Vantage point

Sunday, November 17, 2002


This post of Satyen's had me in splits. It also reminded me of the fact that had I been living on my own, instead of in a hostel, I'd be eating food of a much more superior quality. That's cos I have had interests in cooking since I was a kid and over the years I have added a lot of tasty concoctions to my repertoire along with the seemingly-mundane-but-not-easy-to-make chappatis. A lot of these additions are due to the fact that whenever my parents were out of town, or visiting relatives whom I found too boring to visit, I was too lazy to go out and get some stuff. Add to it, my keen interest in the art of cooking. So I ended up cooking a lot of stuff at home. Then there were those occassional evenings when my mom would be feeling too bored to cook. On these occasions, me and my da would whip up something scrumptious.

However what I perfected at home was the everyday stuff. I was able to try cooking newer gourmet stuff thanks to my childhood pal Aniruddha Kane, who, like me also loved cooking. Together we have had innumerable sessions of cooking where we have whipped up numerous items, out of which the following stand out in my mind- Chicken curry, fried chicken, keema paav, fried fish, pav bhaji, shahi
paneer, ice creams, veg biryani, cakes, China grass, bhindi fry, aloo parathas, blah blah blah and the most famous two items - Onion Pakodas and Egg Burjee (a spicier version of scrambled eggs).

Now we are both by and large pretty accurate with our sense of proportion. When a recipe says something as vague as "salt to taste", it has masters like Ani and me in mind. But even Sachin tendulkar has first ball ducks. Similarly, we have had our share of follies. Just remember that most of these follies were due to either negligence on my part or a typical Kane-like over-enthusiasm on Ani's part (Satyen and Shantanu would know what i mean).

As you all know I am a very humble man who does not like to gloat over his achievements.....................OK, who am i kidding? Humility is not a word in my dictionary. I just want to narrate our gaffes because they are funnier. So here are some of our most memorable gaffes (note that this is my version and so I will blame Kane for most of them. Kane, get your own blog if you want to tell your side of the story) -

* Ameya, one of our friends was home alone, and we decided to cook some chicken curry at his place. Now after most of the ingredients had been added, Kane felt that the curry would be too plain. He said "spicy curry would taste great" and emptied half of India's red pepper into the curry. "Best laagel rey (it will be the best)" he assured me. Ameya meanwhile did not like the look of things and warned us that the food better be good because if it was not edible we would have to finish it off. Well, as I had feared, the curry turned out to be too hot to handle. We were all making sssssssssssssssss noises with our tongues. Finally, what we were all seen doing was, pull a piece of chicken out of the curry, then shake it well so that the curry falls off, and then eat it wil lots of bread. Some even thought of washing the pieces of chicken. We did finish all the chicken, but we had almost a gallon of the curry left. Some suggested that Ani and I be made to drink it, but the suggestion was not acted upon. It was still the 20th century, when boys were boys and did not make each other drink ultra hot curry. In today's day and age, I am not sure we would have gotten away quite so lightly.

* This is not the only time Ani's propensity to add too much spice fouled up things. Once we had all gathered at his place for a Night-out a few days before the exams. Some guys were very very hungry and we decided to make some egg burjee. Now this was the first time we tried it. Aniruddha said adding garam masala makes a burjee taste great. Sounded reasonable enough to me, so I said nothing as we added heaps of it to the burjee. No, it wasn't the excess of masala that was the problem this time, it was the wrong masala. We had added goda masala instead, a difference which might not seem that big to a non-maharashtrian or a cooking dunce. It was the worst thing to do, cos we ended up making what was the foulest thing to ever come out of eggs since John Hammond genetically created dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park in Costa Rica.

* Then there's the other end of the spectrum for you. Once we decided to have this huge party where we decided to invent a new kind of a chicken dish and also cook keema (minced meat) pav. Now there were also a few vegetarians who had to be taken care of so we decided to make some Vegetable Biryani for them. Now we were so enamoured with the idea of the keema and the chicken that we gave scant attention to biryani. We just chopped some vegetables, cooked a lot of rice, and decided to tackle it later. halfway into the keema and the chicken, we realised that neither of us had any idea about how a biryani is made. The vegetables were in the pan, and we were dumbstruck. Then I had a brainwave - "The internet!!!", (this time, the fact that it was the 21st century helped us). I went online, and did a google search for "vegetable biryani". Read whatever was written, and tried to half heartedly implement it as I saw that the Chicken was turning out real great. Finally people sat down to eat. First up, keema. Verdict - "Wow, delicious. This is so great". Next up, Chicken a la Gaurav and Aniruddha. Verdict - "Amazing, you guys are real pros. Your wives are going to be so lucky" (ignore the innuendos here). And finally - vegetable Biryani. Verdict - stoic silence, followed by an obviously overpolite "It's nice". I tasted it and patooooooey it was so bland and tasteless, it could almost be called Continental Biryani. The veggies couldn't eat this! Ani and I tried to figure out where we went wrong as Vallari ran into the kitchen to salvage the big evil pile of rice. "How is it so tasteless even after the masala you added?" I asked him. "Me? I didn't add any masala. You always accuse me of adding too much of it. I though you will add the masala."
Oooops! So after some instances of too much spice, we balanced our record with a SNAFU featuring no spices at all.

There are more, but these are the richest ones. Oh yes, I have to mention one that is exclusively Ani. he made a green cake!! No, it was a normal cake with no icing or any flavour other than vanilla, but it was green, as if he was celebrating Eid, or St. Patrick's Day. Where ugliness of bakery products is concerned, that one has to take the cake (couldn't resist the pun).

But when all is said and done, all the smoke has cleared, and all the spices have settled down, it will be acknowledged that what Wasim-Waqar are to bowling, Shaq-Bryant are to Basketball, Shankar-Jaikishen were to music and Pete and Bob Farreily are to below-the-belt comedy movies, Ani and I are to the world of amateur cooking.

I miss those days.