I coast along and then I suddenly realize that my cooking has reached an all time low. This usually coincides with either the parents or the parents-in-law leaving our home and going back to India. Some friends I know tell me they are quite possessive about the kitchen. Not me. When the mothers come and start looking comfortable in the kitchen, that is when I gracefully bow out and let the matriarchs reign. I am not mean: I simply let them do what makes them happy viz, deplore how poorly children eat, and tell me how I must learn how to mix food the same way that our Great Aunt on the Mother’s side used to. I smile, dodge, and mostly hover around the edges, doing the side-cleaning, verandah maintenance and the like.
Obviously, it is with trepidation that I don my chef’s hat again. This time, I decided to undertake foreign cuisines in the first week. I tell the husband that it is because we have been gorging on Indian cuisine long enough, but the truth is that my shortcomings in the Indian cuisine department will be more forcefully brought to light given the recency of the mother’s cooking.
I rummaged through the cupboards and dug out Chinese Manchurian Noodles. That sounded nice. So, I started to make it. I rattled the pots and needled the frozen and sang to the vegetables to cut to my tune. The problem was that the cooking was done before I started the second line of my vegetable song. The Chinese Manchurian Noodles turned out to be a different name on an Instant-Noodles-type-of-packet. The whole thing was over in two minutes flat. I had planned a 5 minute sequence, and I did not notice the noodles was done and let the thing go on a bit.
Overcooking instant noodles brings about a unique texture : it still looks like noodles, but feels like glue and looks like ripped out shards of faded cardboard paper.
I took a sorry look at the mess I had made with 2-minute noodles and decided that what was needed to be done to bring up the bar once again was to make sesame-green-bean. It might have tasted all right if the beans had been edible. It turns out I had a stringy set that would have made great guitar strings, but poor sesame-green-beans. Also, around the time I put the sesame seeds in the oil, I went off to answer the phone and came back to find the sesame seeds an elephant-gray in color. Never one to give up, I threw the beans in and sautéed till they could be sautéed no more.
The family usually has a quip ready the day after the grand-parents of the house leave, but this time I left them tongue-tied with my noodles. Anything that they wanted to say as an after-thought was dealt with firmly by the string beans.
Like the daughter said, “You can’t even joke about this Amma, it is that bad.”
PS: Tomorrow is Italian Cuisine (one can’t go wrong with a simple pasta and soup can one?)