My love for food actually started when I came across this beautiful gorgeous looking thing called “tiramisu” (and mashed potatoes too). Basically, tiramisu is made up of 4 simple ingredients (ladyfingers, espresso, eggs and mascarpone). It technically consists of repetitive layers of savoiardi (or ladyfingers as they generally call it) dipped in fresh, aromatic espresso covered with a blanket of the dense, fluffy mascarpone cheese mixed in eggs(optional). Sounds divine, right? With food and creativity coming of age, people have invented egg-free tiramisu, vegan tiramisu and what not! So, for all of you out there, go ahead and give this a try. Although, I cannot say it will taste as amazing as the original one!
Tiramisu literally means “pick me up” and “cheer me up”. That is exactly what it did to me. The first time was quite a sensational experience. It happened a couple of years ago in Chennai and I had planned a movie with a cousin. Unaware of the whereabouts of the multiplex, my cousin stopped by a bakery which was right beside the parking lot. As we were entering, he looked at me and said “Kita, this place is amazing. Try the desserts here and you will not be disappointed.” Well, of course, I wasn’t disappointed. The place was all white and felt almost heavenly. I went to the display counter and a huge array of mouth-watering desserts were lined up. Then something caught my eye. I was obviously unaware of what a tiramisu is but being the experimental foodie, I went ahead and said, “This is what I would like to try.” Quickly, I slipped out my Blackberry (my favourite phone till date) and typed on Google: “Tiramisu”. Okay, here’s a habit that I cannot seem to get rid of. I google a lot, a hell lot! Anyway, the first thing that caught my eye while reading was “coffee”. Okay, I already love it! The waiter arrives and places it on the table no sooner than I put my phone down. Five seconds later, I’m frozen in awe. I cannot put into words what it felt like. You know that moment when you feel ecstatic, like when you fall in love? That is it! It was a glorious moment, a proper example of what the bakery’s name suggested: “Ecstasy”. I think it was a moment of pure foodgasm. And to add to this embarrassment, I actually let out a moaning sound. Then I see my cousin sitting in horror, staring at me. The waiter laughs and all I could muster was, “Um, sorry?”
Thereof, my cousins would notice me ordering tiramisu whichever place I visited. Slowly, they were tempted to try and now my family is hooked on it. I remember going to college every Monday and preaching about the simplicity and elegance of “tiramisu” (like as if it was a Greek god). They would reply “Not again, Kita!”. Some would say “Even though I haven’t tasted it, you make me feel like I’m in love with it”. You all might think this is a little over the top but I really was that crazy. I was like one of those obsessed kids who loved sugar. My Instagram page was flooded with tiramisu pictures a while back. You get the gist, right? I was down-right mesmerised by it.
Now, making tiramisu might sound extremely simple but, it’s the simple things that are difficult in getting right. My first experience was a total flop. It all started with me running around the kitchen, making a mess out of everything. I started dipping the ‘savoiardi’ biscuits in espresso one by one forming the base layer. The next part is the layer of mascarpone. This was done easily. Finally, it was ready to go in the fridge and I’m looking at it like “Meh, this was easy. I’m a dessert genius”. Three not-so-fruitful hours later, I take it out to serve. End result? The biscuits were soggy, the espresso was overflowing and my mascarpone was thin and lifeless. I said to myself, “Wow, Kita. This is what overconfidence looks like”. I was disheartened because I could not get the taste right. And I felt like the kitchen maybe is not my place after all. Well, at least I can still eat it outside. And I gave up the thought of ever entering the kitchen.
A month later, I was tempted to try this whole spree again. This time, I actually got better. It was edible. Yay! And by the third time, I nailed it. It’s effortless once you understand the art of making it. I reached a point where I could make one without the help of a recipe. With time, I realised that the kitchen is actually my de-stressing zone. Without my knowledge, I would see myself cooking up something every time I had a bad day. Every experience teaches you something. In my case, learning to use the kitchen has taught me to be focused. That’s the thing about art: it can make even a 25-year old no-driving sense female to drive her brains to creativity. I think any art form requires that focus.
Not many of you know this but, I’m a Freelance Architect. The only good thing about freelance is the sound of it: fancy. The other day I was travelling to my hometown and my chatty co-passenger asked me about my job. I said, “So I’m a Freelance Architect, uncle. How about you? What do you do?” He looked at me like I was the fanciest job ever. I look back at him with confidence and gave a “yeah bro, that is me” face. To be honest, it is anything other than that! You are your own boss but, you also tend to gravitate to anything but your work.
A very wise woman once said:
“Food and Architecture go hand in hand. Both require balance, and both follow the same rule: less is more. But most importantly, both require you to present something that is hard to project: the soul.”
I have noticed some striking similarities between Food and Architecture. As in, both rely on the combination of creativity, intuition and good taste. Both signify as a basic need for survival and sustainability. In fact, there are plenty of books written specifically about this. Cooking, like architecture, exhibits itself in building it. The cook, like an architect, tries to create with the plenty of resources available to him. Even using the finest marble or the best caviar sometimes cannot guarantee the success of a dish/building. One should know the balance of ingredients/materials to construct it. And not to forget, the courage it takes to experiment and know when to use your heart over the mind! Both connect cultures and provide a common language to the larger perspective of mankind.
(Above pictures are created by a Russian architect turned baker, Dinara Kasko. Connecting architecture, design and patisserie and using the “less is more” mantra in her culinary magic)
Like architecture, food has a way of making us feel a sense of time and place. It triggers your memories and experiences. I have begun to understand why I feel so connected to these fields. Somehow, they have influenced some parts of me. Architecture has triggered my memory size and food, my body size. Heh.
I’m not a great cook. Neither am I a great architect. But I love art, and the I love the feeling it leaves behind!
So, here’s sending a little bit of love to you both, for making me who I’m today!