I have seldom heard my mother raise her voice, but she can be very scary. One stare and you will search for the nearest hole to hide into. The Stare was particularly powerful when it came to Her Kitchen. Her Kitchen was Her Fortress. Anything from drinking water to washing a cup of coffee in Her Fortress was met with disapproval. The last thing you can think of doing there was cooking. She was the queen of her jungle.
To her credit, she managed her kingdom very well. Everyone who has tasted her cooking would say so, be it Bisibelle bath or lauki kofta or pasta. Whenever we would go to a restaurant, she would order "our" favourite food and eat it. She will crinkle her eyebrows and immediately list out the possible ingredients that could have gone into it. The next day, she would try it out, and was almost always successful in replicating it. I think she took a personal offence when we ate outside.
At the age of 20, I realised that I may be married anytime, and I don’t know squat about cooking, let alone manage a home. I had no idea how pressure cookers worked, and what dals were. But I wanted to try very badly.
Amazingly an opportunity presented itself. My mother decided to leave the house to run some errands. Fortunately for me, she had left a kadai full of oil on stove, which had been used to make Bonda the previous day. So I decided to use it to make a simple bajji (or Bhajiya). After all, how difficult could it be? I prepared a besan mix with haldi, chilli powder and salt, and cut thin slices of potato and started heating the oil.
The oil started boiling – literally boiling with big bubbles. It started spraying everywhere, scaring me shitless. But, knowing that I won’t get a second chance, I bravely put a couple of pieces in. They disintegrated right before my eyes and the potato (sob!) sank.
After trying and failing a few more times, I cleaned the kitchen as best as I could and exited the crime scene. Few hours later, after inspecting, mom asked,
“What were you trying in the kitchen?”
“Don’t lie. The stove is dirty and the kadai has besan at the bottom. What did you do?”
“I tried making Bajji, but I don’t know what happened..” I started sputtering at this stage as the image came back to my mind.
“Where did you take the oil from?”
“Which oil did you use?”
“I don’t know, it was already in the kadai.”
“No it wasn’t. I remember filling it up with water to loosen the dried bits.”
“I just heated the kadai as it was.”
I didn’t realise why my mom was laughing so hard until much later.
For a ridiculous start like that, it’s a miracle I can cook a decent meal. Maybe it’s the genes. So, now that I know what the difference is between oil and water, I started a food blog. Here is the link: