Monday, March 10, 2008

Garam Masala

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. :)


शिरीष said...

hay Sai
You have expressed the horrifying experience with perfect humour!

I really can not understand why did you and Shruti discard this dish on the very first day or atleast the next day when even potatoes refused to adjust with peas!
You could have enjoyed your every day meals thereafter or you went through the experience so that one day you can write about it? Why you punished poor Shruti?

Any way your post made me laugh and I enjoyed your Chole.

Saee said...

@ baba..
Yeah..I don't know why but we wanted to see through them. :D
It made a good story though :D

Raj said...

nice story! that must have been quite an experience. but don't worry, if it makes you feel better, I am the worst cook that ever existed on this planet. Once I had to make fried rice for about 20-30 people and I made it so hot that everybody was in tears :p plus they had to be polite and say that it has come out well :D

Saee said...

@ raj.
Yeah..I have an issue with the spices too. Somehow the smell of cloves and pepper and cinnamon makes me forget everything!
Well nice to hear your story!

Endevourme said...

i esp liked the previous post roopali n vaishali one
now chaitanya also is added to this lot :D

Saee said...

@ Endevourme
really? Hmm I should check this chaitanya out sometime. :)
Long time. Where were you?

Endevourme said...

u get awwsome parathas least used to get...didnt go in more than a year now!
me was here not much into blogging :D

dhakaldo said...

:D :D :D
Manapasun hasalo..
and may be to avoid these circumstances, we use everest/parampara chhole masala :P

Shruti said...

hahaha! I have tears in my eyes from really was so trying....I used to lay awake at night and plot and plan to throw out the cholas. But then Id worry that you would miss them, so I let them stay in the fridge for one more night!
God it was so tough to shovel them down my throat - I had no idea that you caught on!!
But it was a really funny memory - and you really are a good cook, nevertheless - Garam Masala infested, still crisp potato and chanas aside!

Saee said...

@ Pushkar is an insult to use ready made spices. I make my own spices even though I burn throats and give people unpleasant mornings ;)
@ Shruti
Yeah..I know!! We should have chucked it then and there. :)
But it makes a good what the hell. Amazing post on your blog too!

Shall said...

I laughed so loud thru out am afraid ma neighbor mite have thought am high on drugs or smtg :P

Its a terrible experience explained with some gd humor. Reminded me of the times I've done similar things...but i must say u stuck to that pot till d end. I wud have thrown it out after puttin potatoes in it, saves others from torture, in'it?

A gracious hats off to ur flatmate, shruti! =)

Saee said...

@ Shall
Yeah..I know..we still wonder why we went on you know. But some things are just written in our destinies. [:D]

RJ said...

I had a similar experience with Kepra's "kanda lasun masala"....but the chicken....assal kolhapuri style which was a result of the culinary still fondly the day all housemates of 5/2 cried....while enjoying themselves to the hilt....and laughing...when they were in pain...the day after !! LOL....

Saee said...

@ RJ
Yeah.kolhapuri chicken..I can write a whole new log on it!
The way they treat you in Kolhapur if you cant eat hot chicken..:)
I was born in I have been through the trauma so many times. :D