The Magic Ingredient For Every Dish
I remember a time when I was about 13 or 14 and Maggi (quick cooking ramen for the uninitiated) was the only thing I could include in my repertoire of cooking knowledge. Even that, I prepared (’coz using the word ‘cook’ for Maggi would be stretching it) very amateurishly, like a buffoon, by actually following the instructions given overleaf. And I was so naïve as to believe that it would actually be ready to eat in precisely two minutes, if it was immersed in boiling water.
Anyways, immerse I did and then just intently watched the clock along with my tiny, kid brother who was just about 3-4 then. We were largely unsupervised in the kitchen and the only other adult presence in the house was that of my grandmother. She, due to her old age related problems was largely immobile and stuck almost always to her favourite spot on the balcony.
The two minutes, just flew by and I triumphantly turned off the stove, assuming the Maggi had been cooked and was now ready to be devoured by the two of us. This without even checking for taste or preparedness, such was my blind faith in the writing on the back of the pack.
At this very first “successful” attempt at cooking, I couldn’t have just eaten alone without sharing it with my most loved person in the whole, wide world, my granna. So, before my brother and I started to eat, I very proudly and victoriously took a bowl to her, more for her praise and comments and less for her consumption (oldies aren’t too crazy about instant noodles after all).
Lo and behold! She didn’t disappoint. She seemed so genuinely pleased, proud and happy that she said she’d have it all. “Wow! Was I really that good?” I wondered. Well, need not have worried for too long. The very first morsel we took revealed the miserable fact that should have been obvious from the start, but wasn’t, at least not to me, the noodles were grossly undercooked, insipid and inedible.
Yet my granna had volunteered to finish it all. Why, I just couldn’t understand! Why would anybody want to eat something so terrible, I asked her? Her answer moved me to tears and has stayed with me since. Putting an arm around me she said, “The most important ingredient, my child, is the love you’ve put into it. Nothing else matters more. I can finish all of it, simply knowing that you put so much effort and feeling into it. Raw food can always be salvaged and made edible and your cooking skills can always be polished but food without the sprinkling of love will never taste as delicious.”