Sensational Sadia shares her story of learning to cook. It's been quite a journey!
By: Sadia Kashif, Sensational Taste Tour Guide
What is the best way to get to know about food? Many people would probably say eating, but for me, the best way to learn about food is through cooking.
I have always been a storyteller; I love telling stories. I often tell my Taste customers on our food tours “the tales of food”, my food adventures, or the history of different sub-continental cuisines. Whether it’s the rich and royal story of the origin of delicious Biryani, or the twisted treats of the sweet and interesting jalebis, I have so many food tales to tell.
But it wasn’t always like this.
Just over a decade ago, I didn’t know that much about food, its composition, or how to make it. Sure, I was always a food lover, but I never came close to cooking or getting to know how on earth the delicious food was made. I had no idea about the ingredients and where they came from.
My journey from not knowing anything about food to becoming a decent cook and food tour guide is my “food tale” for today.
Being a food lover since the beginning, I have a clear memory of my childhood days of enjoying food both at home and at restaurants. I grew up in a time when we did not have any fast food international chains like McDonalds and KFC. My side of the family has always been a food loving family; food has always been an important part of our everyday lives. I remember my grandmother saying, “No food means no brain and no heart.” She meant that our brain and heart need food to work the way we want them to.
I remember eating wonderfully cooked fish curry or meatballs with bread and if the kids didn’t like it, my grandmother used to put the cooked potato or a meatball on a toothpick and told us it was a lollypop! Our family lunch or dinner felt like an event every day. We’d usually have fish or meat as the main dish, with vegetables or lentils as the side dish and these were often served with roti, or rice and salads and chutneys. The food was then followed by a sweet dish or fruit and then tea. The females of the home always put in a lot of effort and time to prepare everything.
As soon as I was in year 10, my mother started getting worried about me as I didn’t know anything about cooking and what was I going to do after I got married? At that time I didn’t care about cooking food, and for me it was just a waste of time.
However, things soon changed.
Right after I was married, I found myself in a large kitchen, where I was expected to cook, as the only female in the house. I was responsible for providing three meals a day for the whole family. It was like sitting in an examination hall, without studying anything for years.
I didn’t even know how to boil an egg properly! The first time I tried, I added salt, pepper and some other things in the boiling water as I thought this would add flavours to the egg :-)
One time I was cooking an eggplant curry for my husband as he was a veggie lover. After watching a one hour cooking program by an Indian chef and writing down the recipe, I started cooking Bengun Bharta. As soon as I put the eggplant pieces in the hot oil, it started making a horrible sound. Then I had a big flame in the frying pan. I got scared and added a litre of water to the pan and the poor eggplant started swimming in the water. It became a runny soup instead of a curry.
I wasn’t aware of cooking methods, spice tricks, recipe techniques, the traditions of serving food. I was so frustrated. There I was, in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t know the names of vegetables, their shapes, the difference between red and yellow lentils. What were green sprouts or beans and peas?
What did the term “salt to taste” mean? Or what was I supposed to do if a baked cake is undercooked on the inside?
I had no teacher or fairy godmother to wave her magic wand in my kitchen. There was only me in the large lonely kitchen, and I played my innings with so many blunders. Hubby wanted a home-cooked meal, and he wasn’t a fan of eating out.
So I became a fairy godmother for myself. I started watching cooking shows and reading recipes in magazines. I learned how to simplify hard recipes, take shortcuts, and make food that was easy, quick, and tasty. I started creating some self-taught experimental but delicious recipes.
I remember my first ever Chicken Ginger, Butter Chicken, Karhai Gosht, slightly soft Biryani, a bit burnt Paratha, runny chicken soup and so many other things I can laugh at now.
In only in a couple of years, things really changed.
I became the best cook in the family. People used to ask for my pakora and roti recipes. I was the first one in my family to bake a pizza and cookies. I was the one who cooked food (all by myself!) for 20 people for my son’s birthday parties. I hosted dinner for friends and family.
Soon I could cook almost everything I loved and admired all my life. This time I knew the ingredients, recipes, composition, making, process and most of all the “secrets of taste”.
So, the moral of my story is “You can never know anything unless you go through the process of making or creating it”. As soon as I learnt the process of making food, my food love went to the next level. I started “knowing” food and its taste. And now I love to share my “Tales of Food”.
Like this blog? Check out more by Sensational Sadia!
- My food fears before moving to Oz
- The Biryani Diaries
- Being Special in the Skies
- Food Adventures in Pakistan
- As Straight As Jalebi
Or experience the awesomeness of Sadia in real life on a food and culture tour!