Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Those forgotten kitchen aphorisms

All through my high school, Amma held a job as a Hindi teacher in another school. This meant that she had two sets of children – “you both” (my brother and I) and her “other” children (the ones in her school). Every time my brother or I misbehaved, she would say, “I have had enough of you both. My other children never throw spoons at me.”

“But you are their teacher. Not their mother. Even I wouldn’t dare throw my spoon at my Hindi teacher,” I would say, shivering in the thought of my Hindi teacher, the tall, bespectacled, and forbidding Premalatha Ma’am. Shanky would nod in assent, possibly imagining his own tall, bespectacled, and forbidding Hindi teacher.

Being a working mom also meant that Amma’s evenings would often be spent in correcting answer sheets and preparing lesson plans. So when it was time to cook dinner, she would enlist my help. After complaining about the injustice of things, and how I was the only one among my friends who was forced into helping her mother, I would ultimately shut up and do the work.

As we rolled chapattis and made the accompanying curry, Amma would give me various kitchen tips. The right way to peel garlic, how to get the bitterness out of cucumber, how to cut onions without tears, the best way to roll rotis, how to make your dough softer.

“Amma, why are you telling me all this? Anyway, I won’t be cooking when I grow up,” I would moan.

“Oh, so you will eat out every day, huh?” She would ask.

“Mmm… I guess so. Or I’ll hire a cook. Oh, even better, I’ll marry a chef,” would be my reply.

We would then digress into the topic of marriage. The kitchen aphorism would lay forgotten on the cutting board, only to be swept off into the bin once the day’s cooking was done.

Twenty years’ worth of water has flowed under the bridge. I live by myself and cook by myself. I have not married a chef. I can’t afford to eat out every day. Nor can I afford a cook.

Every evening, when I get down to cooking dinner, I look at the vegetables lying in front of me – uncut and uncooked – and I wish I had paid just a wee bit of attention to my mother’s words when I was younger. At least then I wouldn’t have to spend 20 minutes every time I have to peel half a dozen pods of garlic.

1 comment:

Grizzly Vijay said...

Hey Shilpa - Talking about peeling garlic, here's a super fast and effective way to do just that: - It works. :-)