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Good food truly brings out the best in people, thinks Padmini Manivannan. She made most of her mother’s Indian recipes and much more.

Two thousand and eighteen has been an incredulous year. It has shown itself to be fascinating for the curious mind, a comic extravaganza for the meme makers, a disappointment for the Americans (cue Trump) and the British (cue Brexit) and definitely a year of revelations for me.

I could go on and on about what this year has taught me and the list is long, trust me. There is though, one important, almost mundane activity that has become a very important part of my life. Before I came to Delft last year, I had never lived away from my family. When I did my bachelor's, my friends stayed at a dormitory and missed home-cooked food and all the comforts that came with it, while I revelled in said food and comforts at home. I admit, I didn’t help out in the kitchen a lot and my mother didn’t seem to complain too much about that. So when it was finally time for me to leave the house for my master’s, my parents promptly packed more than a couple of kilograms of home-ground spices and a small notebook filled with my mother’s handwritten recipes.

In terms of food, we thrive on richness and grandeur

You might as well guess what happened next when I finally arrived at Delft. I put off cooking Indian food because I assumed it was too hard or took too long. Breakfast, lunch and (or) dinner consisted of the student favourites: bread and hummus, bread and eggs, bread and cheese or pasta and pesto. Although all of them are good breakfast options, I had them for all three (or two) meals. I understand that for the Dutch, bread and cheese is a perfectly functional, full meal but for an Indian palate, it simply doesn’t make the cut. In terms of food, we thrive on richness and grandeur. I floundered around like this for the entirety of four months last year. December 2017 rolled by and I had made resolutions to eat better and be fitter.

It was around the holidays after the second quarter early this year that I truly discovered that I liked cooking and that I wasn’t an entirely bad cook. I’m proud to say that everything that I have made until now has been completely edible (tasty even). I also discovered that it’s a great way to make friends (and keep them). My friends and I spent evenings looking up and making new, scrumptious meals from different cuisines. Dal tadka, roast salmon and potatoes, spaghetti Bolognese, chicken biryani, Japanese ramen and all sorts of dishes that hopefully made the unsuspecting passer-by stop and smell the aroma that filled our kitchen and spilled out the window. I made most of my mother’s recipes. It doesn’t exactly taste like how she makes them but they’re good and it now tastes like something made by me – like I’ve got my own food identity.
Good food truly brings out the best in people and I hope that your holidays are tinged with the warm whiffs of cinnamon, gingerbread cookies and chocolate cakes! Happy Holidays!

Padmini Manivannan is a Masters student studying Signals and Systems at TU Delft and hails from Chennai, India. She loves doodling in her free time.

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