For as long as I can remember I've been woefully ashamed of my short, stocky hands. And by stocky, I mean fat. Real fat! I have always been a pretty average sized girl but my hands, they have always been huge! I've been hiding them in my pockets and pulling down my shirt sleeves for basically my entire life. I realize how incredibly vain this all may sound. But when you're a little girl and the pretty, plastic rings that happily adorn all the other little girls' fingers won't even come CLOSE to fitting; well it's easy to form a bit of a complex. But I guess in the end we all probably have something that bothers us about who we are.
For as long as my hands have been a bother to me, I have never thought about any possible benefit they might be. That is until a few months ago when I was making naan for the first time. The recipe calls to knead the dough for 6-8 minutes. I was standing there kneading away at this beautiful dough (Naan is quite a lovely dough to handle!) and I realized how much I love to play with dough. I love the feel of pushing it roughly around the counter. Feeling it all come together in my hands. That moment when you know it's ready to sit; I'm really quite good at it. I was looking at my hands. My big, fat hands. Well now, this is something they are good for! I've always thought it was funny how I like to get my hands all up in my cooking, really feel my food coming together.
One night Dan and I were watching Gourmet's diary of a foodie: Southern India when I heard a woman speaking about cooking with your hands; it caught my attention. The woman speaking was Shoba Narayan a food writer in India. She spoke of an Indian phrase, kai narumanem, which literally means fragrance of the hands. An Indian kitchen stresses mixing and cooking with the hands. The quality of the cook is said to translate through their hands, into the food, and to the eater. Your hands are your way of communicating your love and excitement. She said that it is ideal to cook in a peaceful, harmonious, and joyful state, because what you serve will impact the eater in that way.
Your mood impacting the outcome of your food? I was mesmerized by her words. What an interesting idea! It reminded me of something I had recently read in a book about Leonardo Da Vinci. He wrote how the mood of the parents during conception relates directly to the personality of their child. In context he was talking about his own life. He was a bastard child born out of a fiery love between two people who could never be together. His life was one of chaos, art, and passion. Conversely his half-brothers were born to his father in an arranged marriage, a loveless union. He described them as bitter, irritable children who caused him nothing but heartache throughout his life. The concept of a child's outcome as a product of the parents' mood at conception and food being a product of the cook's mood during preparation seem both similar and intriguing to me. I suppose there's no way to prove either of these ideas, but what I do know is this: When I am unhappy or fussy, the food just does not come out right. My mood translates from my body through these hands and into my food.
These hands are my utensils which communicate a piece of me into my food. These hands that I have always resented, even hated. Now I'd like to think that my hands bring me happiness and pride. I love what they create for me and for my friends. I love the small cuts that usually cover them from chopping too excitedly and fast. I love the faint smell of garlic and jalapeños that, no matter how much I scrub, never seems to leave. I even love the fat, stubby, sausage fingers that I know handle dough oh so well.