- Mummy, I will make just khichadi for dinner today.
Mummy “No but Pappa cannot eat just that. He needs roti subzi”
- Mummy, tell me how does this dry baigan subzi tastes. I have tried a different method.
Mummy, “Gravy nahi banayi ?? You know na my son does not like it without gravy”.
- Mummy, I have changed the arrangement for the pulses and dals on the shelf.
Mummy “Arre but the earlier one was more convenient for me. You are at office all day. I have to control the kitchen on my own. Let me change it back to original”.
- Mummy, I have made the sweet and sour dal today. Just for a change.
Mummy, “Yeah right. Now I have to adjust my taste as per the new generation. Who asks or cares whether I like it or not”?
- Mummy, let us make something different today. What about pizza, pasta and a soup?
Mummy, “That is all very good beta. But kya isse pet bharegaa ??”
Of course!!!! This can be a dialogue between a mother in law and her daughter in law from any random Indian household. At least one of the scenes is bound to have happened when the loving and caring matriarch of the family sometimes becomes a wounded lioness and acts like her kingdom is being ambushed.
Whether the daughter stays with her mother in law or the sasuma has come to stay with the bahu for a time being, whether the bahu is working or stay at home, whether the bahu is a brilliant cook and churns out delicious recipes or an average run of the mill cook – IT DOESNOT MATTER. On the one hand, the mother in law accepts that she changed a lot of things in her own mother-in-law’s kitchen. She is proud that she brought in her own distinct recipes and tastes into the family. But now when her daughter in law is doing the same, the sasuma rarely, I repeat, RARELY is willing to pass on the complete control of her den (read kitchen) to the next generation.
And its not just about the cooking, but everything related to the kitchen and its functioning. So whether its about where and how to arrange the pots and pans and where to keep the grocery – the mother decides it all. The way to make bhendi ki sabzi and the chicken curry is not changed even if the family is eating the same curry for 30 years. Whether to cook dal chawal or khichadi, the mother is extremely insecure to let any minor change crop up inside her kitchen. Even the shops and markets from which the grocery has to be purchased is decided and honored as if it’s a family tradition.
The antics and methods she uses to make her feelings clear are as interesting as her recipes. So when the bahu asks her everything she can’t do a single thing on her own. And when the bahu doesn’t ask, she is disrespecting her mother in law. If the bahu has decided the exact jars and boxes for keeping all the grocery, pulses, spices, anything, the sasuma will be the first one to change it the first chance she gets. And at the end of the day, with all the innocence of her grandchild on her face, she will be quick to say “Ohh I am old now, I don’t remember”.
One of my friends Swati had a very unique experience. She was staying in the US with her husband for a couple of years. There she was very happy to cook, experiment with different recipes, tastes and styles. Her husband also grew fond of her cooking. The moment she came back her experimenting stopped completely. Reason – needless to say – the sasuma resented it.
One day the husband asked her, “You used to make such variety of dishes in the US. Why did you stop here?” When Swati told him the reason, his expression was worth capturing in a photograph. However he would have liked to taste his wife’s cooking, there was no way he could say a word against the dear mom. After all “maa ke haath ka khana” is as good as the divine elixir of life.
At least here the husband liked what my friend cooked. But many times, its observed that the husband is so used to mother’s cooking, he is rarely willing to change his taste and the new wife has to learn the methods and styles of the mother in law – which is really unfair on her. In spite of trying very hard, it’s not always possible that the food cooked by the daughter in law will taste exactly the same way as the mother. So, finally it results in a waste of time, food and mood. It takes years and years of patience and subtle changes here and there for the daughter in law to fully include her way of cooking into the family. Most of the women don’t care by that time. And the mother in law gives a satisfactory burp.
I can understand the reason behind this behavior to some extent now. Every woman is possessive about her kitchen. Its her own territory, her kingdom and apparently she is unwilling to share it with anyone – least with the new stranger in the house – the bahu. She fears losing her kitchen is like losing her identity which is true to an extent. But when that possessiveness starts turning into obsession, it becomes difficult and creates unnecessary resentment in the house. The bahu feels unwanted and unaccepted and the sasuma feels threatened. The family – eats bad food.
When I asked my friend Swati what was the solution to this “culinary problem” she was quick to retort, ‘I let her be. After all I will also be in her place one day”. How true I thought. So after discussing and talking about this global issue with many of my friends and sisters, I have come up with five ingredients for a healthy kitchen recipe between the sasuma and the bahu. Do it for a good digestion and healthy stomach.
- Let the matriarch do as she likes. You get to eat hot fresh food. What’s better than that?
- Ask her before changing arrangements or recipes. If she likes fair enough if not, DON’T BOTHER – who wants unnecessary complications anyways.
- Do subtle and smaller changes after taking her into confidence. She will be much more flexible if she feels included in your plan of action.
- Learn her recipes as well. After all if the family loves them, they must really taste well. Isn’t it ?
- Finally, when both of you are unable to come to an agreement – ORDER FOOD and enjoy a class of wine with the old lady.