Monday, January 31, 2011

Cooking a large meal

All my life I have been in awe of people who can effortlessly cook a large meal. And my definition of a large meal is a wholesome hearty meal for a group of at least 8 people.

Like any large project, be it infrastructure or IT, it comes with its own set of challenges and constraints. And any time people are part of the equation, one needs to deal with varied choices, preferences, opinions, likes and dislikes. And no two people are really the same. And no two people are happy with the same substance.

Over the years, I’ve learnt the following:

Get the basics right – Basic knowledge on the number of guests, their preferences to varied cuisines, their openness to try out new stuff and their general disposition goes a long way in your pre-preparation for cooking. This is important because it gives you the vital clues for planning

Planning the menu – Planning the menu is the most important part. Usually this takes the maximum time and thought. And sometimes, it’s good to even ask your guests on what they would like to have. Once you have figured this, rest is only a matter of execution

Get the estimation right – You don’t want to really want to cook too much or too less. So get the estimates right. If you’re a novice, ask someone more experienced than you (your mom or aunt). They will usually help you get the estimates right simply by virtue of their experiences. And it’s always better to err on the side of excess. Also, when you estimate don’t look at it from an individual dish perspective – but more from the overall menu’s perspective. Your estimates will vary significantly based on the view you take

Do not experiment – It’s better not to be too experimental on the day your guests will arrive. If you really want to try something new, better to experiment a day or two before. And if you really want to experiment, then it’s better to try out only one new dish. If it turns out bad, you still have alternate options

Get the timing right – Be cognizant of the time and effort required to make a dish. And work your timing accordingly. It’s a great idea to get some work done in advance (like cutting vegetables or cooking a dish a day earlier) so that you are not rushed and stressed on the day your guests will arrive

Have a wide spread – Plan for a large number of dishes and include some really easy ones – which require very little effort or preparation time. Like salads, papad, cut fruits, popcorn, pizzas, etc.

Take help – Take all the help you need and can. Sometimes even ten extra hands seem less. So ask for help in whatever sphere you require it. And if you need to order a dish or two from outside, then so be it.

And lastly, the words of wisdom:
• If you enjoy the process of cooking, the dishes will eventually just turn out fine
• It’s fine if everything is not perfect every single time. We all have our hits and misses
• Everyone may not like every single dish; and that’s perfectly fine. Just like no two fingers are the same, no two individual’s tastes need to be the same.
• Do ensure that you do take time to enjoy the meal yourself. Most often, the people who cook are so exhausted by the process that they end up not really eating anything. It’s great to put your feet up and just relish the food you’ve made. And feel happy and proud at your little achievement
• The only way you can get better at this (like with anything else in life) is by repeated practice. So if you get it all wrong the first time, it’s normal. Remember that if you keep at it, you will only get better with time…. Till one day, someone may look at you with awe for the magic you are able to create when you cook a large meal.

So, Happy cooking ....

No comments:

Post a Comment