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With the huge influx of international food products in the Indian market on the one hand, and the various kinds of food shows on television on the other, cooking up something exotic on your humble gas stove, or loyal pressure cooker or even the privileged but basic microwave is not the real challenge anymore.  Today, it is not uncommon to see regular housewives pushing bulging trolley-fulls of Taco Kits and Chocopies while frowning through a barely pronounceable grocery list of items like Couscous, Kafir lime and Shitake mushrooms to take home for dinner.  But a lot of these yummy-looking, exotic-sounding and fairly expensive items will find themselves huddled together in a dark kitchen bin in less than two weeks, soured, mouldy, soggy or just plain forgotten. The reasons are not far to seek.

  1. Weather conditions: Many of the international products we buy from gourmet stores are made in and for countries that have very different weather patterns than ours. Our humid, clammy weather can make nasty inroads into even the basic food grains and masalas used in our kitchen, then why not a pack of Crisp Rye Bread or Kosher Salt?
  2. Storage: The instructions on the food products are often not suited to our lifestyle and living conditions. For example, Nutella tastes best when not refrigerated, and should be kept in ‘a cool, dark place’ as per the label on the jar, but try keeping the fungus off the damn thing when you keep it in your overhead cabinet, the ‘coolest, darkest place’ in your kitchen!
  3. Measures: We zealously scribble down, memorise, learn and practice recipes from various TV shows, recipe books, websites, magazines, back of food packs, phone apps, Moms, Mom’s friends, friends’ Moms and so on… But because we are in the ‘trying out’ mode, we often don’t know what to do with the leftover ingredients after we have battled through a 3-course gourmet dinner. After all, you can’t just chomp down fettuccine if the recipe demands 100 gms and the shop sells it by the kilo!
  4. Substitutions: Often, a recipe that you have set your heart on asks you to source that one ingredient that is not available anywhere. A vanilla bean? Some Malt Extract? A pack of Cornmeal? Quinoa? Wha…? We often hit the panic button here, not knowing how to improvise with what we have or what to use instead that will give the dish a similar texture or flavor, without compromising on the taste.

These are the major problems we face on our road to Gourmet-dom! Look out for my learnt-it-the-hard-way solutions in my next post 🙂