Some say we eat to live. There are those who’d rather live to eat. Whatever be the case, food often inspires. For all the numerous ‘lose-weight-now-ask-me-how’ advertisements, reams of paper on maintaining a figure and talk shows on staying fit, there are equal (if not more) articles, ads and columns on cooking and eating. A long time ago there used to be ‘Yan Can Cook’ on the-then Star Plus. Today there are a number of options and shows. Whether it’s No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, Kylie Kwong’s (kyliekwong.org) Cooking with Heart and Soul (just love her kitchen, envy her cutting board) or Nigella Lawson’s (www.nigella.com) juice-dripping, cream slathering, heart-attack inducing cook show (Nigella Express, anyone?) there’s something to suit everyone’s taste buds out there.
You could watch the tele and note down a recipe you like, or you can ask around. Most people who enjoy cooking will tell you that some of their best recipes have been those that have been passed on. That special chana-dal you picked up from your aunt, Ma’s special aloo-mangsho trick, the payasam you learnt from the South Indian neighbour, the 30-second scrambled egg trick you got off a harried-mom-of-four. No matter how simple or complicated a dish, when people who have been doing it for ages tell you how it’s done, it usually turns out nicely.
Just in case you don’t have anyone you can sponge recipes off, there are some great food blogs out there. Some share tried-and-tested traditional recipes, others try out recipes from cookbooks and share and still others give you a history of the dish you are preparing. A personal favourite has been Stephanie and Rick Jaworski’s, Joy Of Baking (joyofbaking.com). They don’t just share recipes there, they tell stories.
First visited in 2004, the site has changed much since then. There are more ads, more readers and some recipes are different since last checked (the carrot cake recipe does not have apples in it anymore!). However, the site retains one of its best features: The stories and history behind the cakes, cookies and pastries.
With recommendations and recipes from chefs and books and tips on how to avoid mistakes, the site is good for seasoned bakers or those who are just starting out. One of the most common irritants when cooking from a site or a cook book is finding you might not have all the ingredients or that you don’t have the ‘exact match’. The ‘substitutes’ section on the site makes it a delight to try out recipes. You know you don’t have to buy Kahlua to make a cheese cake, an instant coffee powder mix will do as well. That’s where Joy of Baking, well, takes the cake.