Jacob looked at me with those big eyes of his, filled with sincerity, and asked when it would be his turn to go with me to a cooking class. He went on to further point out that Emma had already gone to four classes with me and he had yet to go to one.
Sigh…It was one of those moments where my heart just sank like a lead balloon. I felt like a fool and a giant failure as a parent. I hadn’t even thought of asking if he’d be interested in a cooking class. I had merely assumed that he would find cultural dishes, ingredients and cooking methods a big old bore. I had sold him short.
I apologized immediately and promised it would be his turn next once we were in the next country, which would be India! Yikes, the thought of recipes with lengthy lists of spices and navigating unfamiliar ingredients with Jacob was going to be interesting indeed.
We arrived in Mumbai and I was immediately on the hunt for a class that would allow a 9-year-old to join. One of my mandates, which is also one of the most difficult to fulfill, is that the cooking class must be hands on. Mumbai came up empty-handed for us. Off we were to Udaipur. Perhaps we’d find ourselves a little more culinary luck there.
We arrived in Udaipur in the late afternoon with enough time to explore the old city a bit before the sun went down. Jacob spotted the sign first: Vegetarian Cooking Classes 700 Rupees p/p. I promised that we’d go back in the morning to inquire about the class and reserve a spot if it met all our requirements.
Apparently, that was not good enough. Jacob wanted to make sure we inquired immediately. Bless his heart, how could I say ‘no’? We ducked into the travel agents office and inquired about the class. Jacob really wanted to learn how to make his absolute favourite Indian dish which happened to not be vegetarian. The agent made a quick phone call and managed to include Jacob’s requested recipe at a small additional fee. The next thing you know, we were signed up for a class the very next day.
Before the class, I made sure the camera was charged and Jacob packed his notepad and pen for taking detailed notes. Much to my delight, we were the only students that day and the class was being held in a private locals home. I always find it a bonus to be invited into the private home of someone living in the city that you’re visiting. It’s by far a more genuine experience of the culture and lives of the locals.
We met our gracious host and our chef-instructor, Momma Mamta. Chintu, the travel agent, happened to also be the son of Momma Mamta, and he would be joining us to help translate Momma Mamta’s instructions and recipes.
Jacob and I washed our hands, rolled up our sleeves and got busy peeling, chopping and frantically taking notes as Momma Mamta led us through some of her personal favourite recipes.
We learned how to make one of my personal favourites, Dal, along with a wonderful Biryani dish and a mixed Vegetable Curry.
What we didn’t know was that Momma Mamta is strictly vegetarian to the point where she won’t even touch meat, let alone eat it. YIKES! Jacob’s requested recipe was a chicken dish! What a faux pas on our side. Luckily, Chintu stepped in and handled the meat for her and guided us through the cooking of the meat while Momma Mamta helped with the intricacies of the spices and sauce.
No true Indian meal is complete without some sort of bread. Our cooking class meal was without exception. Next we would be learning how to make chapati and paratha, plain as well as stuffed with both savoury and sweet fillings. Jacob was remarkably good at handling and rolling out the dough.
Our next task at hand was to sit down and feast on our creations. The thali never seemed to empty with Chintu and Mamma constantly re-filling the bowls. Neither Jacob nor I complained though as everything was absolutely delicious! We ate to our hearts content. What a delight.
With our note pages and bellies full we bid farewell to our new friends. Hand-in-hand, Jacob and I went over the day as we made our way back to the hotel. We both agreed that it had been a fantastic day and we should do it again sometime. My heart is soaring, I can’t wait. Thanks, Jacob for making it so special.