I am known to have an attitude when it comes to cooking. I think too highly of myself.
Even though I know that people get bored, I insist on talking about the great "cooking heritage" that runs in my family. I can trace back the "great cooks" in my family tree for up to three generations before I was born and I am marginally emotional about being criticized as a cook.
On one of those easy, languid Christmas Break days last year, while I was spending my time at Kenmore with my flatmate Shruti, I had this piercing urge to make Chole ( an Indian recipe with chickpeas). Shruti soaked them for me and we decided to give it MY best shot. We spent this particular break living in this temporarily uninhabited house that belongs to Shruti's uncle who was in India with his family. The house was a dream come true with a kitchen that might as well have rainbows painted on it to make it look like it was- out of a fantasy! Both of us lived like this old couple . Where I cooked my heart out and we watched the entire FRIENDS series ignoring each other. To complete the pretty picture we had a nutty dog called Benz to look after.
Needless to say that my cooking hormones were raging and I jumped at recipes and anything that could be cooked in the refrigerator.
So I started off quite well I must say. With the perfect "atomic chopping" of onions ( this is a term I have invented to describe finely chopped onions according to my standard). I opened the spice cabinet and realized that Shruti's aunt had a collection of ground spices as well as whole spices that mingled in the air around the cupboard and hypnotized me. I don't know how much and how many of those pretty powders I used but the end result was a ear-blocking-tongue-numbing-nose-cleansing hot dish. I could not believe my tongue when I had the first bite and I thought I had accidentally bit it. Poor Shruti could not even express it. I think she was stunned for a while and when she recovered she was too polite to say anything. After a few spoons though she turned red and I could see her stifling her sniffles so that I feel appreciated. Finally I broke the ice by declaring that something was awfully wrong with the peas. I tried blaming it on various things but eventually I just accepted that I got carried away.
We tried adding water and boiling it again but it stayed put. So we left it in the fridge expecting some kind of a messiah miracle the next day but it stayed as hot as it was. So I tried to salvage my reputation by adding potatoes in to it. Unfortunately in my bout of low self-confidence I undercooked the potatoes and they refused to blend in with the peas. So we had hot peas in the background with some uncooked potatoes and a lot more volume to finish.
In order to get everything together I added some more water but then we had hot overcooked peas and potatoes and some more volume.
It was like this perennial pot that kept creating more peas with every meal and no amount of lunches dinners and snacks took the pain and discomfort away from us.
Then we started taking turns. I used to cook something nice and one of us had to have the peas as a punishment for every meal. If one of us had it for lunch, it was the other's responsibility to have her "share" for dinner and leave the other one pea-free.
I have never in my life felt so ashamed of my cooking skills. It was a torture watching Shruti keep a plain face every time she scooped a spoonful into her mouth.
I was genuinely worried that I would be responsible for an ulcer or something very soon.
It took an emotional toll on me too. I lost my bearing in the kitchen for a while after that and I could not even trust myself to make a cup of tea. I must confess that in this psychologically fragile time Shruti stood tall by me and reminded me of all the tasty things that I had managed so well in the past. She assured me that I would get over it with the next successful recipe and she also consoled me that even this was not that bad, it would have been a hit in my birth town Kolhapur and I would actually win a competition with the same recipe. :)
Then one day, about four days from th fateful day of making the recipe I resolved to put an end to it. I sat down with toast and had all of the leftover. I had tears in my eyes and everything I ate for about three days after that tasted like paper but I was glad I put an end to the misery that I had cooked up.
I recovered from the trauma with a successful stint at Banana bread just a while later but the pea-horror still manages to give me goose bumps.
So every time I get a little too full of myself in the kitchen, I remind myself of December '07 and I honestly stay away from Garam Masala these days. :)