Before I begin, I just have to mention this- what I am going to share with you today, I wrote sitting on the floor, in the middle of a shopping mall, with a borrowed pen. Dubai is a place of very well coiffured ladies and style divas, so while unnumbered pairs of eyes glared at this ‘I wonder why so appalling sight’, what struck me most was the sheer joy of ink flowing from my fingertips instead of them being repeatedly banged against the keys of a keyboard, heaven! I thoroughly enjoyed writing this.
But before I start, to give you a background, I had just stepped out after listening in to an interesting discussion by an illustrious foodie panel titled ‘The Allure of the East’; this was at the Emirates Festival of Literature in Dubai www.eaifl.com. The panel of speakers comprised of four very well acclaimed chefs and food authors – Madhur Jaffrey, Ariana Bundy, Suzanne Husseini and Aaron Maree. This panel had a wealth of experience in the cuisine of the world. While Madhur has authored over 30 cookbooks, Suzanne is termed as the local food queen in the UAE. Ariana Bundy and Aaron Maree are professionally trained chefs and cookbook authors. Aaron Maree, left school at the age of 13 to become a chef and follow his love for food. His cookbook Arabian Dreams has been shortlisted for the Gourmand Cookbook Awards. Despite being a formal setting, there were some very interesting inferences I drew from this discussion. So much so that after buying myself a signed copy of Madhur’s ‘Curry Easy’, I was scrambling to find a spot where I could sit and regurgitate my thoughts on paper. And that’s why I had to borrow a pen from an (unattended) table and find a place to rest my bags and my thoughts.
Coming back to the point this was a multi-cultural panel where you had an Indian/British and an Arab woman both mothers who became interested and initiated into food of their own love for it and their childhood food memories and on the other hand you had two trained chefs one an Australian- cooking in the royal kitchens of Bahrain, and another a French lady. Strangely enough, all of them talked about the best food they ever ate being the one that came from the kitchen of their mothers!! Now how amazing is that? For those who have tasted from all that’s Michelin stars and Le Cordon Bleu and where all you may think, Voila! The best food memories come from where you paid nothing at all!
And I had always this one thought that niggled in the back of my head that I am not a professionally trained chef so I asked this very illustrious panel my very moot question- “Honorable panelists, we have talked over here about the love and the passion of cooking and our mothers who, for most of us, have served the best food we ever ate even while none of them were professionally trained. I would like to hear about your opinion or may I say difference of opinion about the importance of professional training in learning the art of cooking?”
Madhur is a waxy eloquent speaker, her choice of words and timing are inspiring and this is not quoted verbatim here but is essentially what I understood of what she said- you know anyone can cook, like anyone can paint and like anyone can write but it is your ability to differentiate the taste, to remember it, to hit and try and constantly look to improve yourself that brings out the difference of a masterpiece. Having said this it is important to dampen the emotional aspect of cooking because it is the professional training that brings proficiency and speed. So someone like me (as in me who’s writing this post)an ordinary housewife when chopping vegetables would go chak….chak….chak and I want you to read that chak…chak…chak…very slowly to understand the speed that we are talking about here versus a professional trained chef would go chak.chak.chak.
What’s important here is to remember that you need not be daunted by this fact that you are slow or you look tardy or gawky but if you have the love and the determination in your actions then so what if a tad later you will deliver that recipe as finger licking as a professional chef would.
Gist of the story here, many people given the training would learn the craft of cooking but it is the art of cooking that comes from having the feel, the instinct, the love, the hit and the trial.