my job. I was mystified by how can someone cook. I know it doesn't stand to logic, maybe like a person who can ride a bicycle can never understand why someone else can't. Believe me I burnt rice so many times in US, I had a name for it.
From magic it turned to work, a chore to performed in order to eat.
But now, with the help of the British stores and their wonderful Indian-imported cooking sauces, I can make food that makes at least my mouth water. And I can eat it without having to stretch a point that it's my own work of art so I have to eat it. Now, I have started experimenting a bit, no, not to invent new dishes, just to try and make the dishes I have not tried yet. Nothing fancy, or even difficult, even a housewife will sniff at me calling that an experiment, but things that used to mystify me. Like recently I made peas n' potatoes, another one of my favorite dishes.
Moral of the story is that I have come to the conclusion that everybody, and by that I mean every boy, should learn how to cook. It is a wonderful ...sport? activity? skill? pastime?..??...and being able to feed yourself, adds a very important part in your personality. I am a little sorry, very little because I don't believe in wasting time being sorry about things that have already happened, that I did not start learning to cook before, but I am also very happy that I have started! My next plan is to make 'kheer', a dessert made of milk. Not difficult, but very delicious! Why is it a target? Because I am still a lazyass and making that will mean cooking another item on top of the usual dinner that I cook every day now! :-)