Food Garnished with Love

When food is made with love, it is bound to taste awesome

Picture by Anu Anniah

They say that the most important ingredient in any dish, even a salad, is love! When a dish is a labor of love, it will taste wonderful no matter what.

That’s why any dish made by any mother is always tasty for her children.

Secret Sauce: Mommy Love

Everyone thinks that their mother is the best cook on earth. Why? Because mothers pour their love into everything they make. The love seeps in even when mom is not specifically opening the bottle of love and pouring it into the dish.

A mother doesn’t have to explicitly add the extra ingredient. It is there in her very touch, her thoughts, her ability to prioritize the child’s needs over hers, her thoughtfulness is having a hot drink ready on a cold day, or in coating just the right amount of peanut butter onto the sandwich.

Mysore Pak is a sweet that is famous in South India. And yes, it was first made in the town of Mysore!

Mysore Pak is available in lots of sweet shops all over town. Some of them are super yummy, or so people say. Not for me, though. I always thought my mom made the best Mysore Pak in the world. Now she is gone, and I miss it sorely.

I still remember those days as a kid. I used to come home from school, and there would be a steel container sitting with an air of mystery around it, on the kitchen counter. The time between spying the tin and opening it to see what delectable dish lay inside was sheer agony.

Pretty much anything inside the tin evoked the same response. A lot of drool. And the urge to pop it into the mouth at once. Because my mom was a great cook. Everything she made was just perfect.

My mom was not given to too much display of emotions. So my excited response to whatever dish she had labored on that day only brought forth a small smile. In hindsight, I think it was a look of deep satisfaction. I think my approval of her dish was important to her.

If I wolfed down the stuff, and it disappeared rapidly, she would make comments like, ‘I never got to taste even one bite’. But she never meant it in a bad way. I think that was her way of feeling good that her only offspring really enjoyed whatever she had made.

Secret Sauce: Granny Love

The next-gen arrived, and my mom starting doling out equal dollops of love to the new kid on the block.

Mysore Pak was again a hot favorite. My daughter also believes that Pati (grandma) used to make the best Mysore Pak.

Aren’t there other great cooks out there? Of course, there are. But Pati added an ingredient that only she could add. Grandma’s deep love for the grandchild. No one can top that addition.

The kid appreciated Pati’s cooking so much that she tended to exaggerate on occasion. One day at lunch, she informed the grandma with a serious face, ‘Pati, even the water you serve is so tasty’.

At that point in time, the kid truly meant it. That was the depth of affection both ways.

Secret Sauce: Kid Love

Cut to the present day. The teen is learning to be independent. There is a lot of experimenting in the kitchen. The end results are distributed equally among self, mom, and dad.

The teen is learning to cut the proverbial cord. There is defiance, and attitude. And yet, there are moments. Moments that show that beneath the attempt to become her own self, there is still a warm child full of love for her parents.

The other day, I had gone off for my regular exercise session. By the time I came out of the room, there were messages on paper lying under the door urging me to come out faaaaast.

I came out to find this amazingly plated dish on the table.

Photo by Anu Anniah

Stir-fried baby corn with a side of tomato slices and cheese.

The teen had made this dish since she knew I would emerge hungry. She was hopping around in excitement until I freshened up and arrived at the table. She wanted me to taste and approve.

Under the able tutelage of her now departed Pati, she is also not high on any display of emotions. But there are random acts of love such as this.

The plate was set. There was a glass of water ready by its side. A fork and a napkin had been laid out.

I was blown away by her thoughtfulness. I was blown away by her care in serving the dish.

And of course I was blown away by the taste. It was the tastiest stir-fried corn I have ever eaten.

Why? Because it had that extra ingredient.

It was garnished generously with love.

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