Monday, March 28, 2016

The "One day" Master Chefs ...

"Kanna ... you cut the onions" Akka took the charge of the kitchen and instructed how the onions should be sliced.

Appa and Amma had gone for a wedding to Coimbatore and the house was left to the kids for two days. Akka being the elder one took charge and dinner was the point of contention. The plan was to make something light for dinner. The discussion finally culminated on making bread upma. Akka started with a smile, a person who rarely entered the kitchen when Amma was at work and she was feeding Akka before she had to rush to the school. The bookworm of sorts, the only three things she loved were text books, notes and sleep. Tall fair and tender as a climber, her name Pachai was apt... green. She could also be dubbed charulatha, the tender branch of a sapling. Her big spectacles, twin braided long hair, fair skin, bright eyes like Appa and silent disposition she looked more like a doctor even when she was at school. She was 17 and Kannan was 14. Not kids anymore, but to parents they are always kids. The teen team ransacked the kitchen to gather all they needed to make Bread Upma. Kannan was confident that a girl of her age would know what to do. Systematic Akka made the checklist and Kannan was the assistant to the "Sous Chef" of the day at home.

Bread, Onion, Tomato, Ginger, Turmeric powder, Sambar powder, Ghee, Salt, Oil, Mustard seeds, and fresh green chilles and a few Curry leaves from the plant in the backyard. 

"Long or small pieces" Kannan checked with Akka
"Anyway you like... just the two of us... no decorations needed, but I would prefer it long" replied Akka seriously thinking about the procedure ahead - cooking.
Tears rolled down Kannan's eyes.... not of sorrow or happiness but the onions. The acrid onions were nicely cut and chilies washed and cut too. Kannan started with the ginger and tomatoes.

She cut the bread into squares meticulously as if she had a lab exam of dissecting the bread pieces. Put the kadai on the gas cook top and poured the ghee. She put the sliced bread and started mixing it. 

"Pachai...." Kannan shouted mockingly “if you are frying the bread, better have the burner on"

Though Akka did not like the comment and seemed another fight was imminent between the siblings, she smiled and lit the gas stove. 
The bread turning golden brown in the kadai and the kitchen filled with the smell of ghee and fried bread. Kannan was getting hungry and the aroma fired the passion in his stomach - to eat. Akka switched the gas off and waited thinking what to do next. 

It was for the first time, Amma had left them alone and every time they were alone they would start a fight. Amma was worried but had to attend the wedding. Clear instructions were given to Akka about what needs to be done and what not. Kannan was told just one thing.

"Be a good boy and take care of Akka"

Akka, like a master chef, poured oil into the pan and added the mustard seeds. She was not used to the splutter and it was very obvious with how she moved away and stood as if she had lit a fire cracker waiting to go off. Kannan looked up and gave her the onions, ginger, green chilies and curry leaves. All were added and the cooking lab came to life. The Onions sweat to a transparent white and the smell was heavenly or was it because of the hunger which had struck both of them.

Then the red chopped tomatoes were added for color, a pinch turmeric powder, a spoonful of sambar powder, a little salt. The cooking would yield them their dinner, or that was the intention. Tomatoes lost all hope and got squished in the heat. Everything seemed to be going nice. The bread pieces were added and tossing started. Akka kept looking at Kannan and the kadai and Kannan did vice versa. The fruits of their efforts. The smiles on their face was at the crescendo. 
"Akka knew how to make bread upma ..." Kannan thought.

That was when Akka remembered the procedure to make Rava Upma .... water for cooking. And she poured enough water to sink all their efforts into the pan. The water made the dish look like a colored paste. Everything turned to be a blob. As the say in Hindi ... kiye karaye pe paani phir gaya. The ghastly looks on their face was worth an Oscar. The bubbles on the blob made it look like some pink paste that was being incinerated in a cauldron by the witches... sticky and viscous. The silence crept in .. the dreams of dinner slowly started vanishing. What to do ...

Akka put in all her strength to heat the water out of the dish that would have been dinner tonight. The pan started moving with the ladle as the paste was getting thicker. 

"All in vain" the same thought filled the young minds. 

Probably the symbolism of the light bulb above a person's head for a bright new idea was understood by Pachai that day. The bulb did glow with a new idea. She quickly took the container with gram flour, added some salt and chili powder and poured the villain - water and missed it to a fine paste. She took the cool paste and made it into balls, dipped it in the gram flour paste and dropped it into the hot oil in a frying pan which she had set by then. Kannan did not have a clue what was happening. But lo... a new dish was born.

"Pachai ... what do we call this", Kannan asked trying to eat one fried new dish by the master chef.
"Blajji" Akka smiled and christened it.

Tasted good but the looks did not matter. The plate full of Blajji's were taken to the dining table with respect and kitchen lights were switched off, with no intention to return in the near future. Later "Blajji" was a dish to remember for both of them. However good or bad a dish looks, the hunger makes it taste so good!!!... A new lesson learnt.

1 comment:

  1. Now I know 2 cook two dishes - bread Upma & Bhajji!! Shall try, of course only when I feel like it, which is rare....