Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Hosting, Feasting

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!


  1. Firs time i cooked a meal ( well one chicken dish with rice) was few months after getting married, my hubbs niecen sge came for a weekend to stay with us , she is just 2 yrs younger to me. I slaved in the kitchen, I did the recipe from step by step and not missing anything, and when we were eating she was saying it tasted good, but then when she went home she told her mom I made chicken so spicy purposley so she coudn't it. Horrible girl, thankgod the whole family here dislike her :-) that wa the last time i asked her to my home.

  2. A full whole meal ? Only when I started working, before that a dish or two here and there.

    The meal was accepted in good spirits but my techniques are still joked at :)

    Sindhi Chapati is Fulka ? Welcome to the New World

  3. I forget Sra but that was the time when sambhar looked more like rasam and rasam like kootu, don't remember about people's reactions though, more worried about how I was going to pull it off.
    I have learned to keep away from anything that says Hariyali. I would have gone for the Beerakaya Horrible just because I like the ring of the words.

  4. You had to ask that question and bring up memories, hun Sra? Well it was the day after our graduation and I had invited a bunch of friends over for lunch. I decided to make malai kofta, started preparing, was half way through when I got bored/ tired of all the sauteing and simmering and frying. My poor, dear mom ended up finishing the whole thing. My friends loved it, obviously, but in all honesty I can't take full credit for it to this day.
    Also, taught me never to cook complicated recipes that take half a day. :)

  5. Best of everything in life for you from me. Hugs to you and wish all the success you are hoping for, sra! :))

    Haryali Naan looks fab, wish I had some now to munch on. Not much motivation to cook.

    Never cooked before my marriage and one fine day, I cooked and never looked back, thanks to my mom's (my paternal grandma's recipes rather)recipe book! :D

  6. poor phulka.. that's my abs. fav roti and now its called sindhi chapathi?:)
    i don't remmeber my first cooking adventures and i don't want to.:))

  7. Lol@Beerkaya Horrible!! Of those 3 dishes, my last choice would be the Hariyaali Naan, it looks so unappetizing.

    I don't remember what my first dish was, may be eggs or dosa, but he first dish I made unsupervised, was "Spanish" Rice from a "multi-cuisine" Indian vegetarian book, when my parents were out. Barring the initial shock over my having used the gas stove, they really enjoyed the dish.

    But I remember this kitchen mishap clearly, my mum wanted me to wash and chop some bhindi. I did what I was told, only I chopped and THEN washed it and ended up with a big mass of glop!


  8. I don't even remember what was my first whole meal, probably would be a dhal or rasam with rice around 96 ! When I was away from my parents and refuse to eat my brothers horrible food!
    Hmm, the meal was accepted by silence with one and the other brother commented lack of mother love!- Well he repeated the same comment for 5 years :(
    I do see the green shine through the lens!

  9. Other than making a dish or two starting from 8 - 9th grade - the first time ever I cooked a full course meal was in my 2nd year of best friend invited a group of our friends from college and their cook decided not to come on that day :-D he had working parents so I was the only "girl" there who could come to the rescue (other than the option of going out and eating!). I cooked quite a few things!! it was fun and fond memories. I had sent the boys to the market to do the grocery :-)

    sindhi chapati sounds fancy and appetizing, fulka does not!

  10. the first time i cooked a meal.....too depressing to even think about and my new year resolution is to think happy thought!!!!!...anyway heres a hint as to how bad it was...all my guests had a runny tummy the next day :(

  11. I'd rather not be reminded of the first time I cooked a full meal. My first guest was a really nice person, though....and he's taught me a thing or two about how to behave when face-to-face with not-so-perfectly cooked food.
    Which restaurant was this, btw???

  12. Sra,
    I dont think I can remember when I cooked the whole meal to be precise ..well Kichuri and omlette if you can say it a whole meal then I cooked it in may be 11 th std for the whole family-grands/uncles/aunts/cousins etc etc ..and they all seemed to liked it..but their suggestion to improve never stoped that day :)...
    hugs and smiles

  13. I don't even remember what my first cooked meal was. But I remember, when i was newly married, I didn't want to admit to my MIL that I didn't know cooking, so I dosa batter, it turned out so so horrible, much to my embarrassment

  14. A full meal...guess started it at 18. had to cook as my mother had to travel a lot for business, father had to stay away for work and the tiffin lady without any mercy kept on sending leftovers. at that time cooked only for my brother and slowly started loving the kitchen and the techniques.

  15. Happy, she sounds like a nasty piece of work!
    Bong Mom, oh yes, this morning, I cooked a back-breaking meal, and the rasam, which I rarely make, sucked. I had to repair it at dinner time and it was fine.
    Indo, thing I'll stick to Hariyali kabab. Thanks, will feed you Beerakaya Horrible when we meet :)
    Preeti, apparently {wry smile}
    Jaya, sometimes even simple stuff takes me that long. Why?
    Asha, thank you - good to have you back.
    Mallugirl, The restaurant is giving ethnic food a bad name - this is the kind of branding that gets my goat! Why don't you call a spade a spade, and fulka a fulka?
    Mamatha, how old were you? Even when I was 20, my gran would be worried about my clothes catching fire in the kitchen.
    Cham, meanies, these brothers!
    Soma, now I'm wondering if that's the reason why I cooked the meal - cook absent? I'm confused, then my gran must have pitched in.
    S, really? That's quite a reaction! Anyway, you have a food blog now :-D See how far we've come?
    Jayashree, you've been there. With company. {Wide grin}
    Jaya, I had the exact same experience with rasam today.
    DEESHA, Oh, I never attempted breakfast, still don't. And won't. I buy readymade batter if I have to.
    Sayantani, Quite a mean tiffin lady, and when you were paying for fresh food, too!

  16. Sra, I started cooking just the simple rasam at the age of 11. Yes, first time when extracuing tamarind I found it to be too "dirty" and filtered it using a cloth :) I was making the same rasam for years together until I am 15 years old to cook a full meal with Amma's uidance (she was sick then). That green phulka looks weird! Must have tasted good I suppose!

  17. My gosh! you seriously got that ordered.hahahh..I don't remember my first time, as I never actually cooked other than baking..:))..and as few said I rather not think of those days..

  18. I don't really remember the first time I cooked a meal, but I remember the meal I cooked for our first houseguests after marriage. We were eating left overs for the next 3 days!!!

    As for the 1st cup of filter coffee I ever made, you'll find it on my blog. :D

  19. The first complete meal was a joint effort by my friend and I ... the cake more brick than cake and the subzi overly-spicy :D But, parents being parents, they praised us to the high-skies for attempting to cook. That really set the ball rolling for both of us I remember, and we would experiment almost every weekend during the summers!

    Sindhi chapati = phulka? Huh! :)

  20. liked this post!

    i had a really reaaly bad reputation in the kitchen!

  21. Well Sra -- if I told you the first meal (spaghetti -- gee, could I boil water or what) I cooked for someone was back in 1984, I would be dating myself! So I'll just say the first Indian food I cooked was not so long ago ;)

    I like your new project -- is it the photo-a-day sort of thing I have read about? Neat idea :)

  22. LOL! at your friend's reaction. Good luck with your goals for this new year.


  23. Ni, the naan was okay, just the colour ... You thought tamarind was dirty? :-D
    Valli, rather not think of those days? And look where you've reached - amazing, isn't it?
    Aparna, I think you mentioned this earlier too - I know the situation v well, with or without houseguests, we face that every week.
    Sheetal, all my cake disasters have been crumbly and soft, never too hard.
    Rajani, thanks. My mum wouldn't like it if I experimented because she thought I'd dirty the kitchen.
    Linda, yes, it is the photo-a-day project.
    Paz, Thanks.

  24. Loved to cook while young so one day decided to impress my parents while they were attending a marriage. I made Mint pulao and Bhagara Baingan. Rice came out Ok. Baingan came all like one big paste and burnt the pan. Later on came to know that I added rawa for the khus khus. We ate the rice with raita. I must have been 13 or 14 so I was excused. My sister makes fun of me even today.

  25. My first attempts at cooking were also all about baking and stuffing - stuffed bhindi, stuffed eggplant, stuffed father was the best though, he would exclaim over everything! ;) My mom would just make sure we had a heavy brunch!

  26. First time I cooked was as a teenager, something very simple and harmless that everyone in my original extended family genuinely enjoyed. There have, however, been mixed results from other guests, everything from raves, to tepid praise, to vulgar cracks, to rude complaints about when the main meal was to be served - mind you, they were indulged with a big spread of starters when they walked in the door.

    Sra, I will trust you that the naan was good, although it does look rather unnaturally green. ; }

  27. Can you believe, that the first time I cooked a meal for somebody 'other than me' is just couple of years, after I came to US.. I have no re-collection of doing-anything-to-anybody when I was in India, such a horrible & picky kid I was.

    If you want me to answer the same question now, honestly speaking, if the dish is 'good', I expect a little appreciation and taken in good spirits :)

    Oka question adugudamani yeppaninuncho anukuntunnanu - kavalani post text 'bold' lo publish chestunnara? was just wondering.

    Happy Sankranthi Sra!


  28. LOL!! Full meals happened only after marriage, before that I cooked only exotic dishes ;)

  29. Cilantro, That is so funny, and such a natural mistake for anyone to make - I once gave my Uncle and his friend kumkum powder instead of chilli powder for raw mangoes - their faces had to be seen to be believed.

    Miri, me too - I'd call it high class food!
    Susan, :-D It's been ages since I hosted any big meal, you've got me thinking about the starters ... LOL@the naan colour - can't believe they didn't add artificial colour in spite of the spinach
    Siri, yes, the bold font is deliberate - I made it grey rather than black but it didn't seem to pick up that colour - should investigate.
    Jyothsna, a lot of us were like that. I didn't even know how to use a pressure cooker till I got married.