When I changed jobs this June, little did I know that it would be more than just a career move. For the last three years while slogging away at my old job, I had been living asa paying guest with a kind lady living alone. She provided good healthy and delicious home made meals three times a day. When I had moved in, I was fresh out of college, determined to make a mark with not much time for anything other than work, least of all cooking my own meals. It was an arrangement from heaven.
And then I decided to move on. After the recession, the market was beginning to boom again and I soon discovered that there were employers ready to pay me the double of my then current salary. So I packed my bags, kissed my dear landlady (more of a surrogate mother) goodbye and moved. Into my new job, my new life.
This me was the new independent me. I decided that it was time I took responsibility for myself. So I rented out a real house with a few friends. I was all fired up. I dreamed of doing grown up things like paying my rent, the electricity bills, locking the door on my way out every morning, doing my own grocery shopping, making lists for the weekly household shopping ANDcooking. It was like playing house but this time around, for real.
Three monthsdown the line, I can’t say I am disillusioned but my expectations have sure come down to more realistic levels. I now know taking time out to go to the electricity board office to pay the bill is not as easy as it looks especially when you try to do it during your lunch break and when there a queue miles long and when there is only one counter with a clerk and when you have already violated the deadline by a week and when you have to explain to your housemates why you had to pay a hefty percentage of the bill as penalty. I now know that plumbers did not drop miraculously from the sky everytime the kitchen sink pipe broke like you expected them to. They have to be tracked down and you have to be there on a working day when they come. Shopping too can become inconvenient when you try to balance kilos of goods and at the same time open the supermarketdoor to exit while fishing for the bill receipt in the said bags of goods so that the security will let you leave.
The real eye opener was however cooking. I had always believed that cooking was all about instinct. All you had to do was stand before the stove and things would automatically happen resulting in a meal…somehow.
How wrong I was. The first time I tried meditating before the stove waiting for inspiration to hit, I almost fried the frying pan. I did not try that again. I always got by by hiding in the shadows of my more culinarily adept housemates. I always cut, chopped, ground and cleaned for them and somehow managed to stay away from the holy altar, the real center of action, the spotlight, the stove.
And then things changed one evening when the friend who donned the cap of the regular head cook called me at office to tell me that she would be held up at work and could I please take care of dinner. I agreed. To refuse would have been uncharitable and I could not have confessed my ignorance. I am too proud to do that.
So that evening I did what any well brought up, smart, grown up, independent woman would do…called up Mom to bail me out. After a few snide, humorous (to her), humiliating (to me), told-you-so remarks she started to tellycook. Or tried to.
“OK, is the oil hot?”
“How do I know, shall I touch it?”
“$%^^ Is it smoking?”
“Yes it has been for some time, I am waiting for it to boil..”
“Good once it boils, drown in it and fry yourself. Lower the flame, you idiot”
“You need not get so hypercritical, everyone cannot do everything. I am sure you cannot write a program to save your life.”
“I am disconnecting right now.”
“YOU CANNOT. I NEED YOU. I am sorry, let us start over. OK the flame is down, the oil is hot, note – not boiling. Yet. And then?”
“Put in the onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, salt and the powders .”
“You did not chop them?”
“You did not tell me to.”
“I am sorry I assumed you knew that you cannot fry whole and unpeeled onions and garlic.”
“I thought you were trying out a new dish with stuff that was whole. OK shall I chop them now.”
I can hear her counting to ten and then “Yes do that please and turn off the stove before the skillet explodes.”
Cutting chopping done, flame back on, stuff in the oil, “Mom you said powders, what exactly did you mean?”
“Turmeric, chilli, coriander and garam masala.”
“How much of each?”
“Just pinches of each.”
“And how much is a pinch and exactly how many pinches?”
“Do you have scales nearby? There must be a pinch weight. For God’s sake girl three pinches of each. Pinch thrice from the jars and each time empty your fingers into the skillet.”
“Sarcasm…I see. And salt?”
This time I heard her count till fifty. “Five. Pinches.”
“Can you only only cook in pinches? Isn’t the metric system good enough for you?”
“I will pretend for both our sakes that I did not hear that. Now pour in a cup of water and once it boils, put in the boiled beans. Turn down the flame and let it simmer till the gravy is reduced to half.”
I heard from my father that after the call she had to take her blood pressure pills. However the bean curry turned out fine (edible).