Nothing about life is easy, especially when the going gets tough. There are, however, endless ways of coping. My favourite method is meditation and silence, but failing that I resort to aroma therapy. Whilst some indulge in retail therapy, drugs or alcohol to transport their souls to a better place, I need my comfort scents. I am not referring to the standard wellness fragrances like ylang ylang, patchouli or lavender, but food. For me the therapeutic and cathartic moment lies within the process of imbibing the heady comfort scents through a relaxing cooking session, and nothing to do with eating per se.
It is all about nourishment, not consumption.
Sometimes, after I turn off the stove and place the food in a bowl I don´t even feel like eating anymore, because the purpose of the process has been achieved by simply smelling the food. Eating would just be anti-climactic. This is particularly true for Filipino and Indian food. When my home is flooded with the smell of adobo or anything with coconut milk, it calms me down. In a similar manner, roasting spices and then frying garlic for an Indian dish is particularly morale boosting, though I am not necessarily compelled to eat. No matter, at least I will have cooked a meal to take to work the next day or freeze and eat later on in the week.
After 12 years of living in India, certain foods and their aromas are incredibly comforting to me. Winters usher in the cravings for parathas and upma, and summers are never complete without a lassi, nimbu pani, and palak paneer. I was spoiled during those years and had a brilliant housekeeper who could whip any of my favourite goodies up in a flash, especially pakoras. I miss those days and now, when I have certain cravings for Indian food I cook it myself, but here’s the thing, Indian cuisine was never intended for just one person.
Ever since the onset of Fall and Winter, I have been making chapattis and parathas. They will never be perfectly round like that of the standard Indian housewife, but the act of rolling out the flat bread is therapeutic, even more so when I have two very judgemental cats staring at me. The other day I decided that it was high time to make tandoori chicken again, and marinated the pieces overnight. Needless to day, as the apartment filled up with tandoori scent I couldn´t help but smile and feel rejuvenated, comforted, and serene. Forget chicken soup for the soul, tandoori is the way to go!