The secret ingredient is….love

Food makes up such an integral part of our lives – be it quickly thrown together weekday dinners or weekend cookouts with friends or lavish wedding feasts. Why else would restaurants, caterers and food themed TV shows thrive so much. But there is a critical ingredient that often times doesn’t get the attention it deserves. That secret ingredient is love. A meal prepared without love is just that – a medley of ingredients thrown together. It lacks oomph.

Cooking is an art, which makes the person making the meal, an artist and his love of the art, his passion. Just like not everyone can be a Picasso or a Michelangelo, not everyone is destined to be a chef. I’m not even talking about pursuing cooking professionally here. You can whip up something as simple as scrambled eggs and still be a star in the kitchen!

When I was a child, my grandmother used to make this sweet pudding-y dish called “sheera” using cream of wheat, sugar, ripe bananas and clarified butter. It was my favorite-est (this word needs to be in the dictionary is all I’m going to say) dessert snack and over the years, I’ve lost count of how many times she made it for me.  Now this exact same dish is also made as an offering (known as “naivedya”) to God on auspicious occasions. To my utter surprise, this version turned out to more divine (pun intended) than the one I usually had. I remember telling my grandmother to make it for me like she did for God and I’m sure she changed not a thing in her recipe. I suspect however that she put more love into the latter. 😉

To quote another example, my mom is a phenomenal cook. She loves to try out new recipes, loves to push the envelope and absolutely loves feeding people. Numerous people have taken home her recipes to try and a few have come back to say she probably left a trademark ingredient out because it didn’t taste like hers. Knowing my mom, I didn’t think she would do that. She believes that sharing, be it recipes or possessions, is caring. She would never intentionally leave out an ingredient to maintain an upper hand. And then it dawned on me – she did have a secret ingredient! It’s called L-O-V-E. You can’t fake it and you can’t skip it because that determines whether what you made is just tasty or downright frikking mind blowing awesome. I’ll take the latter please!

So why am I rambling on about cooking with love? Because lately I’ve consistently hit the just tasty phase. It’s above average, definitely palatable but nowhere close to mind blowing awesome. Meals I’ve made in the past that have hit the ball out of the park are sadly now barely making it to second base. I’ve been busy at work, tired and plain winging it and damn it shows! Oof! I need divine intervention and what better way to break out of these doldrums than to go back to what reminds me of happy times – time for some sheera!!




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