Reading books have always transported me to places I never thought I could be in, middle of a war to peak of a mountain to the deep mysteries of the ocean or kitchens of royal household in an era gone by. I have always been a seeker with a lot of questions; my colleagues would often get irritated with my questions. They would tease me by saying, here goes the why-man. I frankly wouldn’t interest myself in studies, but I would be intrigued by origin of practices, traditions and rituals. I was once asked to move out of a ceremony by my father when I started asking many questions.
Early in my life I found solace in the quietness of my travel and constant company of books. I did try digital reading but somehow it didn’t give me the warmth and feel of reading. As a matter of fact, I keep myself updated with different news apps but I would never miss a chance to read a physical newspaper whenever I have a chance.
I read a wide range of subjects. Being a chef I have decent collection of cookery related, theory and science of food books. But a major part of my books are devoted to the past in one form or the other. Be it in form of history, biographies, wars, evolution or travel. I do also indulge in psychology and management texts.
Reading started as a medium to pass time; today I make time to read. It keeps me charged and opens possibilities in life and work. I don’t know if it is normal for others to do but I usually read two books at a time and try to keep the subjects as different as possible. Doing this forces me to think and recollect the read part of the book and revises the entire context in my mind every time I pick the book to read.
When I started my career as a Kitchen trainee, I was training to be a cook. I learnt the basics of cutting vegetables, meat and making stocks, sauces. I had to follow recipes and make as per standard. I would be in awe of my Chef who would recite recipes of so many dishes even without looking at a book or file. So I went and asked him; how he remembered 100s of recipes. It didn’t seem humanely possible. He laughed and told me to understand a recipe, know the ingredient then you don’t have to remember it.
I didn’t realize it then, now I know. If we read and have enough knowledge of the ingredient, their properties and the effect of time and temperature, you can make any dish. So I read about pH values, time, pressure, temperature, elasticity, coagulation, gelatinization, structure of bones and tissue, salt, sugar, lipids, osmosis, etc. Today when I read a recipe I can visualize the role of each ingredient and how the final dish should be like.
There a few books like “What Einstein told his cook” part 1 and 2 by Robert Wolke and Kitchen mysteries: Revealing the science of cooking by Hervé This; it stimulates the brain and solves a lot of queries. It also helps a chef understand the amazing chemistry involved in food and its effects on Human body. All books by Harold McGee are a kind of Holy grail for the budding Chef.
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August - September 2020