In the late 1990s when I had been dating Shreemati for just a few years (most of it long distance), I went to visit a friend. He had been married to an American woman for over 10 years and had a few kids as well. When I arrived at his house he asked me to enter through the side door that led directly to the kitchen. So I went to the side door and knocked. He answered and let me in.
While walking to the side door I was wondering why he was asking me to come by a different entrance. As I stepped into his kitchen I saw that he was in the middle of making a wonderful Nepali meal. It smelled awesome. And therein was the problem, it smelled.
He had closed the door leading to the dining room. His wife and all the kids were upstairs. He explained to me that his wife did not like Nepali food and could not tolerate the smell of the food. So, when he cooked he closed the door to the dining room, turned on as many fans as possible and his wife and kids would be upstairs with their doors shut as well. I didn’t know what to say, so I just went along. We ate and had a great time together. A little while later one of his older kids showed up. He was hungry and started to eat with us. It turns out the little man did enjoy some Nepali cooking. But the whole thing felt like we were in some bunker, enjoying some forbidden fruit.
After the moment passed and I’ve reflected on this event quite a bit. The main reason being that I was very serious about Shreemati and food can be quite an issue in a relationship involving two different cultures. I know an Indian-Chinese couple here in town that cook separately. She cooks and eats her Chinese food and he cooks and eats his Indian food. I can’t imagine the strain that would put on a relationship. Just like I can’t fathom why some couples maintain separate checking accounts, I can’t really get my mind around two different kitchens or, “bhanchas” as they say in Nepal.
To be honest with you food is important to me. Let me rephrase that, eating good Nepali food on a regular basis is important to me. My mother is a fantastic cook and I’m not saying because I’m her son. All my relatives, neighbors and associates in our little corner of Nepal loved her cooking. Her “aaloo ko achar” was sought after by many, not to forget her “khasi” (mutton) etc. So, it many ways I’m very spoiled.
Very early on in our relationship I was always feeling out Shreemati on the food issue. Would she eat dal, bhat? Could she eat it on a regular basis? I found that she could but then as the relationship became more serious, I wondered if she would cook Nepali food, and could she do it well over a long-term time horizon. I mean sure I could cook, she wouldn’t ben the only one cooking at all times, but there is something about being able to share this skill or resoponsilbyt or whatever you want to call it, with your partner.
Honestly I didn’t know the answer to these questions when we got married. However, over the near decade we’ve been married I’ve discovered that she does indeed enjoy Nepali cuisine. She has learned to cook it, share it and enjoy it with me. In fact last night I came home to a house smelling like my home growing up. There was dal, bhat, tarkari, masu (chicken) and even some tomato achar. And it tasted fantastic! Not only that the kids were all excited and around the table. And my heart jumped with warmth and love. After a long tiring day we all sat around the table, all five of us eating a typical Nepali dinner. I looked at my wife and just adored her for making such an effort to reach deep into my heart. I’m so glad I don’t have to hide in the kitchen to cook something that warms my heart and eat a lonely meal afterwards. I have an awesome Shreemati!
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