Continued from here
I’m ashamed to admit that before I got married, “Kitchen” and “I” weren’t words that could easily be seen hobnobbing in one sentence. Oh all right, I am not ashamed of it. In fact if there was any way I COULD stay out of the kitchen even now, I would.
And so, knowing my limitations, for the first few weeks after marriage, I was quite circumspect about the cooking projects – and firmly stuck to stuff which couldn’t be messed up – viz. mostly potatoes and other such accommodating vegetables ( When I write that famous treatise of mine – “ Vegetables for Dummies” , I shall have a special acknowledgement page for potatoes I think)
A few weeks of this and the hero started displaying chicken withdrawal symptoms. So I thought it was about time to up the collective gourmand ante and experiment some non-vegetarian dishes.
I had never cooked chicken in my life – all my mother’s attempts to instil some culinary sense in me had been met with firm (and vocal) resistance. The only recipe I knew (discovered by the genius of a school friend) started with the eternal words of “First you catch the chicken and then you behead it...” Experience had taught me that was not necessary – there were nice sealed bags of Real Good chicken easily available in the supermarket aisles.
Hero on the other hand had assured me that he often made chicken in the bachelor heydays. I assumed that was more than probable – people tend to know how to cook the stuff they like(note my extensive potatoes repertoire)
So anyways, I asked him whether he wanted to cook it the first time we got it. He refused on the grounds that I needed to learn (!). Somehow I muddled my way through it (with Ma on the speaker phone) and chicken curry happened.
After a few episodes of “You need to learn” I called his bluff and shoved him into the kitchen.
Hero with appropriately solemn dignity started prepping for the event. The knife tray was laid out. Onions were brought out from the basket; the chopping board was aligned (exactly parallel) to the kitchen platform.
And then the awe-inspiring process of actually cooking the chicken curry began.
First he ceremonially placed half an onion on the chopping board. Then he examined it with a narrow eyed concentration from all sides (picture a pro-billiard player with a cue – the way the eyes move from one side of the table to another. I assume that is the same concentration one would find the heart surgeon).
Then a terse command of “Knife”. He carefully he made the first incision across the heart of the onion. This surgery took approximately fifteen minutes – while I stood and watched with my mouth hanging open.
Then he wanted to sauté the onions – I stepped out of the kitchen and came back to see the milk vessel spluttering with some oil in it (fortunately no onions). When asked what he was doing with oil in THAT utensil, he calmly replied that he was cooking.
(Fortunately I managed to save the milk vessel before he added chicken into it. That also shed light on a few things which had confused me till date: - viz. why he had seemed astounded at my very modest number of kitchen utensils. I found out after inquiries that he had operated with three vessels which served as a multipurpose jack-of-all-trades – one day for milk, another for chicken, the third to cook daal in...).
I handed him a cooker instead. He carefully proceeded to dump ALL the contents in at the same time, added whatever masalas took his fancy, closed the cooker and turned to me and said
“Now we pray”
Hmm. I wonder whether THAT is the reason people say Grace before meals.
P.S. Further investigations also indicated that when he had given all those swashbuckling chicken-cooking assurances, he had actually meant the “Ready-to-eat” meals – the sort one actually dumps into a cooker and prays (that it’s fresh and one doesn’t end up with food poisoning)