Monday, July 9, 2012

Cooking Woes


One of the dubious pleasures of bachelor life is that you can cook for yourself, especially if you have a stomach that does not take kindly to restaurant food. You do live in interesting times, as the Chinese are reputed to curse, when you enter the kitchen.
When I first went to Delhi, South Indian restaurants were not all that prevalent especially in Mayur Vihar Phase-I, which was considered the back of beyond in the nineties (Jamuna-paar, they used to say in contemptuous tones). Ergo, I forced my lazy bones to get into cooking mode.
Eggs, they say, are easy to cook. Anyone, apparently, can boil an egg. So, armed with a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs I sallied into the kitchen sanguine about putting together an edible breakfast. (I know! I know! Nothing particularly South Indian about boiled eggs, except the cook! This was just for starters!). Having happily boiled a pan of water and put in a couple of eggs, I took them out and knocked on the shell with a spoon. Like Caesar’s heart’s blood flowing out when Brutus’ dagger pierced him, all the contents came rushing out to see who it was that knocked so un-gently outside. Hmm! There was more to boiling eggs than I thought!
My next attempt turned out better since I waited till nearly all the water boiled away. I happily started peeling the shell off. When I was nearly done, the egg popped out of my hand and started bouncing and rolling all over the kitchen with me in hot pursuit. Having made an audacious diving catch within inches of the drain, I came up with the egg in my hands. The egg had such a contemptuous yellow leer on its face that I was infuriated enough to fling it at the wall.
Cooking Tip 1: It really does not pay to get angry at your food-stuff – especially if you do not have anyone to clean up after you!
Rice is one of the easier things to cook in South Indian cuisine. What with curds and pickles readily available from the market, curd rice was on the cards for me. Having taken a detailed tutorial about water proportions and all that sort of intricate details, I set forth to cook myself lunch on a Sunday. Having settled the pressure cooker cozily over the flame, I relaxed in my sofa reading a book. Bliss! The cooker was reputed to let you know about the status of readiness with a wolf-whistle.
I really did not know whether that sustained hissing noise from the kitchen was the whistle that my mother had coached me to listen for. It somehow did not tally with the sort of hooting that went on in her kitchen. I went into the kitchen only to see this beautiful white fountain spewing off the top of the cooker and my lunch spread all over the kitchen – ceiling, walls and floor! (I do know that that odd-shaped dingus is supposed to crown the cooker – if you truly wanted to keep the rice in! I can forget things, can’t I?). What with cleaning up the mess and all, it was dinner-time before I slunk out of the house to the local restaurant.
Cooking Tip 2: It does not pay to take it too easy even with the ‘easy’ dishes!
As time goes by one does learn a few tricks. For example, I have learnt that milk boils over in that single instant when you take your eyes off it. Maggi waits for you to lose patience and go over to switch on the TV and then cooks to a crisp. After years of experience, I have learnt to stay with one hand on the burner knob and both eyes on the boiling pan with all my nerves keyed up in that absolute pitch of concentration that would be the envy of an Olympic 100m sprinter waiting for the starter's gun to go off. Despite that, my success rate is only about 50%. Olympic sprinters would have lynched any starter who kept them on tenterhooks for that long but…..well, read the first cooking tip!
Another thing that built up in this period was a total aversion to non-Indian cuisine as well as any up-market restaurant. What with salt and pepper shakers and an array of sauces, it seemed to me that they charged you a fortune merely to give you the pleasure of cooking your own food at your dining table. Since cooking had ceased to be any sort of pleasure to me, I preferred being served up a dish, complete with taste, even if you did not even have the outlet of yelling at someone for the inedible food that you perforce had to swallow.
It may surprise you to learn that I raised my sights as high as the making of upma. I am nothing if not optimistic and there I was in front of a boiling bowl of oil with a platter full of vegetables poised over it. The platter broke and fell into the kadai. The kadai teetered on the burner, positioned itself with what seemed to be deliberate intent and started sliding in the direction of what is euphemistically called my privates. Out went my hands and pushed the bowl back on the burner – else, I may not have been alive to tell the tale (How often do I have to tell you? It is NOT a pity!)
Cooking Tip 3: It is better to get out of the way of boiling oil. Take it from me, your hands are not made of asbestos.
Whatever else I learnt from cooking, I have realized how it happened that women do the cooking normally. Being the braver sex, they must have shooed the less courageous menfolk away - to amuse themselves with childish pursuits like fighting off the odd saber-toothed tiger and hunting the mastodon - while they took on the hazardous undertaking of cooking.
My mother always used to say that if a cook produces a dish that tastes the same way time after time you ought to consider her a good cook – even if you did not like the dish. By those standards, I am the best cook in the world. My food tastes invariably inedible!

60 comments:

  1. Interesting experiences. Think I must write a post on my own culinary trials.

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  2. ha ha Suresh, what a post :) It had me smiling throughout, esp the tips ha ha and the mention of the less hazardous task of fighting the saber toothed tiger ha ha....Should come over to your place for dinner some time...And talking about egga, I once put an egg in a microwave oven and had no idea that one must not...And talk about cleaning...Worse than fliging it on the wall...

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  3. cooking tip no 1 is the most important one. a brilliant post and now i am going to copy you and write a similar post. looking at my productivity, i think, i will be able to finish that post in a couple of months time.

    Mayur Vihar was a lovely place even in nineties but yes it's Jamuna Paar :D

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  4. Hi Jaish! You are welcome to...you will get a whole new appreciation for your own cooking after you do:):)

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  5. Hi Debajyoti! As with TF, I shall await that.

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  6. शानदार पेशकश सुरेश जी


    भूख तो भूख है
    वो जानती नहीं
    लड़का अकेला है
    पहली बार निकाला है
    कड़ाही कल्छुल पौना है
    रसोई के मामले मे बौना है

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  7. Those tips are priceless gems! And I am glad finally to have met someone who has also chased a boiled egg around the kitchen!

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  8. LOL :) What can I say? I have never been a fan of cooking myself, I like to cook Yes, but I dont live to cook. I would rather cook to live. I have liked experimenting with different dishes and such, but only once in a while. If I were to cook 4 times a day, 4 dishes each time every time fresh, I would run away! :)

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    1. Laughing like crazy again! Hilarious. How do you even manage to do all this! :D God bless you for having the gift of being able to laugh at your own antics!

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    2. And a gift for having all my actions turning invariably to antics :)

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  9. This post has really made my day -excellent,it is best to get married my friend....1

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  10. @USP: Good to know I have company in chasing eggs around:):)

    @Deepa: I make a dish for 2 days:):)

    @Indu: I like the idea of marrying a woman because I need a cook:) Problem is, will she? :):)

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  11. Invariably inedible? haha! :D

    So true about the milk. It always boils the moment you take your eyes off.

    This was a fun read too. :)

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  12. LOL...incredible tips!!An eye-opener!! he he..
    Marriage is all about give and take. You better give in, she'll take over all the woes!!!!! hahhaa..
    Good one, Suresh!

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  13. I am only afraid that she will take over me and give me all the woes:):)

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  14. All three tips are very important especially the last one :)

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  15. The last tip is burned into my mind:) Living with badly burnt hands for a month will do that for you:)

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  16. Had a gala time reading your post...thanks!!! :)

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  17. Thank you for coming by and commenting.

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  18. बढ़िया सुरेश जी


    भूख तो भूख है
    वो जानती नहीं
    लड़का अकेला है
    पहली बार निकाला है
    कड़ाही कल्छुल पौना है
    रसोई के मामले मे बौना है

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  19. you have captured the dilemma of the newbie cook perfectly. as i read the post, i also realized that you have figured out the male way of doing things - evolve a system. i too have had my share of struggles with crispy maggi and noncooperative rice. women seem to take these things in their stride, but with men, they are a confront to our intelligence, and the only way we can deal with it is either turn our backs on it forever, or to come up with a perfect solution.

    eggs - put them in enough water to submerge them, bring to a boil, turn the heat down, let it simmer for 8-10 minutes on a timer, turn the heat off and cover and leave for another 10-15 min. run cold water over them till they can be handled, smash the ends and then roll it on the counter so that the whole shell is crushed, this lets you literally peel the whole shell off like a skin. use a velcro glove to deal with the slipperiness.

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  20. Subho! The turning my back on it option doesn't exist for me, being a bachelor! I must go get those velcro gloves:):)

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  21. Good one, suresh ji! :)) following your blog now.

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  22. Thanks Ash both for the comments and for considering my blog worth follwoing

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  23. Really humorous! The 2nd tip just made me roll on my bed!!
    May be I should write about some of my culinary experiences from my hostel days!!!

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  24. Thanks! Looks like I have one more humorous post to read in the future. TF, Debs and now you:)

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  25. ROFL! Hilarious, CS! I myself make so many mistakes and am later reprimanded too in good measure! Sometimes its just good to be alone so that you can make any number of silly mistakes without any fears of anyone :D

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  26. Thanks Arti! Btw, If the reprimands are followed by food cooked by someone else, maybe it is worth it! Too often, my choice is to go hungry, esp. if it is the late night dinner that I messed up:)

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  27. Your story is same as my husband. I always tell him cooking needs patience. Thanks for a hilarious read. Index turned out to be quite entertaining. :)

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    1. Almost all men and, nowadays, quite a few women share this story Saru! glad you found the index entertaining :)

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  28. Hilarious, Suresh. I do think you deserve your own cooking show - perhaps you and Rickie together? ;)

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    1. Great idea! I cook and Rickie eats and retches!

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  29. You should host a TV cookery show for the cooking challenged. Loved this post.

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  30. haha Suresh, life's lessons in your inimitable style. Totally agree with the milk boiling over even for a "seasoned" cook like me :-P. Luckily, my husband can cook quite well. Being a Chemistry student, I always approached cooking as science and later as art. Driving and cooking are two lifesaving skills for both men and women to possess, I feel.

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    1. Driving I skipped totally :) In cooking, at least. I endanger only myself :)

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  31. Cooking tip #3 was a revelation. I should never have known but for you. Thank you.
    Dagny

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    1. I know I was put in this world to spread around the light of obscure knowledge :)

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  32. Very Funny Suresh. You could actually teach what not to do in a kitchen :)

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    1. All I have to do is make a note of what I actually do :)

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  33. For once, I can offer you both empathy and sympathy, Suresh. I have been chased out of a kitchen by a pressure keeper, not once, but three times. It literally flew at me. Needless to say, I would now rather wait half an hour for rice to cook than put it into a pressure cooker.

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    1. Wow! Now THAT has never happened to me :) Any Leprechauns in the house? :)

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  34. Sir, this was a beautiful piece. I am an expert maker of Maggi noodles, though and thus claim superiority on this ground. On the other hand, I once made the world's worst coffee (as my friend who had to drink it told me).

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    1. Noodles I never mastered :) Nowadays I prefer to try it as noodle soup :)

      Coffee has always been a bane for a lot of people :) Like my female cousin who once served cold coffee to a friend and got asked "Is it cold coffee or coffee that has gone cold?" :)

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  35. Hahaha! No interesting stories around the boiled peanuts?

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  36. My neighbors are wondering if it is time they rang up the Erragadda Mental Hospital, not much of an issue there, my friend is a professor there--can't blame those poor souls though as I can understand uncontrolled or is it uncontrollable guffawing and cackling can be a source of discomfort and apprehension. And I guess we know who to blame?!

    Glad to know that I am not alone in those travails that all men go through--though I must say Shubho is a Cordon Bleu cook and I have enjoyed his cooking several times--I have literally burnt my hands and that too in as simple a deed as pulling stuff out of toasters--I will not go on.

    Great post, Suresh, had me rollicking!!

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    1. Thanks Ramesh. Must get to taste Subhorup's offerings some time :)

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  37. This was just too good, having a huge grin on my face while I type this! Ohh the travails of a man at work in the uncharted territories of the home aka kitchen! My man is an absolute pain if he decides to help me in the kitchen, like a rhino in a china shop....so I prefer being on my own in 'my territory'! The last lines were just too good citing chivalry of women! You are too good sir!

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    1. Thanks Kala! Those are travails that I have to live with :)

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  38. I am in perfect agreement about the milk boiling thing! It always happens to me. Well, almost always. But the frequency is so much that I have stopped doing this task. It is in my hubby's 'to-do' things in the morning :) Good for me, I say. And of course, for the milk too.

    Thanks for all those other tips too, they will come in handy for someone like me who is not so fond of cooking, despite being of the braver sex and all! This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, Suresh. Loved it!

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    1. Thanks, Beloo! Well - there are always exceptions :)

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  39. That is one of a kind post on kitchen. I cant stop laughing :D
    Being the braver sex, they must have shooed the less courageous menfolk away - to amuse themselves with childish pursuits like fighting off the odd saber-toothed tiger and hunting the mastodon - while they took on the hazardous undertaking of cooking... hahaha
    It never occurred to me that cooking could be this difficult for someone. My food doesnt taste the same, though it totally depends on my mood. If i am happy, I end up making the most sumptuous food, else I too make blunders in lazy or bad mood !!!!
    Loved the humor in it! :)

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    1. Thanks Shesha! After you have burnt your hands as often as I have, you will realize how hazardous cooking is :)

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  40. I died laughing..what's your current status at cooking ?

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    1. Thanks...much better now :) I have a servant maid to clean the kitchen after I 'cook' :)

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