Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Chronicles of Cooking- Part I

"Here you are, now try flattening it."

"Err…how do I start?"

"First cover it in parothan, n try to make it round and flat and as thin as possible."


This was the start of my cooking exploits in kitchen under the expert guidance of the best cook ever, yes, my mother.

A one month stay in Noida last year was enough to knock some sense in to my head as to the urgent requirement of me knowing my way around these areas. If not flawlessly, then palatably enough at least to keep me alive. DD was the one with me in Noida, an excellent cook I might add, and we did prepare our own meal. My job, owing to my incompetence in the finer art, entailed the chopping up of vegetables( after taking necessary instructions from The Mighty DD), washing extra dishes and the usual running-to-market-for-that-extra-pack-of-curd which Mum also employed me for frequently in my childhood. I never grew out of it sadly.

One not so fine day, DD went for dinner to her cousin's place, and I having politely( and foolishly) declined the invitation was left to take care of the dinner for myself. God bless the noble soul who invented Mobile phones, and I proceeded to cook some rice with Mum reciting continuous instructions in my ear. Well, when I thought I had understood it all, keeping down the phone I went on to add spices, which Mum had ambiguously denoted to be 'a bit'. To top it all, I had not the faintest idea as to what is that which they call zeera.

Deepti, another PG mate was thankfully in the other room, another of those equipped in the art, and I asked her to identify it for me.

"Listen, can you tell me what is zeera, or rather which is?"

"Hai Rabba! Where is Shalu?"

"Err...to her cousin's place".

I remember vividly the expression of pity that alighted her mask, and was a severe blow to my self esteem, it was the one I am not likely to forget soon, the one which I still see in my dreams, the one I recall whenever I conveniently forget the true meaning of 'Being Independent'. I remind myself that I might not be blessed with such benevolent partners in future...I was not this year but that is another story.

It was an expression quite like the one my mother wore right now.

"WAIT! Don't pound on it as if it were some one you are trying to kill, go gentle and easy. Apply force on all sides, redistribute it as and when necessary."

"Right.Err…I don't see it coming out round or uniformly thin. What do I do to correct it?"

"Nothing for now…"

"I think it is way too thin from here, almost torn in a manner of speaking, do I add extra dough on this part and make up for it."

Mum's expression had transformed into the one of exasperation, I could but faintly see the traces of the pity which sat there a few moments ago. I could almost see her rebuking herself in mind regarding the lenient handling she subjected me to, where the matters of the Kitchen were concerned.

"Haven't you ever seen me doing it?! What were you doing the few times you happened to stand with me in the kitchen?"


("I was too preoccupied with the thoughts of leaving I guess…")

"Alright, now pick it up and place it on the tawa. You surely could have done without those useless guitar classes. Go on now..."

I endeavoured to pick up the what-do-you-call-it which bore a striking resemblance to a map of asia with edges blunted. I wondered if I should point it out to her to lighten the matters up, but after a careful consideration of the situation, I dropped the idea. She scarcely seemed to be in a mood for appreciating the ways of nature, the way geography manifests itself right in our kitchens. On one of our doors in house, the paint has dried up and it looks exactly like the outline of the South Asian continent...but that is drifting away from the point. Do you now see now? My heart is just not there in this thing. Dash it, I told myself, I need to survive and that involves keeping the aforementioned heart beating.

So, as I placed, or rather slapped the what-do-you-call-it down on the tawa balancing it precariously on my fingers…it overlapped over itself.


I tried to put it straight, needless to say it wasn't going well. Perhaps the fact that I was wary of the tawa being too hot held me back from making a good effort. My mother impatiently pushed my hand out of the way and put the matters straight. Literally.

"Now pick it up and see if its cooked from the down side, and when it is…apply ghee on the top side and toggle it. Then apply ghee on the other side and while you spread it, move the parantha round and round on the tawa with your hand."

"Err…after how much time do I check?As in, how many seconds?"

Another scalding look. Between her and the tawa, I thought it would it would be nothing short of a miracle if I managed to come out unscathed. Mothers have this quality of making you wilt under their looks.

"It is most probably burnt by now…apply ghee."

I did.

"You want to be a bit more lavish with it…a wee bit more won't make you fat or something!"

"Whoa…go easy! That's too much now…."

"Alright. How much then exactly?"

"What are you? Completely dumb? Use a bit of your instincts, keep your engineering out of the kitchen."

She has started to lose it, it was turning steadily more dangerous. I reminded myself to tread more carefully around her and tawa.

But common! How are you supposed to rotate the thing when you can see that it is damn hot! I can't imagine how my mom's fingers aren't scalded! I am sure mine arent insulated that way! Anyway, what finally came down from the tawa as a pathetic excuse for a parantha proudly sat upon a plate…challenging anyone to eat it.

Having already laid the condition that I won't eat anything I cook, my mother valiantly took up the challenge. She made it out as if only the shape was grotesquely wrong and it was perhaps tad burnt, apart from that it should taste alright.

I felt guilty nevertheless. I wonder if that's what she intended.

P.S. Tell me what do you call it in English what you call 'Roti Belna' in Hindi?

P.P.S: Long time...how have you been?


nairspeaks said...

First of all, i am good... yes, long time indeed!

I really pity your mom for having such... um, slow students! :P
But hey, you survived! So, kudos to your mom.

PS: You really didnt know what 'zeera' is? I am a Mallu and i know that its those little black thingies you put in rice and stuff, ryt? :-o

Nice read btw. Welcome bak to the blogosphere. Dont wait for another 4 months for the next part!

Anunaya Jha said...

You are truly hopeless! :P
But anyway, it's always fun to learn cooking. You can make a masterpiece of the yuckiest flavours ever! Voila.. you're a chef!

PS: I think it's called the 'rolling of an Indian Bread'. That's the closest you can get!

Ruprekha said...

HILARIOUS..!!! R u really thaat bad?!!! don't worry..!! u r not the lone one who has to go thru the misery ( :P ) of not knowing how to make a roti or parantha and get scalding look from mother..! :) I m pretty pathetic too.!!

Though I knew what zeera is.!! :P

Arun said...

Senior! It's a mighty relief to know that there is someone who can terrorise even you!
Is preparing a roti really that tough an ordeal? I've got to try it out one of these days.

Naga M Reddy said...

excellent read yaar... it really made me laugh... :)

between just a month back i tried making roti, and invited my batchmates for dinner, they politely rejected to have those kadak so called rotis :P and satisfied with rice itself. Even I didnt dare to approach them and killed my hunger with rice itself. :P

But however learnt how to make plain chapathi from my mom finally and did practicals twice successfully.. :P

esha said...

Hey! it reminded me of the small, once in a while sessions where i would try to tell you how to make an omelete or a scrambled egg and you would show no interest :P
Nyways, not to worry buddy, I am still in the learning phase, u can also do it... hehehe
btw, nice writeup

siddharth said...

good job.... with the blog.. not with the parantha....
seriously... u don't know what 'zeera' is !!!! Even I know that and I don't even make tea....
As for that map of Asia.... practice and patience... that's what ur guitar teacher would have told you too.... so its not entirely useless....

PS: All the best for ur future kitchen expeditions :P

mescaprices said...

there is definitely more to cooking than meets the eye. for some reason even the seemingly simple tasks seem to go wrong in so many ways you never thought were possible. experience :)

Shalu said...

Dearest Prachi,
Thank u so much for all the accolades! :)
n...as u urself know, the post is really nice and the kind expected of u... chirpy n full of expressions. I could very well imagine the whole episode.
N worry not, thy have these automated chappati makers nowadays. Veggies u can handle gracefully :P
Cheers for the gud post which helped raise so many ppl's self esteem!

Prachi said...

@Rakesh: Don't pity my Mom, she is My Mom!
You are not back yet are you?
The long gap is well...never by my volition!
And thanks!

@Anunaya: Trust me I know, btw, I have learnt a bit now!
And I truly think cooking in under rated, especially in language! Such mundane words for so difficult a job!

@Ruprekha: I always knew you would make me proud. :P

@Arun: Again, it is MY MOM! Lay equal stress in both words. What do you expect!?

@Naga Sir: Good for you, and I say that earnestly! And thanks!

Prachi said...

@Esha di: Thank you! For reading the blog and for those efforts on your part! But you are such great a cook that I thought it would be a pure insult to your talent if I cooked anything!

@Siddharth: Thank you! Oh I think my future expeditions would be fine, given the fact that I do not have anyone in my family who can be such a pain like you are to your sisters!

@Mr. L: So Sweet! :) A rarity!

@Shalu: I have always been into social service you know.

Sandeep Mishra said...

Nice write up ma'am...

U really din't know 'Jeera'??? Try knowing mangraila, ajwain, sounf, teesi, raai, tej-patta, kaali mirch, javitri...

Till then, just one suggestion... If only you have to, marry a Chef n save 2 lives...

Sandeep Mishra said...

and yeah... about that 'roti belna'... you can call it 'rolling the dough flat' ;)

"Vaibhav said...

You have such a humorous style of writing Prachi!

I'm sure you must have mastered the art of making stuffed parathas by now! :)

My innumerable stints with parantha making never ended up into an edible stuff! I never got that filling technique, those uncooperative fillings without fail squirts out the edges. :) It's not a pretty sight and definitely not an easy task. Huff!!

Anyways, completely agree with you, "Mothers have this quality of making one wilt under their looks!" ha ha :)

P.S. Given the length of your blog, a picture of your final make (paratha) would have made the blog more yummy & digestable!! :)
P.P.S. AWESOME BLOG is all I can say!! :)

-Vaibhav Rakheja

Prachi said...

@Mishra Sir: All in good time Sir ji...;)
Oh and a chef you say? Well that is one of the many qualities that I will require, if I have to. :D

@Vaibhav: Thanks a lot! Last I entered the kitchen, I was struggling with rotis...stuffed paranthas are a far cry!