"Why go out in the hot sun to eat out?...go buy some chicken, some onions and a couple of tomatoes..how long will you keep eating from restaurants?" Well, my wife had a point..I had 10 days of bachelorhood with me..she and Nina are now in Kerala. And last night was a meal outside..60 bucks for a masala dosa..Times certainly are changing..I figured that I had to step up and make myself count. After all, how hard could it be? I agreed. 33 years into my ordinary existence, I decided to cook my first meal.
The menu was to be rice, chicken curry, a side dish with cabbage, plus the indispensable curd - thank God for at least one off-the-shelf product. I had the shopping list..and out I went in the hot blazing Chennai sun..
The vegetable shop was a familiar place. Still, I never realized there could be tomatoes in various sizes. She had said 2-3 tomatoes, but she didn't say which ones to buy - the big ones or the small. In the end I chose the big ones..the bigger, the better, right? Thankfully, the chicken and the curd didn't pose as many challenges.
Back in our kitchen, I laid out the tools one by one..cutting board - check, knife -check; drinking water (it was bloody hot, and I was parched) - check; and yes, the indispensable mobile phone - CHECK.
The first step was to wash the chicken. This was something I would have loved to avoid. I'd asked the guy to remove the liver, gullet etc. but he had still left the heart for me.. Euuuwww! I washed, and washed and washed. I wonder if I ever washed myself that thoroughly. Around 15 minutes later, I was done..and so was the chicken..washed that is..
I dialed the helpline, and received the next set of instructions..cutting onions wasn't going to be all that hard..I'd done that one before.still, I was stuck as to how small to slice them. Another call solved that for me. Washing the rice wasn't too hard either..I'd cooked rice once before in my life..10 years back in Delhi..I'd burnt it then :-) But now I was older. This time, I would be double careful.
The rice was safely in the cooker..I had a little tussle with the cooker though..the darn thing wouldn't shut. Once that was done, the cabbage was up next. I rather enjoyed dicing the fellow..but I guess I didn't cut it small enough..It was all long and sinewy, that was not how I remembered the cabbage dish I usually ate.
In the meantime, the chicken was getting restless in the pool of water I had left it in. Another call to my wife, and the onions and spices found their way into the cooking pot..soon to be followed by the chicken. Of course that didn't go without incidents..first, I put in a little too much oil..I was told to put just a little bit..and two, when I started mixing the chicken with them spices and onions, the chicken pieces kept jumping out and I had to pick them and put them right back in. I shut the lid on it before I could make a bigger mess. Now all I had to do was wait. But wait..the cabbage was still lying merely diced..I needed to make a dish out of that as well..another call...instructions were simple..heat oil, sprinkle some mustard, just a pinch of it, and then curry leaves, onions, and then the cabbage. Couldn't be easier..oil, heat, mustard, and then those things started jumping all around..I must have put too much of mustard..it jumped all around, and yes, onto me as well..like hot pin pricks they were. I quickly put an end to their riot by dousing them with all the cabbage. Again, another lid to keep them quiet. And then came the waiting..
I don't know how long I waited. Every now and then I would open the lids to see how the chicken and the cabbage were doing. They were ok..no complaints from either of them. Chinju asked me to check the chicken gravy..that was ok..(no, I hadn't forgotten to sprinkle the salt)..so things were ok.. In the meantime, I had to take the rice out of the cooker..I was to open the lid, check the condition inside, and then drain the water out...I was a little wary of doing this, but in the end it turned out fine. The rice wasn't burnt at all, and it had boiled just fine.
I had started my endeavour at 12.30 PM with the shopping. At 3 PM, I sat down to eat in front of the TV. I tasted, and saw that it was all good..sure, it wasn't anywhere as good as the chicken curry that Chinju makes, but then, it wasn't all too bad either. I would live to fight another day...
This was yesterday..Sunday..today, I have the chicken left over for dinner. And I put some rice in the cooker again. It is now time to open the lid and see what's come of it. But now, I know one thing:
Everyman CAN cook :-) with quite a little bit of help from his loving wife :-)