I have been reading “The Lost art of Mixing” by Erica Bauermeister. I picked it up from the recommended book shelf of my local library. I often do that – picking up books on a random whim,that is. Most of the time, I return them unread, quarter read, half read, but sometimes they stick with me till the end. So, in that hope, I always scan the turntable of recommendations. I judge books by their inner flap and I wish to be pleasantly surprised.
Here I am with this book. It is one of those that makes you hungry. Lavish with food, its aroma and the ache it imparts as words are all you have to imagine, to chew, to savor. It drags you to a farmer’s market to fill your vision with the prolific sprig of coriander, enormous, moist bunches of spinach, youthful and firm celery or bursting buds of lettuce. It is all in there and much more. There is love. Love for picking up the right constituents, arranging them neatly on the table of mind and preparing a menu – gratifying to the last bite. Love while serving, love while eating and love while reminiscing the precise palate. Then there is another love – the mist of despair and bliss that adds an unknown element to the recipes in motion. The kind of love, that once again makes you hungry – to be understood, to be desired and to make sense of your existence.
The concoction is too lucid for me yet I keep going for it tickles my senses with its delicate wordiness, delicious imagery and its pangs of longing to culminate into a union of mind and body. Or perhaps I am just starved after reading it. For food. For love.
It reminds me of the way I have been cooking lately. My kitchen is not an organized stencil, albeit it is scattered and full of movement. Utensils, lids, blenders, skillet come and go. There is no order, there is only desire with tools at disposal. Things change in between, alterations are always around. I start with something and end up with a modified version. But I stay consistent with my resources and their quality. I am obsessed with spices. I sniff them often. I keep them in dark, cool places and release only a few spoonfuls into my cylindrical spice box, to preserve their smell and potency. The salt is elementary, crushed red pepper is the passionate spice, grainy coriander powder is the staple base for any curry and turmeric is a healing angel. Then there are seeds – cumin, carom, mustard(coarse and fine) holding a small pebble of aestofedia in between as a sacred jewel of taste. A separate jar of Garam masala stands tall as the king of all spices – carrying an army of fifty-sixty seasonings within it, if prepared authentically. I often stare at their segmented arrangement – color coded and ready to mix and explode with each other. I wonder about their distinctive presence and their ability to mingle flawlessly to create a fecund meal. Like genes in love create a unique DNA map, a melody of body and soul.
I do not regard myself as a creative, specialized cook but as someone who cooks more out of necessity than willingness. Yet, I am mindful of mixing myself with my recipes, holding the pans in a certain way as if – they were my heart – capable of distributing more than just nutrition. I have some faintly visible hooks to this art of mixing, matching and relishing that surpasses my awareness at times. This book hangs on those hooks. It concentrates on adding love, using intuition and pushing the alertness to a convenient intersection of extravagance and simplicity.
Cooking to me, is about awakening love. It is about inhaling the aroma and figuring out the length and intensity of flame needed. It is about tasting in between to inspect the texture, the color and the fragrance of burnt spices separated in oil – whispering that they have contributed their best. It is about mincing with your eyes. It is about feeling the spatulas in your fingers, the fork in your thumb and the spoon of your palm. It is like love – neither to be rushed or delayed. You know the precise moment when it turns ripe but sometimes you don’t want to believe it, you wish to test it, you think its best to keep it hidden or covered a little longer. As a result, before and beyond that crucial window, if consumed – it tastes incomplete, it looks overcooked, it misses the crosshairs – the one you cannot pinpoint but precisely know. Just like love.
So, next time you pull a skillet or put a pan on stove, add a little mindfulness. Sprinkle some love. Give measuring jars and cookbooks a rest. Trust your judgement and follow your instincts. Smell, touch, taste, even hear and improvise. Feed yourself. Feed the ones you love. Let the satisfaction linger around. Believe as the book suggests – food and love can fix anything. With a little music and laughter as a side dish, I believe, they can! Do you think so? I’d like to know.
On a side note, I went against the idea of adding pictures because I trust your excellent imagination. Bon Appetit!
Disclaimer – The book is enjoyable for ones who prefer light, fictional reading once in a while. For readers/thinkers looking for a deeper meaning, it is suggested that they try some of the recipes mentioned in the story.