Thursday, July 10, 2008


My friend N called me just as I was drifting off to sleep in the afternoon

“Where the HELL are you?”

I told her that I was bunking office for no other reason than the fact that I was bored witless, wanted to quit (and believe that leave encashment is a complete scam) and couldn’t stand the sight of my colleagues after ten months of unleavened interactions.

After establishing the fact that she approved of this unseemly use of holidays she went to inquire about my activities at home. So of course, I started cribbing about chores.

“I have to buy vegetables today.”

“So what?” she asked, quite callously I thought.

“Well….its not the BUYING part which I mind so much. What stresses me out is deciding WHAT to cook. I mean, I run out of vegetables by Thursday evening”

“What do you mean you run out of vegetables? How can one run out of vegetables. Buy more of them.”

“Not like that” I explained. “I don’t run out of quantity but types! You see Mondays its cauliflower and potatoes and brinjal, Tuesday okra, cabbage and yam, Wednesday its capsicum, peas and carrots, on Thursday its mushrooms and beans...and then I am out of vegetables again!”

“What about tenda, parwal and lauki and karela”
she asked.

“Uhm lauki taste blech so once in a while, karela is bitter and tenda and parwal is is tenda? What does it look like?”

Yes. Sigh.

I am ashamed to admit it, but even when I am ageing and on the wrong side of the hill, and I still cant recognize ALL the vegetables.
And some of the condiments (took me a couple of months of sniffing tests before I could differentiate jeera and saunf) and don’t even get me started on the lentils. Split masoor, full masoor, covered masoor, naked masoor – and that’s just one of the dratted types. And some you soak and some you boil. Some you soak till they are fat, some you soak till they grow things on them. But you can’t boil the fat ones till they grow things on them. They you need to throw the fat, hairy ones away. Just too many algorithms, too much confusion.

I could blame it on growing in a Goan environment where fish is the staple and vegetables a punishment. But I can’t recognize all types of fish either.

Anyways, I digress. When I first started this cooking exercise, I did in all earnestness try to learn the vegetables. I used to call up Ma who would give me descriptions over the phone for stuff which wasn’t in my normal cooking repertoire.

“Okay you know beans right- Buy those.”

Yes. Beans are good. I know beans. So off to the greengrocers I would go, confidently pick up 250 grams of beans, laboriously try and deciphers Ma’s completely complex cooking instructions – (“Okay you need to put water – but not too much water because then the flavour goes away.. How much water? Well do a katori... but don’t put the very big katori but a medium sized one...but if the beans are looking dry put more than one katori. Bah..You don’t understand the simplest things.”)

But whatever I did, the damn things refused to taste like beans that Ma made. Until I found out the simple explanation for that. They didn’t taste like beans, because they were not beans I knew (French beans) but gawar (Cluster beans)

So after some mishaps with Methi and Palak (and they even call the darn seeds Methi to confuse one further) and Yam and sweet potato, I have resolutely stuck to the vegetables I know.

And there is the whole stressful charade at the greengrocer place. When one walks in and picks up some vegetables and discards some others – the concerned and careful homemaker charade. I have absolutely NO clue which is good and which is bad. (Ok I have some clue if the cabbage is drooping and grey, and tomatoes are oozing out squishy stuff, and if cauliflower is black, but other than that, not really.)

Should I pick up the really dark green cabbage or the medium green one or the pale green one? What type of onions are better – the pink ones? The white ones? The dark purple ones? The pale peach colored ones? What size potatoes are good – the tiny-one-mouthful or the Big-Daddies?

I have absolutely no clue. So I go there and pretend. And I pick up some and discard others. With the uneasy suspicion that the chap at the counter is seeing right through this little play acting and mentally chortling away to glory.

As N put it “Some people suffer from colour blindness, others from night blindness. What you suffer from is vegetable blindness. THAT is your problem”


P.S. Before people start pitying the husband and sending him condolence cards, please note that I am a surprisingly decent cook ( as in regularly surprise everyone by concocting fairly palatable, nay tasty, dishes, usually through a completely accidental process (“Okay there are no tarragon leaves? Lets put some marjoram leaves, they sort of rhyme” and viola a perfectly interesting dish is born). If you still feel sympathetic towards the husband and what he is inflicted to, you are free to fed-ex food though.


Lekhni said...

You make cauliflower and potatoes and brinjal all in one day? And okra, cabbage and yam in another? At that rate, methinks no veggies on Friday would be just fine!

On the other hand, if you really want to, then palak cooks in under 5 minutes in the microwave :)

a million different people said...

Actually, you have better options than my mother.

My father won't eat beetroot and bitter gourd. I won't touch brinjal, mushroom, yam (Any gourd except bitter gourd isn't acceptable). My brother won't eat any of the gourds.

And I've only just learnt how to make potato curry. I'm probably never getting married, I don't think anyone would take my cooking. I myself can't, yet. :(

Okay wait, maybe I can find someone who cooks.

Mockingword said...

You are not alone, really. But here vegetables come with a little sticker which carries their name again.

And yeah, how can you make all the cooking-worthy vegetables in one day?

Cynic in Wonderland said...

lekhini - actually lunch and dinner type no? so has to be two + try and get a soup in ( so that would be the third) how do you cook palak in the microwave in under five mins? please give details thank you verr muchly.

a million different people - heck i wont eat beetroot, gourd, brinjal if i can help it either.but the point is it gets so terribly BORING cooking the same things, that one does other stuff more to entertain oneself. if you find someone that cooks ( i waited for that mythical creature for years) dont believe him unless he PROVES IT to you. I got married to one who claimed he could. He either lied through his teeth, or promptly proceeded to unlearn all cooking. hmpf.

Mo - in some of the stores they put the stickers too on the shelves..however they dont put the right veggies on the shelves. sigh.

and i am glad to hear i am not alone. i was speaking to one colleague about this, and she was so appalled at my inability that i thought she would have a stroke and call the spca to protect the husband. The way i figure is, that if he gets bored of the same ole veggies, he can go and cook himself. ha.

??! said...

Erm...Leeks? Courgettes/zucchini? Pumpkin? Parsnips? Turnips? Turiya/turai?

Also, rule of thumb - the darker green a leafy vegetable, the better. Big potatoes for cooking, small potatoes for salads. White onions for cooking, red onions for salad.


Also, hello.

Mockingword said...

@cynic: Indian cooking is complicated. I like stir fries - I do a good job of them.

@??!: You you you. You are making us look bad.

nowhere man said...

Ah You are giving me ideas. So all I have to do is pretend I know cooking to gain a foothold in the marital space..

Mmm. Hope that doesnt go in the prenuptial agreement. But I would strongly advocate others to add in theirs.

Nandini Vishwanath said...

I totally emphathise with you Cyn! I cannot make out one dal from another. And veggies - sigh. I have to look at those boards. And the greens - let's not go there!

Of course, its a different thing that I do not check on the price either ;) I buy those big potatoes coz erm...they are easier to peel and they are cheap, and the same goes to white onions. So there.

P said...

You are not alone. I am botanist and still don't know half of the vegetables. I am fish loving Bong and still don't know name of most fishes.

What made me feel better is that the shopping and cooking experts a.k.a my parents came to visit me here in US and one day I came home to find that they made sabji out of lettuce thinking its a kind of cabbage :D They had never seen the whole head of lettuce before. That was the yuckiest thing my mom ever made, we think :D

Sud said...

I remember a lady once told me she had subscribed to a meal planner, which sent her a schedule of recipes for the week

Cynic in Wonderland said...

??! - hmmmm will you marry me?

mockingword - shush, i just proposed.

nowhereman : - just get someone who thinks its cute that you dont cook. ( probabaly as difficult as finding a guy who does..but no harm trying no?)

hehe nandini - i buy depending upon mood, somedays its big cause feel like it, others its small. completely random reasons. ( er..did you not start a food blog uhm?)

Cynic in Wonderland said...

p - okay that is brilliant. have u ever let ur ma forget it?

sud - did the lady also BUY the vegetables?

Arunima said...

my husband is good in buying vegetables so tra la la. By the way, he chooses the big daddies and I like the mid sized ones when it comes to potatoes.

mockingword said...

@cynic, don't forget how they tempt you with the promises of being able to cook.

Mine could whip up fried rice, and even flip omelettes in a pan before. Hasn't toasted a slice of bread since.

Veens said...

u sound ohh so like me... wen u go veggie shopping :D

darn... even i dnt know!

for dal...i get confused and actually ake samples of what i want :D

nothing can be worse than that init?


??! said...

Uff, do good and get gaali. No fair.

umm...what will the husband say?

Also, for both of you, I'll put up a simple recipe later today. Ok?

Cynic in Wonderland said...

arunima - bah. where did u get him from?

mockingword. i know.i know. i want a wife!!!!!

veens - thats a brilliant idea. why didnt i think of it? oh. i know why, coz the ones which are there at home, i dont know how to cook those so no point buying more.

Just send him some of the food you cook and he will think its a fair trade.

nowhere man said...

Ah you think I haven't tried that? Well of course what seems like "cute" now will turn out to be the very thing one cannot stand about a person post marriage ( what was that about quirks turning into one's foibles and that sort of thing ) and thereby in lieu of putting down all my cards on the table I have decided to resort to subterfuge.

Ask your hubby. He will empathize. After honesty is very important to a relationship..if you can fake that you are in.

But on a serious note wouldn't it be a tad cheaper to actually eat out than "pay" for marriage in the long run? ( For both the sexes ofcourse ).

Anonymous said...

who is viola?

??! said...

Haan so, done. Go read.

Epiphany said...

Good..I have company..although I do not cook :P...Decoding the last paragraph...u meant maggi and pizza?

Soulmate said...

That was hilarious.. I also know quite a few people who cant distinguish between veggies and is absolutely fine.. Atleast you can churn out the good food by simply changing a few ingredients here or there.. Some skill that I lack..

Cynic in Wonderland said...

nowhere man - hmm yus, but then once the girl is stuck, she is stuck. she cant unstick becoz u cant cook no? ( i am the sufferer of this) . eat out everyday would be verr unhealthy no?

anon - my cook

??! - doing, doing

soulmate - well i do these errors and claim they were intentional no?

epiphany - of course, what did you think?

nowhere man said...

* Tries hard to resist *

Ah but that is precisely why you should go for "non stick" cook "wear". Or you will have to look out for the cook,the thief,his wife and his lover...

Lekhni said...

I just washed and cut the palak into little pieces, shoved the bowl into a microwave and waited five minutes :D

I was making palak paneer, and meanwhile I had the masala all cooked. So I just mixed the palak in. If you are making a tomato palak,you can grind the onion, g. chilli and ginger and fry it, and just throw in the microwaved palak..

Sandy said...

me have same problem. no clue what i am looking at and even less what is killer buy and what is loser buy.

so i give the friendly neighbourhood super aunty (any aunty looking woman at the store)a lost puppy dog look and she helps... and i walk behind with the shopping basket and a big grin on my face!

what works with what? no clue again... but then that's my cook's problem!

ain't i a stinker!

phatichar said...


This too..was howlarious!!

(When are you going to publish your still-in-the-corners-of-your-mind book?) ;-))

Mampi said...

did i ever tell you that pinku had been asking me to visit this blog for a long time and i think i came and left a comment earlier too. However, i forgot to blogroll you. I am going to do that so I dont miss your posts anymore.
This post reflects me as if it were a mirror.