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I don't know how many people know this, but I love food. I love food rather more than is healthy, as a matter of fact - I'm far too often guilty of emptying an entire bag of chips over the course of a couple of hours. Because I come from an Iyengari household, where the question "What should we have for dinner?" has only two possible answers - chappati or rice - I've also had to learn to cook. That's okay, though, because I love cooking.

My love for cooking began when I was six or seven years old. I used to spend all my time hanging out with my grandmother, and it's from her that I inherited my love of cooking. I'd follow her everywhere she went, and a large component of "everywhere she went" was the kitchen. I'd follow her there too and chat with her, in my usual garrulous fashion. Aside from the occasional admonishment to stand back when she was lighting the stove or dropping something into oil, she let me stand right next to her while she cooked. It was only natural that I should begin to emulate her, and within a short while, I was cooking up my own "dishes". I place the word in quotes because what I cooked wasn't meant for human consumption, per se - raw chappati dough in chilli powder-flavoured water was a particular favourite of mine, to make if not to eat. At the time, one of the major impediments to my progress in the culinary world was that I was not allowed to use knives or the stove. I soon came up with a way to circumvent this, though: I took up baking.

Until the age of ten, I wasn't even allowed to preheat the oven without supervision. Under my mother's watchful gaze (and with her constant aid), I churned out a succession of sponge cakes, tarts and other baked goods. The first time I chopped vegetables or used a stove by myself was at a baking class I attended. I added to my repertoire, among other things, cookies, bread and casseroles. I was also allowed to use the knives and stove at home, but still only with adult supervision. My ability with a knife was also, as you may expect, somewhat limited. I didn't lose any fingers, but I couldn't do much more than cut anything placed in front of me into, say, quarters at best. It was still a few years before I moved on from baking to actual cooking.

Fast forward a few more years (and a somewhat expanded menu). I had grown tired of pizza and focaccia bread, and I took up cooking food in a pan on a stove. I began with simple stuff, pasta sauces for penne mom boiled for me and such. My mother was still my faithful assistant - meaning that she would do most of the work and give me the credit. Even so, I loved it, and the food we made turned out okay, so everyone was happy.

Cut to the present. I cook a few times a month, usually by myself. I still get mom to boil pasta, because I can never seem to estimate how much pasta a person will eat (rice is another of my little hang-ups). As a rule, though, I can make a full meal on my own, and even get the salt and cooking times approximately right!

Cooking has been a hobby of mine for quite a while, and I certainly hope it will remain one when I have to do it every day. For now, though, I hope you will excuse me. I hear the rustle and crinkle of a chips packet, and I am in need of my daily calorie fix.


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