I would really implore anyone reading this blog to go watch this series, Chef's Table. Its a wonderful series highlighting the creativity and exploration of ingredients and cooking techniques brought forth by some of the worlds best chefs, leading to a sense of personal and professional accomplishment.
In episode #1, Massimo Bottura explains how his perspective about food was formed when he was trying to avoid getting beaten up by his elder brothers by hiding under the table on which his grandma was hand rolling fresh pasta.
I learnt cooking from my mom. The flavors of Gujarat and Maharashtra coming together in that room, taking shape via my moms hands. The many colors, spices, ingredients that made the final dish. The commotion of guests and relatives. The dress and ritual of the occasion. Every morsel that I take today, of the food that I learnt from my mom, is a window into that room, a thread to those memories from a time by gone and much cherished.
Technique of cooking and ingredients are of paramount importance. In the world of genetically modified everything and perfect looking produce, what you put in your dish and eventually in your body, becomes so much more important. And that connects you to the area you currently inhabit - your ecology. Fresh local produce (emphasis on Episode #2 New York's very own Chef Dan Barber) bursting full of earthy goodness can be felt instantly - spontaneously differentiated from food made from mass farmed, pesticide/fertilizer laden food. It is almost an emotional connection, for in that moment, that freshness, transforms your state of mind and soul. It puts you onto a completely different emotional pedestal.
Again, coming to the episode that talks about Massimo - he talks about his wife Lara and how her support and vision was important for his mercurial talents to be harnessed in a way that would create much upheaval in the macrocosm that is Modenese cooking and bring it to modernity. While, I am nowhere close to the heights of culinary excellence that Mr. Bottura boasts of, I can identify this way of connecting and letting another person guide what and how you cook.
Which brings me to when I cook food, what am I achieving in terms of a personal connection. I like cooking for friends, colleagues at work and especially my wife. And seeing their eyes light up and a smile on their face when they taste that food - in that experience, I have created another thread that will carry into the future. And that experience also pushes me to experiment and move onto recipes and ingredients that aren't native to my posterity. And that is the urge that nourishes life - maybe there is something better that I can do, newer ingredients, better methods. Traversing the landscape of this culinary pasture will lead to climbing the ladder in physical and spiritual fulfilment - at least that is the hope.