I’m proud of finally learning how to make Indian food – and it doesn’t make me any less British – iNews

By on October 21, 2020

I never thought I would manage to write these words, but I have nearly mastered making roti.  

Nearly four months ago, I wrote about my disastrous attempt at the Indian flatbread and how it epitomised my utter failure to learn any new skills in lockdown.  

But, after a period of strike action when I refused to be mocked for my cooking, I went back to the rolling pin. My mum finally measured out the proportion of flour to water that I needed to make the dough, rather than her previous instruction of “just make sure the atta is not too hard or soft”. Inexplicably she wouldn’t use scales for the flour but a measuring jug. I won’t complain. 

Recently, I made roti with hardly any guidance, my confidence growing as each bread puffed up on the hob. They weren’t perfectly round, but nor were they unintentionally shaped like countries of the world. They were thin and fluffy and even reminded me of those I grew up eating.

There is still work to be done. No-one is allowed to watch me cook and I’m still very slow, meaning diners must bear long breaks during their meal as I make each one. But at least they are worth waiting for.  

Food and identity

While I feel proud, I’m also annoyed that I didn’t make the effort to learn beforehand.

I believed that I would be seen as “too Indian” if I knew how to make, well, delicious food when I was younger. It felt like I would be playing into a stereotype of being old-fashioned or traditional.

By rejecting roti, I thought it allowed me to assimilate more into the society in which I lived.

Now, it seems silly. Not only because of the countless packets of pitta bread I have bought to have with the frozen, homemade curries my family still give me. But because knowing how to cook traditional food does not conflict with being a young British Asian woman living in the UK today.

When you’re younger, it’s far harder to have that clarity. Back then, you’re worried if your clothes, especially your school uniform, or hair smell like Indian food.

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Food can be a sticking point for minorities who are trying to figure out their identity growing up.

The revered Asian American restaurateur David Chang, whose Netflix series Ugly Delicious covers food, culture and identity, told HuffPost US in 2018 that being “embarrassed about… and hiding” ethnic food was nothing unique.

He also spoke about being picked on as a child for the food he ate. “Those are probably some of my most impressionable memories – being vilified and made fun of and bullied for the food I was eating. It’s only natural I’m going to want to reject it as I grew up.” 

Comfort and memories

For those who live away from their family, there’s something special about knowing how to cook the food you grew up eating or might eat together. It’s comforting and invokes memories.

Guiding one of my recent cooking attempts, my mum told me how her dad taught her to make roti. How she cut her bread around a plate to achieve the circle shape. How she and her siblings would throw the wet dough with the aim of getting it to stick to their kitchen ceiling and pray it wouldn’t fall down at an inopportune moment. She would never have let me do that.

Maybe one day I’ll tell my children how I learned to make roti in lockdown. How I favour a spatula to flip the roti while it’s cooking rather than singeing my fingers on the hot tawa (a type of frying pan), the traditional method everyone in my family seems to prefer.

And I hope they’ll want to learn, too.

So, tonight, I’ll get out my rolling pin, tawa and spatula, and crack on with perfecting my roti. The curry will be from a frozen batch but watch this space. I’m going to lobby for measured ingredients for aloo gobi.

Source Article from https://inews.co.uk/opinion/columnists/im-proud-of-finally-learning-how-to-make-indian-food-and-it-doesnt-make-me-any-less-british-732730
I’m proud of finally learning how to make Indian food – and it doesn’t make me any less British – iNews
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