Monday, September 24, 2012

Bon Appétit

To those of you familiar with the beautiful French language, the above lines might serve as a reminder of fancy, soft-lit restaurants, and exquisite dining experiences. Hold that thought, and take a quick tumble warp back to the present before you are too far gone! For now, we speak not of British breakfasts of soft bread egg-and-cheese sandwiches, and steaming coffee; nor of princely Bengali lunches with five different kinds of curry: gently teasing shaag (greens), begun/potol bhaja (fried pointed gourd/brinjal, chingrir malaikari/ilish bhapa (the first is a prawn delicacy prepared with coconut water, and the latter could be roughly translated as steamed Hilsa), followed by murgir/pathar mangsho (chicken/mutton), and something slightly sweet after; not least of all of festival-time dinners of biriyani, with a side dish of Rizala! No, no, Oh no! I have done it again, haven’t I?

Before I bumble along further down the hallowed halls of Edibles-Elysium, let me quickly splash some (much-needed) cold water, and drag you to the present. Specific location: A cute kitchen of a sweating, cursing, wish-I-had-ten-hands, first-time cook! Yes, this blog entry is all (or however little there is to it) about yours truly venturing into the small 10 feet by 10 feet (I guess) golden triangle of sink, induction stove, and NO fridge, armed with bread, eggs, salt, a little mustard oil, and nothing much else!

Now I am not entirely ignorant when it comes to cooking, I mean, I’ve read Cooking for Dummies cover to cover (duh!), and seen my mother, and aunts cook! Having said that, it is also important I mention that I have never actually cooked anything before! <sheepish grin>

For those of you who don’t already know, I am now a resident of the small town of Nuzvid (also Nuzivid, and Nuzividu), approximately 50 kms from Vijayawada, in Andhra Pradesh. My contract-based job as Lecturer at RGUKT (more popularly known as AP IIIT) has given me, in addition to about a thousand students (some of whom are older than me!!), a 2-BHK flat to call home. And in the space of these three months, I have purchased quite a lot of stuff, mostly books, and an aquarium, but also the afore-mentioned induction cooktop (which came with a wee sandwich maker), and last week, some vegetables, a packet of butter, and some much needed cutlery.

These have been adding beauty to my kitchen space for at least a week now, and I have often wandered in (I tend to do that a lot, while spinning long-tailed yarns in my over-imaginative head), and wondered if I could actually whip something delicious out of my meagre supplies. Sometimes I have also stridden in purposely, head full of recipes and images of Spanish omelets, roast turkey (sadly, yes), chocolate mousses, and muffins (courtesy Cooking for Dummies), ready to wow the world with my hitherto unknown culinary skills! These generally ended in a quiet trip back (Please insert the ‘tail between the legs’ metaphor here) to the clichéd bachelor world of lying around, and listening to heavy bass tracks.

This morning would have been no different had I not suddenly remembered on my way to the mess (which, by the way HCU-ites, is way better than HCU!) that Tuesdays are the fateful days when they serve Lemon Rice!! No offence lemon rice lovers, but trust me no matter how good the mess, you do NOT want lemon rice; it actually makes you realize why a mess has been so (and aptly, might I add) named.

So, I trudged back to my quarters, and took a deep breath, and picked up a bread slice in one hand, and a Chef’s knife in another (Sorry, but nowhere in Nuzvid could I find a butter knife.) At this point I would like to quickly enlist the sympathy of all those who have ever gone into the kitchen with absolutely NO ONE to help you (Hint! Hint! You ruthless judging types!) For those of you who can’t even imagine what I am talking about (Really?!), think of this as an exam: No matter how well-prepared you are, it always gives you that queasy feeling in your stomach.) If you are the type that never understood what the big deal about an exam was… well, you are too far gone to help, anyway.

Now, and come back to my kitchen, will you? While you have been wasting my breath with infinite argumentative possibilities, the 8 o’clock version of myself in the kitchen has almost moved on to the sunny side up egg! Quick!

So, after being immortalized for an infinite second forever in Time, with the bread and the knife, I dipped the latter in the butter, scooped some out, and applied it to both sides of the bread slice, needless to say, getting my entire palm all greasy in the process! K I then proceeded to do this to SIX slices of bread! Phew! Before this, I had already diced some tomatoes, and chilies (Do you dice chilies, or do you chop them? Oh, who cares!) I know I could have mentioned the tomatoes first, but I couldn’t resist! You know how they say in Cookery shows, “…now keep such-and-such thing aside, and go back to the vegetables that we had chopped up earlier…” I know its lame, you don’t have to tell me! Put up with a first-timer’s fancies, will you?

Well, after I had greased more than just the bread, I put the tomatoes and chilies in between, and carried the whole (wobbly) thing to the sandwich maker! While I waited with bated breath for the light to turn green, I realized I would need more than just 3 sandwiches to fill my stomach. Eggs, I thought! When the light did turn green, I got the “sandwich” out. Note to self: Got to get the big bread slices next time round. At least, that way, they’ll look much more presentable. When it comes to cooking (or anything at all, for that matter), even if you don't do the MAIN job well, embellishing it with a fancy cover (story?) always works: the pros of a world that judges everything by the cover!

After the last sandwich was out, I turned to the cooktop, and placed my virgin-but-for-noodles Bergner pot <smug smile>, (actually that’s all I’ve got by way of utensils), and poured some mustard oil in. The oil got heated, I broke the egg, and poured it in. Now, I would have LOVED to say it was done flawlessly, but alas! The crack on the egg wasn’t enough, and I had to perform a kind of jiggle wiggle dance with the egg yolk as it clung stubbornly to the shell, and the egg white sputtered in the pot below! It did let go ultimately, but broke in the process, and while it was still sunny side up, it looked nothing like the sun. I sprinkled some salt, and garnished it with a few chopped chilies from before.

Finally through with the ordeal, I carried my humble attempt to the hall, and sat down to eat with a knife, and a fork - for the egg. (For future reference, the spoon probably works better!) Briefly nostalgic, I wished for a brief second that I had a TV to watch as I sat there munching. The moment passed, and with a last loving look at the ‘delicacy’ that lay spread out before me, I tucked in.

And, to tell you the truth, it wasn’t half bad. J

I will not bore you with details of what happened after (the cleaning up, basically), and let you resume your own lives in peace, without further ado. I cannot really ask you to keeping checking this space for more, as I honestly don’t know when I’ll update next. But you never know! This is my first prose update, let me know what you think of it. J

With my first breakfast all gone, I’m tempted to attempt something more ambitious next time. But time and tide wait for no man, and I honestly don't know when I’ll venture into the kitchen (to cook) again. But I am also more confident now. The first time wasn't so bad, now was it? (Now, now! Be nice.)So, if I invite you to breakfast some time, I guess I’ll have to leave the choice of showing up up to you! Till then, Au revoir!