Cooking, With Feeling

This was originally written in July 24, 2009, as part of the old Reading in Between blog, which stopped being about lovely stuff to read.

I have recently discovered the joys of cooking – and for the most part, that is pretty much what cooking is all about for me.

However, it has been changing for the last few weeks and, before I knew it, I was starting to cook whenever I had a bad day, whenever I feel really sad and want to feel good about myself.  I suppose that this technically falls under the category of “fun”, but I think it’s something deeper.

That being said, the fact that I’m cooking when I’m going through certain emotional states reminds me of this book that I had read back in college.  The title of the book is “Serving Crazy With Curry”, and it was written by Amulya Malladi.  “Serving Crazy” is apparently not Malladi’s best book – in fact, many people seem to agree that it is definitely not as good as her debut novel “A Breath of Fresh Air”.  Not having read any of her other books to this day (not for the lack of trying to find them in local book stores, mind you), I wouldn’t have the authority to comment.  What I CAN say, however, is that I completely fell in love with the plot of the book, and the stories of the characters themselves.  I do admit that the characters themselves are a little flat, but they all had backstories, and I simply loved the complexity that their own stories lent them – even if their voices were not that clear.

But of course, I’m babbling again.  What I was trying to say is that these days, I find myself reconnecting with the character Devi the way I had connected with her the first time I read the book.  While I have not tried to kill myself the way she had, I understood her motivations perfectly.  Nothing in her life had gone right, and she was tired of the mild disappointment with which many people – including some of her family – regarded her.

While there are many things that have gone right in my own life, I also understand that there are also things that I have done wrong.  These things did not necessarily disappoint my own family, but they were puzzled by it, and the fact that they have difficulty understanding me is as difficult for me as it had been for Devi.

There is also the subject of Devi’s silence.  After her suicide attempt failed (care of her nosy mother), she chose to withdraw from the world by refusing to speak; instead, she began expressing herself through her cooking.  I don’t think I could ever stay quiet as long as she did, but I’d be willing to try.  Devi’s silence and sudden love for cooking unconventional food (which drove her mother crazy at first, but eventually won over the whole family – because the dishes are delicious) brought her entire family together, eventually prompting them to address their individual and relationship issues.

Eventually, Devi came to terms with her own problems and began to heal.  I can’t help but feel that by cooking things that people enjoy – though I don’t think I’ll be as innately talented at cooking as Devi – I am also able to come to terms with myself.  There is something magical about a meal that you share with other people; perhaps it is because this is a kind of togetherness that is enjoyed.  The more enjoyable the togetherness is, the easier it is to connect with each other.

To me, cooking is my way of reaching out to my family without words, and reaching out to myself.  I think the reason why I love it so is because the lack of words is what makes it all the more profound.  Cooking for the family is a reminder that no matter what I do, and where I go, I have a family who loves me as much as I love them.

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