He only learnt to cut onions but I learnt how to cook (without actually cooking that is) when I was a 5 year old kid! Just looking at the dosa batter I can tell if the end product would turn out as it should. Call it sheer Xperience by virtue of being a constant fixture in my g'mas kitchen but as she brewed the kaapi decoction, made dosas or something else, i had to ask intutive questions :
"why did you grind the kaapi nuts daily? ... Why were they shaped that way? ... Did the nut grow on a tall tree or short one? ... If I sowed this nut would it grow in our backyard ?"
"Why was the dosa batter watery today but brownish-yellow yesterday and thick the day before that but white on sunday?"
After she had explained the difference between a rava dosa and neer dosa and rice dosa and why the "adai" batter was different from pesarettu she would quickly put the next hot dosa on my plate hoping to shut me up. But i had another query ready : "why did you cut green chillies and not red ones?", "why did you put a phodni for the watery batter ?... now it has black rai floating all around.. You had not done that yesterday but today the dosa has those greenish chillies stuck in it and i have to pick each one out before eating...how annoying", ....and so on....

Not that i was interested in eating good food or even remotely interested in learning how to cook. Rather i just enjoyed asking tons of questions simply 'coz g'ma enjoyed answering them :) Yet unlike my meticulous, systematic(#0) and cleanliness obsessed g'ma, I begin cooking not by keeping all ingredients available. OTOH, its something like this ::

* wander into kitchen, head to music player, think which raga (#1) i wanna karaoke.
* open fridge/shelves to see what was available.
* depending on mood and #1, prepare dish. If nothing else improvise.

On that note let me catalog the Tiruvadirai Kali recipe (a festival recipe, not usually found in restaurant menus).


Method :

1 cup - Raw rice (washed, dried and dry roasted)(water proportion 1:2);
1 cup Jaggery;
1/4 tsp. Cardamom powder,
10-15 Cashewnuts (roasted in ghee);
4 tblsp Ghee,
1/2 cup Coconut (dessicated/grated finely).

Method :

0]Roast the washed rice in a dry pan until it becomes golden red and powder it coarsely.
1] Roast the cashews, cardamom, in ghee and keep aside.
2] Dissolve the jaggery in 2 cups water and add roasted coconut. Heat the mixture until water boils.
3] Take off fire and slowly add the rice powder and stir well to remove all lumps. Replace on fire and cook for few minutes, until done.
4] Stir in kaju and cardamom and ENJOY HOT!

#0. In her kitchen, each bottle of spice, vessels, you-name-the-item was set in a particular order, so when you want haldi, blindly reach out to the second row second bottle and it would be haldi. Save time spent on futile searches. Before she lit the gas flame, each ingredient(s) for the phodni(cooking) would be neatly arranged on the kitchen counter, the vegetables freshly cut, the ladle for stirring lay nearby and the vessel with oil on the gas stove... all of which avoided wasting time and expensive gas. I lernt a lot from her... rather she was practicing Six Sigma and JIT techniques even without formally learning them.

#1. I listen to carnatic/hindustani music out loud (thankfully till date none of my neighbours have complained, rather they enjoy it) and when I like a particular raga its repeated for months, daily, until folks around me get utterly bored and poke me to stop.