Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Thirty years later, he’s been treated to some spectacular meals by his son and son-in-laws. I mentioned before that we’re a cooking family, but it still wasn’t enough to get him into the kitchen.
Then one day, he and my mom went to dinner at the home of a couple they had newly befriended. They were eating an amazing meal of chicken and biryani when my father started complimenting the wife on the food. “Don’t tell me,” she said, “tell him.”
To my father’s (and my mother’s) amazement, she said her husband, who is my dad’s age, had made all of the food. And suddenly, as I like to imagine it, a light switched on in my dad’s head. The Light of the Enlightened Indian Man. Real men can cook, he realized, and really well!!
My dad and his friend spent the rest of the evening talking about cooking (!), and the secret to this man’s culinary success was revealed: a website that showcases simple Indian cooking videos. The key is that the chef in the videos is an Indian guy. (Clearly he brings out the “if he can do it, so can I” male competitive hormone.) So my dad went home, watched some of the videos, and started cooking. My mom, needless to say, is thrilled.
News of the website caught on among his friends, and before long they decided to have a dinner party in which -- and I love this part -- all the husbands cooked instead of the wives! The photo here is from their dinner night. Can you imagine how psyched their wives were?!
When I heard all of this, first of all, I brimmed over with pride for my dad. I can imagine it's not easy to develop a completely new hobby -- not to mention overturn a mindset -- at that point in life. Secondly, I figured if this website inspired my father to start cooking, it must be pretty good. So I went on and took a look myself, and seriously: I am willing to guarantee that, if you cook even just a little right now, this website will inspire you to try a dish you've never made before.
It’s called VahRehVah.com, and it features 5-to-10 minute videos of everything from chilli paneer to banana dosai (“your kids will go crazy about this item”). Some of it is way too complex for me – I don’t think I’m going to be making jalebi any time soon. But the vast majority of the recipes are easy. The most-viewed section includes butter chicken, egg biryani, and vegetable puffs (an easy appetizer for parties – buy frozen pastry sheets and fill them with any type of vegetable or meat filling, then bake). The recipes are in written and video form. I love the videos because they show details, like the exact size chopped potatoes should be, or what a “gravy” should actually look like.
The cook in the videos cracks me up as much as the name of the site. “Vah-Chef” Sanjay Thumma, who could easily be one of my cousins in India, has an infectious excitement about food. His down-home attitude about the whole thing is refreshing. He’s got a special kids’ corner, named after his daughter Shreya, featuring dishes that kids like. Best of all, the site is dedicated to his mom, “who inspired me and introduced me to this awesome world of cooking and culinary art. My house always smelled good. It wasn’t the smell of room fresheners or incense sticks. Rather, it was the smell of fresh baking and cooking.”
Check it out, and while you're at it, call your husband/fiance/boyfriend over. You never know when that male competitive hormone will kick in!