On Friday we finished our ISPs, and I am going to miss cooking class. In Patan I fell into a comforting routine of heading home everyday after lunch to where my homestay mom, who was also my ISP mentor, was waiting. The next two hours would be dedicated to learning a new dish. Savannah and I would furiously scribble in our note books as my mom fried up an onion and added one spice after another. My recipes would typically look something like this: “One spoon cumin, one small spoon chili powder (more if spicier), 2-3 small spoons salt (or 1 big spoon)… take flour and add enough water to make dough of dough consistency”… clearly I am not destined for a career writing cookbooks. While my measurements may not be exact, I have both created a system that I understand and made myself less concerned about being exact. Does it matter that I put in only 2 and 3/4th teaspoon of turmeric if it still taste good?
Other portions of cooking class have been completely indescribable in my notes. I had no idea what to write after watching my mom pick up a circle of dough, put filling in, and then effortlessly shape it into a beautiful Momo. When it comes to momo making, the only way to learn is by doing, and after an hour of folding momos they stopped looking like shapeless lumps and began looking like proper dumplings.
The best part of class always comes at the end when we get to taste the dish. This can also be the worst part of class if I have eaten too much lunch, as a no is never accepted. Even a “pugyo” (no more) is interpreted as one or two more. The importance of hospitality in Nepal, especially relating to food, has struck me. I am always offered a cup of tea or some food when I get home or visit anyone else. Although this has resulted in me often feeling very full, it makes me feel welcomed and at ease. Additionally, no one ever eats without offering food to everyone. When my homestay Dad comes into the kitchen to eat an orange, I get an orange as well. Food and a cup of tea can transcend language barriers, as everyone can enjoy in the flavors.
In addition to the “recipes” in my notebook, I hope to also bring home this culture of hospitality home. I want to be able to use the skills I learned in the kitchen, not just to provide fuel, but also to make people feel welcomed, comfortable, and wanted whenever they come into my home.