Dubai Diaries: To hold one’s own in the kitchen

Dubai - I have had an estranged relationship with my kitchen.


Anamika Chatterjee

Published: Wed 25 Aug 2021, 9:37 AM

What do you miss out on when you do not cook yourself? The agency to eat anything and everything you like, let alone feeding someone else. I have had an estranged relationship with my kitchen. I mostly enter it when I absolutely have to, that is, when guests come home. On other occasions, I see it as a space where my cutlery is neatly spread out.

If I regret not acquiring culinary skills, it is because over a period of time, my partner has become an aspiring vegetarian, while I have gone deeper into my non-vegetarianism, having tried many exotic meats. While neither of us really has a problem with the other’s culinary preferences, the issue simmers when the cook comes home. He is a vegetarian too, the kind who will frown at the sight of eggs.

My partner hails from a community in Kerala that observes strict vegetarianism owing to religious reasons. The joke at our Delhi wedding was when we served veg cutlets to our guests instead of ones made of fish. No one expects to eat vegetarian cutlets at a Bengali wedding, but I thought the ways to my in-laws heart was through the vegetarian fare. And I wasn’t quite wrong.

But what that initial rejection of vegetarianism has done over the years is that it has pushed me deeper into non-vegetarianism. While my husband, who was once a rebel and would eat everything under the sun, finds himself drawn to all things green, albeit from a detox perspective rather than a religious one.

There are times when I have suggested to my partner that we get a cook who can make both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare just so we can happily co-exist under the same roof without denying ourselves food we truly like. But his good heart comes in the way of my culinary desires. No good man should be losing his job because of our changing dietary preferences, he says. Fearing the karma of it, I do stay quiet.


The lockdown was a period when I thought I would acquire culinary skills. It meant scouring through recipe books to prepare something exotic for the husband. And I did succeed at times. From vegetable lasagna to cauliflower steaks, I whipped up quite a frenzy. The challenge was when, on occasions, the stomach demanded something simpler — rice and lentils.

I was so divorced from the basics that I could not get around to cooking even simple fare. My husband did try his hand once or twice, but the byproduct of his efforts was more disappointing. Having realised that neither of us would be able to hold our own in the kitchen, we decided to keep a cook.

What has been unfolding in our kitchen since then is not a traditional vegetarian-versus-non vegetarian debate. It is also about us wanting to own a piece of our roots. What we eat is such a fundamental part of who we are, and as we age, we become more sensitive to it.

To me, it is also about retaining that part which does get diluted in an inter-caste marriage. Hearteningly enough, we respect that about each other’s choices, even if the cook wouldn’t deter from his vows of vegetarianism. Till that changes, it’s Zomato coming to my rescue.

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