When was the first time you cooked a meal for someone? What were the reactions? Humour, encouragement, sarcasm, mute acceptance?
Probably the first time I invited someone formally was in the summer holidays during college. In those days, I would only bake though I don't remember why I made a meal too. Maybe it was to make recipes other than the traditional dal and gravies we ate routinely at home, maybe it was to impress my friend - I don't remember. My grandmother kept saying why do you have to bother with it, let the cook do it, but I told her the cook could do the meat, and I would do the vegetable, and I made stew. There was other stuff too, and I must have baked or made some dessert, because I don't believe in putting my guests on a diet, I just don't remember the details after all these years.
My friend came and we sat at the table. I must have told her only then that I had cooked most of the meal, and I received one of the most incredulous looks I've ever come across. (My friend is good at looking outraged.) "Nuvvu chesava?"("YOU made it?"), she asked me, one eyebrow rising rapidly, but she seemed to like the food and we had a good and uneventful time, gossiping over the meal.
At around the same time, perhaps, I made something completely my own, something I conjured up myself - stuffed ridge gourd (beerakaya). I think it was also the time I was experimenting with some make-up, because I remember Kid Brother making the usual aggravating cracks, the rest of the family ignoring him (and me) and my father piping up, amidst the mild clatter of ladles and steel plates, "What is this Beerakaya Horrible?"
The name had such a comical ring to it that I probably took it in good humour though I remember explaining what it was, and of course, Kid Bro latched on to this for the rest of the meal. As I write this, I find many recipes for stuffed ridge gourd on the Net but most of them involve peeling the gourd. Mine didn't, and I must have chanced upon particularly tough-skinned specimens for my venture, which, as my dad's reaction reveals, must have added to the horror. Or caused it.
Last night at dinner in a restaurant, we asked what 'Special Sindhi Chapati' entailed, and the waiter, who seemed to be in an unholy hurry, smiled extremely tolerantly and thin-lipped, and said, "It's phulka." The Spouse wanted paneer so we ordered Seyal Paneer from the list of 'special Sindhi dishes' and I waved off The Spouse when he began to ask what it was, saying it must be just as special as the Sindhi chapati. It was - what else - an oily mix of tomato and onion, but the real surprise was the Hariyali Naan from the Tandoor section. I imagined from the name that it would come flecked with coriander and mint and fenugreek; the waiter said there was spinach in it, but we didn't bargain for this:
Now would you go for this, my stew or even my Beerakaya Horrible? In any case, don't forget to answer the question I asked at the beginning of the post!
I didn't make any lofty resolutions for the New Year, but I did set myself a goal and a mission. Wish me luck! There's a link at the top of the sidebar too!