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Flowing In the River of Commercial Love

Love is in the air! It’s Valentine’s Day!! The colour red predominates all the other colours in the VIBGYOR palette and the flower of the day, rose nicely bundles up together to untie the chord of many a lovers heart. Cards, gifts, flowers, chocolates, cakes all heart-shaped flood the markets. As if it is mandatory to receive and express love and gifts, lovers are the biggest buyers. Restaurateurs are not complaining about lovebirds occupying tables that could do with more covers. They have worked hard, developed new menus and named their alcoholic drinks around love, passion and sex. After long, the reservation register is finally full.

And then there are the others, who think Valentine’s is a whole lot of crap. A gimmick probably started by a greeting card company in the 1980’s to promote their cards and gifts to the bored youth. “Who needs one specific day to celebrate a mother, father, friend or lover. These feelings must thrive in our hearts every day. One doesn’t need one specific day. Come On! Stop aping the West” they say.

To be honest I belong to neither. Ever since we married, work has often kept us apart. We have spent a few important festivals and occasions away from each other. While a little part of me wants to be pampered and sulks that he is not here today, there’s another that reminisces the things we have done to be together, to reiterate our love for one other. We have made an ordinary day more beautiful than a Valentine’s yet if one cannot make it on a special day, it’s really NO BIG DEAL. Love is a continuous process and we both work continuously to keep the love strong.

I’ll Make Your Dream Come True, Love – A day at Chef Leez Cooking School

When I was joining Sam in Bangkok in December, I had a surprise for him. Once over a glass of wine, he had mentioned that if he had the chance he would love to learn authentic Thai cuisine. Scrolling through the various websites on Google I came across the website I knew this was my chance to make his dream come true in Bangkok.

Ranked as Number 1 by Trip advisor and taking a class every day since 2011, Chef Leez is a name her students swear by. She’s extremely professional too. After booking her slot online and making the payment of $150 (for two) we received an email guiding us to the best route possible to reach her school which is about 30- 45 minutes away from most hotels and lodgings in the city. She was herself present to greet us and get us comfortable before other students joined in. We were accompanied by a couple from Arizona and a lady from China. The morning slot of 10:00 am is usually the smallest and we chose it to enjoy the personal attention to the fullest.

 An extremely clean, organised, air-conditioned room with large, steel tables and chairs make up her teaching room. Another adjacent room is a burner cooking station, well equipped where every student gets a hands-on experience. It was this aspect of her teaching style that had attracted me. While demonstration is only as good as one is present, it is when one is actively involved in the process of cooking that the correct techniques are learnt. Specifications concerning one’s allergies or vegetarian or non-vegetarian preferences are noted and the classes are manoeuvred accordingly.

Chef Leez teaching style is interesting, entertaining and has a homely touch to it. Extremely particular about the ingredients, she shares snippets of knowledge of food, the stories of her learning experiences in her grandmother’s restaurant and how to avoid wastage. We chopped vegetables, scraped coconut shells, ground ingredients and cooked our dishes in our respective workstations before we shared it to be devoured by all. By the end of it, we learnt Tom Yum Goong (Spicy and Sour Prawn Soup), Pad Thai, Green Curry and its modifications to make other curries like the Red Curry and Massaman Curry; Green Curry Paste, Green Papaya Salad and a dessert. Ranked 7th in the world, with Chocolate being No.1, the Kow Neeow Ma- Muang or the Coconut Sticky Rice with mango is my favourite and is a part of my meal every day in Thailand. I love it so much. Needless to say, I was thrilled to bits to learn it from scratch from one who is the best. Now all I need to do is wait for summers to make it. The class was over in four hours and with enough knowledge of about 12 dishes, we can now analyse flavours well. Highly recommended! It’s an unusual thing to do on a holiday and so exciting.

Many times I glanced at Sam to see if he was enjoying this culinary experience. He was loving it. There was a smile on his face each time our eyes met. When he had opened his restaurant in Kabul, it was one of the most popular ones and listed in the Lonely Planet as a ‘must visit’ restaurant. The food served was so good that when the ghazal maestro, Jagjit Singh had been invited by Sam to hold a concert in partnership with Zee TV, the ghazal king insisted on eating in our restaurant only and not at the five-star hotel where he was staying. Sadly, due to the constant turbulence in the city the restaurant had to be shut down in 2010. I could see that as he was cooking, he was reliving his days in the restaurant.

As we drove back he leaned forward and kissed my forehead. It has always been his way of showing appreciation, love and gratitude.This is how we make our time together special. Even now as I write, my man is not with me, yet I have spent the last couple of hours with him mentally. I’m not alone. It’s Valentine’s and he has been here with me.







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