In Flying Colours

The weekend is almost over and the pending invitation to the distant rellies is conspicuous by its absence. What a relief! Meanwhile, I’ve been working hard to rectify extremely negative first impressions generated by the disastrous welcome meal. Since Friday evening, the kitchen has been my domain and I have churned out masterpieces one after the other, starting with chicken soup from a packet improved by adding real chicken stock and scraps of chicken, and progressing in gradual stages through fried arbi, to prawn in coconut curry.

Yesterday evening was torture, though, because it involved making a bong horror story called Shukto, which consists of many inedible ingredients such as egg plant, bitter gourd, raw banana, flat beans, white radish (or whatever Mooli is called in english) and drumsticks. While my trusty cook and I were in the midst of putting together this nightmare dish under instruction from the aunt, three other items were also in the frying pan, namely, slimy dal (urad dal made slimy – don’t ask me how, I’m still trying to figure it out), malpooa (a sweet – something of a cross between shahi tukra and gulab jamun), and chicken curry. At least I was the sole owner of the last named… but with four people crowded into my tiny kitchen putting together four items in parallel, the evening could best be described as chaotic.

This morning, we of course had enough food left over to feed a small army, but I was feeling done out. Last evening having been spent receiving instruction, I needed to do something to redeem my reputation – or perhaps to establish one – as a capable cook. Mutton curry, I felt, would do the trick. Not to be unduly modest, mutton curry is one of the things – apart from cakes – that I do know how to make and make well.

So, Sunday being a lazy sort of day, mutton was ordered home by phone and at 10.30 I disappeared into the kitchen with it. In my opinion, cooking is best done in a slow, leisurely fashion. So it was 12.30 before the mutton was ensconced in the defective pressure cooker, and 1.3o before it was declared done. Meanwhile I had been busy filing my nails, oiling and washing my hair, and making polite conversation on the phone and fending off intrusive personal questions from another bunch of distant rellies.

Needless to say, the mutton curry was a hit. It went down so well, that I’m sure the aunt ate more than she should have from a red-meat and blood pressure perspective, and less than she would have liked. She asked searching questions about the preparation, which I answered openly as I have no culinary secrets from her (except for the small matter of sambar powder, which, had I told her, might have shocked her to the core). From the tenor of the conversation I gathered that this mutton curry was about to go down in the extended family history as my culinary masterpiece – being the head of the family and a discerning gourmet to boot, her opinion counts for a lot. She even invited me to repeat the dish at Amit’s birthday party, at which 20 plus of the family’s most important members would be present. I wormed my way out of that one…  while I do make a pretty scrumptious mutton curry, what if just due to performance anxiety I were not able to pull it off in those circumstances? It would not be my own kitchen, after all, nor my own defunct pressure cooker. And besides, where would I get sambar powder???

Anyway, only a dinner to go and then we’re done… and there is a little bit of mutton curry left, to reinforce the impression made at lunch. Everything going well, I might pass the culinary test in – to borrow a phrase from a comment to the previous blog – flying colours.


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