I was raised in a family where the male members didn’t enter the kitchen or it was limited to making tea or having a glass of water. The grocery items’ shopping also was divided between my mom and dad. It was not that my father or uncles didn’t like to help out or anything. It was just that cooking and shopping for food items was considered quintessentially a woman’s affair and the men in the family were generally disinterested or even indifferent to what went on in the kitchen.
So, after marriage, it came as a delightful surprise to run into my father-in-law in the kitchen on a regular basis. Here, I realised that cooking was a family affair, quite literally. Right from deciding what to cook and what to buy, everyone discussed vehemently. But it was distinctly steered by my father-in-law. You see, he is a foodie; especially when it comes fish.
Every Sunday morning it’s his chore to visit the fish market to buy our weekly stock of fish. I wouldn’t call it so much of a chore for him, am sure he feels like a child in a candy store while visiting the market. He will almost buy everything that he finds fresh and that satisfies his taste buds. But at times, he may not buy everything, he loves simply looking at all the fresh fish, peering at the new arrivals and generally watching who buys what and ohh, how can I forget the bargaining with the fishwahllis.
He will then come home with a radiant face and shining eyes, beaming triumphantly while carrying his trophies. It isn’t a smooth ride though, until the fish is cooked. Looking at the huge bags in his hands, my mother-in-law grimaces and what then follows is a long verbal debate (read argument, battle etc. etc.) about how this huge quantity of fish will be consumed over the week and whether anything will go waste. It is always the father-in-law convincing the mother-in-law that the quantity isn’t much and the ravenous family with gulp it down in no time. [We, no doubt hog it like a food deprived family but then there is only so much one can eat.] Poor mother-in-law is then at wits end to make us all eat it before it spoils and loses its flavour. This routine continues week after week on every Sunday. Each knows the other and neither gives in and so it continues.
The fun and frolic doesn’t end here. My father-in-law will then sit down to cut and clean the fish, the entire time explaining majestically, his conversations with the fishwahllis and how he bargained. Applying spices and other masala to the fish is another of his favourite things to do. And he is not the one to get satisfied by letting others do it. Until he applies it himself and sees to it that it is done in a satisfactory manner, he won’t budge. You will see the shine on his face, the spring in his step and the immense pleasure that he gets from doing this act.
Eating the fish then (read savoring and relishing) is only an aftermath. This love for fish, not only the eating part but everything that precedes runs in the entire family of the in-laws.
Govern a family as you would cook a small fish – very gently.
So says a Chinese proverb. What it means is handle gently and never overdo it. My father-in-law has mastered the art at both, quite literally. But come to think of it, he would rather handle the fish than the family. 😛