Oh, the things we’ve learnt to cook.
I mean, sure, we’re bored out of our skulls. I could, for example, tell you how many tiles there are in my living room, and you could tell me how many lines there are on your bedsheet – we’ve all been there and done that. But, dear reader, I submit that out of that boredom has also emerged a most interesting and revelatory phenomenon.
Cooking is simple, and cooking is fun.
Well, maybe not all that simple, but try and convince me that it is not fun, I dare you. There is something magical in seeing a long list of raw ingredients transmogrify into a most delicious preparation, through a process of alchemy for which you are chiefly responsible.
I have over the last two and a half months made the following dishes: kosha mangsho, caramel custard, various chicken curries, bacon pizza (yes, really. Just yesterday, as a matter of fact), pound cake, chocolate brownies and phirni.
This is, you understand, an indicative list. There have been, at the risk of sounding immodest, numerous other dishes.
Before the virus decided to make Black Mirror episodes look like light comedy, recipes were something I used to watch on YouTube.
And my preferred method of making dishes appear on the table was either to praise the capitalist wonders that are Zomato and Swiggy, or beg and plead with the various culinary maestros I know in Pune city.
But even since the word “lockdown” became a thing, looking up recipes has become just the first step in a long journey.
Ingredients are pored over, and substitutes are figured out. Shopping lists are drawn up, daring expeditions to grocery stores are carried out, and many hours are spent in front of the cooking stove. At the end of which, I am happy to report, a fairly passable dish usually emerges.
Said dishes will never win awards and accolades, but they put a smile on the faces of the people who eat them, and I’ll settle for that. But, alas, there is one dampener on what is otherwise a most satisfying skill acquisition, and it is a rather big one, I’m afraid.
Dishes. Bartan. Bhaandi.
There are far too many of them when it comes to cooking, dammit. There you are, a smug smile on your face, as you contemplate the rather excellent paneer kadhai you’ve just finished slaving over. But before you can sit and partake of your own efforts, you realise that you still have to do the damn dishes.
And dinner hasn’t even started! These, you understand, are the dishes, vessels, bowls, plates, knives, peelers, lids, graters, mixie attachments, spoons and spatulas that have been used to make the paneer kadhai.
Not to mention the cookers, tawas, mortars, pestles, strainers, rolling pins that were used to make the accompaniments. And of course, the cups, saucers and vessels that were used to make the chai that you fortified yourself with before you began cooking.
To be followed, of course, by the plates, bowls, spoons and forks that will announce themselves in the sink at the end of dinner, And that, dear reader, is just one day out of 75. With another 30 to come.
I’d have made a joke about my cup of woe running o’er, but I just can’t take the pun. Cooking is all well and good, but if I spend the next seven lifetimes without seeing a bottle of Pril or a bar of Vim, it’ll be eternity well spent.
And what’s the menu for tomorrow, I hear you ask?
Maggi. A most underrated food group.
He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime
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