Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Snap, Pop and Muse
Remember this post? Some of you couldn't believe I'd given it such a title, and even I've been wondering at my own sense of humour ever since. In the quest for attractive headlines, I seem to have attracted an entire category who, in all likelihood, had cooking and humour far from their minds.
But, again, this is literally about the same thing. To do my bit to throw such abovementioned seekers off track and get the right seekers here, I will refer to this vegetable now as okra.
Yesterday, there were two urgent (well, consecutive) calls from my friend V, so I terminated the conversation I was having and called her, wondering what was up. "I'm so irritated," she said. "Last night, I went shopping for vegetables, and all the okra were mutilated. What do these old people hope to achieve by snapping each and every one of them? All you need to do with okra is touch them, and you'll know whether they are tender or not." (At this point, I had to interrupt the conversation and hurriedly own up that I too, young as I am, am a compulsive okra snapper; and V being my friend, dismissively excused me for my behaviour and continued venting.) "And everytime I go to XYZ (a certain shop that sells vegetables), there are hordes of them, old men and women, holding bags, feeling up these vegetables, discussing them endlessly, choking up the aisles. There was one such group yesterday, discussing turnips, and they didn't even buy them ultimately! They didn't even know the vegetables they were calling turnips weren't turnips. Why do they even come there? Can't they find another place to socialise?"
Most importantly, she said, people don't want to listen to loud recipes which are supposed to be proven aphrodisiacs (V, you could be wrong there!); or how you can shame your mother-in-law into oblivion with your baingan bhartha recipe; or the boring bottlegourd for oedoematous feet. She would, however, appreciate a recipe to lower the blood pressure caused by all this banality. Bloggers and non-bloggers alike, please feel free to leave your tips here in the comments section. As these cannot be tried and tested immediately, I'm not offering any prizes for the best tip.
She'd wanted to get this off her chest since the previous night, she said, and rang off. That left me wondering - what other behaviour during vegetable shopping gets your goat? If merely touching okra can tell you whether it's worthy of you or not, I thought, I've failed miserably in the Department of Vegetable Choosing. But on prolonged reflection, I think V does have a point - even I seem to understand how I can assess the okra.
When I started everyday, well, not everyday but routine, home cooking, I found out my uncle could tell whether the food cooking on the stove was salted enough or not by the smell. Not having any previous experience, I was amazed and even wondered if Uncle was pulling a fast one on me. But believe it or not, nowadays I am able to suss it out myself occasionally! Incidentally, I've also seen a few men of the older generations, who have probably never cooked in their life, hold forth on how a particular taste can be achieved or enhanced or altered. If only they'd played their part in the kitchen!
That brings me to another subject that's often on my mind: the joy - or not - of cooking. For many women (and men) who do it regularly, as well as us bloggers not excluding me, it is often a tiresome chore. See the discussion in this post. I've always wanted to bring to your attention a wonderful poem, Vantillu (Kitchen) by a Telugu poet, Vimala, on how kitchens and cooking sap women of their personality, dreams, joys, how such tasks are chores unwept and unsung. The poem also highlights the role of the omnipresent male dominance and chauvinism that contributes to these situations. For me, the most powerful part is when the poet points out (and I'm translating and paraphrasing here) 'how even the jasmine has begun to reek of the kitchen, damn it, let's destroy these kitchens now!'
Many of us, bloggers or not, are privileged in that we are able to enjoy cooking and write about it, take pictures of it, celebrate it. For some, the kitchen could even be a refuge. But just imagine how wearying it must be to make and plan meals every few hours of the day! How could it have been enjoyable, unless you were a strong-willed woman who decided that you would have fun no matter what?
Musings Blogging Humour