On one of my press trips in a faraway country, poor vegetarian me was pitied upon and instead of usually available sad looking Pasta Arrabiata (what’s Arab about pasta, I wonder!) the restaurant decided to go the whole hog and present me with a full-course vegetarian meal. The chef was all smiles and personally considered it an honour explaining painstakingly what a wonderful meal I was going to have (in a language only chefs can understand). I nodded and waited expectantly for the Fresh Garden Salad with visions of tomatoes (cherry if I must be specific) and bell peppers and cucumbers when with a flourish I was presented a plate of beautifully decorated greens that came with a Masterchefsque like squiggly. One mouthful and I realised that the various hues of green were leaves even the cow loitering in mama’s courtyard back home would hardly recognise and if she did would certainly scoff her snooty nose at.
Okay I was not snooty but definitely hungry. I did what I usually do with food I find difficult to stomach. I sprinkled a lot of salt and pepper, squuezed some lime, closed my eyes and gulped it down. And managed to smile. Much like how I used to gulp down the pink syrup that Dr. Gurujar used to prescribe for all our childhood ailments. My so-called whole-hearted acceptance of the salad was enough to send the chef scampering to make more of them delicacies. Oh my God!
Okay to cut a long story with another long story I feel kinda cheated most of the time when it comes to food. And especially when I am watching Masterchef Australia. Does food that looks so good actually taste good, i thought as I watched a few episodes with Amrit who was now dreaming of his mother making braised eggplants, smoked tomatoes, glazed carrots, caramelised onions, golden tarts and custard pies.
So I let him do that, just dream and drool. No way was I, an occasionally motivated cook going to imitate those three chefs with their exotic sounding dishes with fancy names and fancier presentations. Imagine rubbing off a chocolate squiggly 10 times just to get it right. I’d rather lick it off the plate, straight.
I am an impatient cook. The maximum I can tolerate in the kitchen is an hour. And that’s the only time I actually practise time management. My cooking, I must confess is interspersed with many tasks. You want a reduction from me? You’ll get if the sambhar reduces to a minimum as I wonder goggle-eyed at Arnab asking his innumerable questions on Times Now. And baked to a crisp would mean that dosa that spared me from turning it over because I was laughing at a tweet. You want Smokey? I give you the baingan ka bharta grilled on the microwave because I was too lazy to smoke it on the stove. Don’t even get to dessert… Ah! Plating up for me is simple. A heap of rice, two ladlefuls of sambhar, a blob of curry and I was ready to tuck in!
Not that I have anything against good-looking food. I’d rather just eat it, by the way! Plain-looking delicious food with less trappings but a lot of love. A simple ‘chapptutu polaam’ (literally translated as please eat and go) from an old neighbour brings visions of cabbage mologootal and jeera rasam. Food equals unlimited love.
So who wants to come home for dinner? If I have given you a fright, do not despair. If Yan can cook, so can the husband!
Vaango chaaptutu polaam!