Categories
Stories

Recipe for Disaster – Part 3


Cascading_bridal_bouquet

A pinch of salt

I had never cooked a full meal by myself, and I had no idea where my mother kept the various ingredients in the kitchen. In fact, I didn’t even know the names for most of the spices stored in the jars inside the drawer. But I still had time. I flipped through a few cook books to find recipes that I could actually understand, with ingredients which would not raise suspicions.

I shadowed my mother, and found out the difference between baking powder and cooking soda – they were in different types of containers, and one had a label on it. But telling Jeera from the Ajwain was much more tricky. We were definitely not depending on either of those for our cooking.

It was the night before d-day. We said our good nights and slipped into our beds. Amma was still in the kitchen, keeping the last of the dishes inside. We heard the flick of the switch and all the lights were out. We waited another 15 minutes before sneaking out.

Capsicum, onions, tomatoes, paneer, orange food colouring, ginger, chillies, vanilla essence, eggs, cocoa, flour, curd… We had all our ingredients in place. But it wasn’t till we started washing the vegetables, that we realised the challenge before us.

Cooking, and especially the dishes we had decided to cook, were easy enough. But in the silence of the night, could we actually cook without waking up our parents? We couldn’t cook rice in a pressure cooker. No electric grinder for making the purée. No pounding the ginger, and no careless handling of utensils.

But we had taken this challenge, and we were going to pull it off. Anna beat the eggs and sugar as silently as he could, while I chopped the onions. We kept rice on the open flame, and cooked it like the way our ancestors did before the pressure cooker was introduced. We tossed the onions into oil, before it became warm and covered it up, to muffle the sizzling sound.

It was just when the cake batter went into the oven, that we heard something. We looked out of the kitchen. The bedroom light was on. Amma was up.

‘Here we go again!’ I thought to myself. Another plan botched up. But my brother wasn’t going to give up.

He ran towards the door, and stood in front of amma, waving his hands from side to side, blocking her view and preventing her from moving forward. I switched off the kitchen lights, and hid behind the door.

‘What are you doing up at this hour?’ amma asked in a half sleepy and confused tone.
‘Err.. I was thirsty! And… I wanted some warm water… I was just going to bed… What are you doing up right now?!’

Too tired to argue, she didn’t ask how the light turned itself off behind him, and how come he wanted warm water in the middle of summer. That could be done in the morning.’Good night. Go to sleep.’

We waited another twenty minutes before resuming. The tomatoes, capsicum and paneer were added to the onions. Red chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala, a dash of food colouring, and the kadhai paneer was ready.

We poked the cake with a spoon. It came out clean. We thanked our stars, and took it out. The rice had cooled down a little. We mixed up the curd with the rice and added fried mustard seeds, chopped chillies, and diced ginger.

It was well past midnight when we placed everything on the table, the paneer still in the kadhai, the cake still in the tin. The curd rice went into the fridge.

We placed a greeting card and a note on the table, and went to bed – tired, but content. Mission accomplished!

Please don’t wake us up in the morning. We slept really late. There’s cake, kadhai paneer, and curd rice. Wish you A Very Happy Anniversary!

PS. We didn’t put salt in anything.

* * *

Jeera = cumin
Ajwain = carom seeds / bishop’s weed
Paneer = cottage cheese
Kadhai = a type of thick, circular, and deep cooking-pot (similar in shape to a wok)
Image Credit: Cascading Bridal Bouquet CC-BY-SA-3.0

Categories
Stories

Recipe for Disaster – Part 2


Crack an egg

Chocolate Cake
I was about four years old, and it was the festival of holi. Standing in the balcony of an apartment on the ninth floor, I watched my brother drop water balloons on passers by… While we hadn’t technically collaborated on it, by virtue of standing there, and watching with delight, I considered myself partner in crime!

But as far as collaborative work was concerned, there was virtually only the one time – when I messed up the surprise for our parents’ anniversary.

After the ‘bucket fiasco‘, we didn’t plan anything together. Whatever special we did end up doing, was independent of each other.

Once my brother bought a couple of beautiful key-chains for our parents’ anniversary. It was supposed to be on behalf of both of us, but I had no knowledge of it whatsoever. Another time, I made a greeting card on behalf of the two of us, without involving him.

Eventually, when we grew up*, we became too busy with our own lives. We fought lesser with each other. We became more civil and our conversations attained more intellectual tones.**

Every year was more or less the same. A day, or a week before our parents’ anniversary, we’d discuss for a brief moment what it was that we were doing. And then we’d agree to a bucket of flowers. While our mother baked a cake, we were generally quite lazy and our patience lasted only as long as the time it took for the cake to come out of the oven.

And so it happened that on the twenty fifth wedding anniversary of our parents, we spent the day at home, and devoured freshly baked chocolate cake. Our laziness, and refusal to collaborate with each other meant that we contributed absolutely nothing towards the celebration of a milestone.

One Year Later

I had just finished my high-school. And my brother had just completed his post graduation. We were both at home, relaxing after our exams.

The conversation began, as it had the past several years. “Amma and Appa’s anniversary is coming.”

And for once, in our lives, we read each other’s mind. We had messed up a golden opportunity of making their silver jubilee a special day. We had to do something. Something which was truly memorable.

And so we came up with a plan. Our plan was so grand, it needed quite a bit of ground work.


* whether we grew up or not is debatable
** add salt to taste!

Image Credit : Chocolate Cake Public Domain

Categories
Stories

Recipe for Disaster – Part 1


Where’s the bucket?

Bouquet Tarts
Anna* and I used to fight like cats and dogs as little kids. Our fights would often get physical, and we’d hurt each other pretty badly. Our mother would patch us up more frequently than she would have liked, and grudgingly we would apologise to each other.

To the outside world, though, the story was entirely different. We were extremely well behaved around guests, and even stood up for each other. In family photographs, we looked like the sweetest sibling combination.

Maybe there was something there that the photographs captured, that we couldn’t comprehend. It was perhaps due to our silly childish stubbornness, that we chose to ignore the obvious. Despite all the petty fights and bashing up, we made one heck of a team – if we wanted to.

It was a week before our parents’ anniversary. I was very small – maybe eight or nine years old. My brother had saved up a little money. I have no idea how,  but that was not of any concern to me. Anna and I went to a local florist, and we chose a beautiful bouquet for them.

On our way back, anna kept the bouquet a little further away from the staircase leading up to our apartment on the first floor. He asked me to go in first.

Our house was seldom locked at the time, and we went in and out of the house without having to disturb anyone to close the door.

My job was to enter first and distract my mother, while anna would come in later and hide the flowers somewhere inside the house. And then we had to wait – till one of them found the hidden gift. It was a perfect plan!

I did my part of the job, and anna did his. So good was the execution of the plan, that even I didn’t know when and how my brother hid the flowers. The hardest part was waiting for the bouquet to be discovered.

And we waited for a long time. I grew fidgety and restless. After what seemed like aeons, when I could no longer control my impatience, I pulled my brother into the kitchen, and asked where exactly he had hidden the gift. In my excitement, I blabbered ‘Where is the bucket?’. He gave me a bewildered look.

‘Where is it – where did you hide the bucket? They haven’t seen it yet!’ I continued, ignoring the strange looks.

He looked past me, and refused to answer. ‘What are you looking at?’

I turned around, and found our mother standing right behind me. She looked down at me, and unable to control herself any more, burst out laughing.

That day went down in our family’s history as the ‘bucket fiasco’ and the source of laughter for years to come.


* Anna is a Tamil word meaning elder brother.

Image based on Photo by Meg Zimbeck CC-BY-2.0