Satoma Asadgamaya

In Memory

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Monday, December 05, 2005

What's cooking?!

Macbeth be damned. "To cook or not to cook" - that is the question.

That is the question I face everytime I return from office on weekdays. That is the question I face everytime I wake up on holidays. That is the question I face everytime I look at the input into my digestive system. That is the question I face everytime I look at the output from my digestive system. That is the question I face everyday of my life.

Hell, it's a tough one.

Now, I'd like to take a moment to go through the Top Ten 'answers' that I keep getting.

Answer #1 (54%) : Get married.

My comments : Let's toss these people a few other situations as well. You know, just for the kicks.

Oh, there's an ant!

"Don't worry, there's a sledgehammer in my backyard."

Oh, my boss scolded me!

"Don't worry, there's a Howitzer in my closet."

Oh, whatever will I eat?

"Don't worry, there's a girl in my family."

Well, my question was not "Oh! What will eat me?"

And, by the way, I didn't know that girls still cook these days.

Seriously, these are the sort of people who, if you were to approach saying that you've a headache, would've a machete ready to take your head off. And they'll even say ,"Don't worry." Ch**s.

Answer #2 (11%) : Just cook it.

My comments : I would but for the fact that my brother calls me Mohammad Lazybones. And not for nothing. I actually start crying while chopping onions. That's because I'm just too lazy. Back in Chennai, the maidservant would clean up after me and even chop the vegetables if I asked her to. Here, it's like I've got to everything myself. I'm allergic to all that stuff. I find it easier to eat bread or have packaged parathas with Heinz ketchup ( I love Heinz !). And there's always Budweiser or Hershey's milkshakes.

And when I take the trouble of gracing the kitchen, I'm not a bad cook at all. In fact, there was a time when I used to cook pretty regularly. Quite a few peeps have positively complimented a couple of my preparations. But, to be frank, I'd rather watch television.

Answer #3 (9%) : Get a cook.

My comments : Dude, last time I checked, this is America. It's easier to get my PL to give me a five than to find an Indian cook here. Even if I do find one, I'd have to find a new job as well.

Answer #4 (8%) : Eat out.

My comments : Right. Like French fries and boiled broccoli and lettuce, perhaps? Or maybe I could just have your credit card in order to hotfoot it to The Madras Pavilion everyday?

Answer #5 (6%) : Paying guest funda.

My comments : Of course. Like this is the Bay Area or New Jersey. Can I just pay you and your solutions to disappear? Permanently.

Answer #6 (4%) : Just drink.

My comments : Finally! Proof that there is intelligence left on this planet! The stomach, unfortunately, loses out in the intelligence sweepstakes to the liver.

Answer #7 (3%) : Be a parasite.

My comments : They have big bad leukocytes manning every home I know. It's like I attack their refrigerators once and then they mysteriously acquire immunity. I don't understand why. I don't understand how.

Answer #8 (2%) : The supermarket.

My comments : Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to have the pleasure of introducing to you the super ch**. But, to be fair to the super ch**, this is what I do most of the time.

Answer #9 (2%) : Die.

My comments : I hate to disappoint you but I'm kind of enjoying my life, these woes notwithstanding.

Answer #10 (1%) : 42

My comments : F*** you. 42 times.

It's tough being a vegetarian in the US of A. And a 'pure' vegetarian on top of that (I cannot do without my pastries though). And a fussy 'pure' vegetarian on top of everything else. I guess it's tough being a fussy 'pure' vegetarian anywhere in the world except in India.

You know, it's only veggies who need to find an answer to this question. It's party time for non-veggies. They have all the answers they'd ever need. Steaks and stews and stuff are not too expensive in American cafes and delis. I've been told they taste pretty okay as well. They have seafood and stuff I don't even know about. There's lots of packaged stuff for them in the supermarkets as well. The only reason why Indian non-veggies squeal and scream so much is because all they're interested in is in scrounging for a nickel here and a dime there. They'd make Scrooge McDuck look good. Bums.

All that veggies get is a thenga. There's hardly any packaged stuff available off the shelves unless you want to live on Kellogg's cereal. There's some stuff in Indian stores but it's bland and overpriced and comes without expiry dates.If you can walk into any restaurant and find a menu that even 10% vegetarian, I'll eat my shirt (with Heinz ketchup). You can order any dish saying "No meat. No eggs." The result is always the same - bad salad. Indian restaurants can burn a hole in the pocket. If you go regularly, it's like you go with your trousers on and come back in your singed underpants. And, what more, the ones in the San of Ant suck. I'd tried out a few places at Dallas - it was like being home. It was worth it.

The other day, I was at this Thai place. I know that the word 'vegetarian' is synonymous with 'eggetarian' here. I specifically asked for my dish to be made without meat and without eggs. And they still put in eggs. When I shook my head, they just took it out of sight, removed the eggs and brought it back. I could smell it all over the place. God, I hate that smell. Sometimes, I get frustrated at how insensitive people are.

I like eating out and trying new stuff but, here in America, it's some sort of a mixed bag. Now, don't get me wrong. This is a great place and it's a lot of fun (for peeps who're not averse to promoting local economies). But their food is hardly better than horse shit (not that I've tasted it). I just go to the desserts directly - they outscore Indian cuisine, with the sole exception of authentic Bong rasgullas, by miles in that department. They have amazing dairy products as well.

Anyway, I've sort of realised that it's better to stick to Chinese or Mexican restaurants out here, when I'm out. In fact, Mexican stuff is the closest you'll get to Indian cuisine. It's pretty good - I especially like their tacos and chalupas and pizzas. Chennaites, I'd suggest you try out Cafe Picasso/Hot Breads @ Anna Nagar which serves good Mexican cuisine and even better (yummy!) pastries.

There are a few things that veggies really need to keep their eyes peeled out for here .

The first and biggest mistake that most make is with the cheeseburger. Well, let me put it this way - you order a cheeseburger thinking you'll get something from a cow's udders but what you actually get is the cow's udders. Never ever order a cheeseburger (Mc D's, Whataburger, wherever) without saying "No eggs. No meat." Well, you'll be done in anyway because you'll end up paying the same amount as non-veggies just for a bun and a few slices of tomato and lettuce. It's Murphy's law. If you're veggie, you're screwed.

Second thing. Pepperoni pizza. Let me narrate an incident.

It's my first week. I go to my one of the many cafeterias in my office for lunch. I look around. There are over a hundred items available but there's nothing I can have except salad and pizza. I say to myself, "Okay. Let me try out the pizza here." (The pizza out here is not a patch on the ones we get back in India with the paneer and the masala and all that.) Anyway, there are three options - Cheese, Pepperoni and Supreme. Now, I don't know what pepperoni means (hey, I admit I'm as dumb as George W Bush). I've never had anything to do with it back home. I make a logical assumption that it's got something to do with pepper. Logical assumptions don't work in America. This is a country that elected George W Bush twice. No sooner than I get my order that I know I'm screwed. And hey,the best part of it, no refunds.

Third thing. French fries (and, for that matter, anything that's fried) may not be as veggie as you think they are. Although the major brands don't do that, some of the local ones fry stuff in oil extracted from animal fat.That's pretty hard to stomach.So watch out.

Fourth thing. Most products out here do NOT carry the green/red circle-in-a-square markers to make things simpler for veggies. You just need to know the product before hand or go through the list of ingredients (which is not a lot of fun). Maybe they've a website or something - I need to check that out.

Fifth thing. They always use the same gloves for handling stuff. You don't even want to know what happens back in the kitchen. You'd be surprised to know how developed some of these 'developed' countries really are when it comes to some things.

I'm sure there are many more but I'm still in the process of being caught unawares by them.

To put things in perspective, really, I once went to Taco Bell (which is one the major Mexican chains out here) and asked for a vegetarian Taco Supreme. The girl at the counter looks at me and says, pretty rudely, "Huh? What's that?"

Politely. "A vegetarian Taco Supreme."

Indifferently. "I'm confused."

Well...I was confused too. These people are supposed to know more of colloquial English than I do.

Politely (with a touch of frost, perhaps). "The dictionary defines the adjective vegetarian as having no meat and no eggs."

Sarcastically, "Oh. So you don't want any meat or eggs? That's funny."

Icily. "Really? You're funny too. And beautiful."

Acerbically. "And you have beautiful hair. Must be all that vegetarian stuff you eat."


Sardonically. "Honey, just make that taco as hot as you are."


My friend tells me, "Man. She's going to spit in your taco."

Some of these white bums and bumettes...seriously.

So, I guess you can understand why I'm faced with this question, time and again.

I guess it's a process of trial and error that everybody has to go through. You'll always find people like me handing out fundas but then most stomachs and livers are fiercely independent and need customised inputs. All said and done, there's no way a fussy 'pure' vegetarian can avoid the trials and tribulations of the kitchen in America.

I remember, in my first week here, I overreached myself in trying something and there was a bit of smoke. Just a little bit. And the fire alarm went off. It's really loud and crazy. I had no idea how to turn it off - had to get my neighbour. Man, you learn a lot of things here the wrong way.

Anyway, as much as I used to rubbish Chennai (and still do), I must say I never had any trouble in finding decent food. It was cool. The answer was pretty straightforward back then.

Now, hunger's once again on the prowl.
And I can hear my poor stomach growl.

Ah! To cook or not to cook?
For succour, where do I look?

I can make do with milk and bread
But I'd like something else instead.

Don't tell me I need to make something
I'd rather lay down in my bathtub and sing.

Hey, I just don't want to go out again.
It's cool only if I do it now and then.

Damn! My flatmate's cooking tonight.
The kitchen will be an ungodly sight!

I think I'm going to just tell this guy
That he really should not even try.

His preparations have always sucked.
Aaarghh! My dinner is once again f***ed.

"To cook or not to cook?"

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. I sniff at the draft from the kitchen, shake my head despairingly and heave myself off the bed. I'm feeling a bit adventurous today. Maybe I'll try Mirch Ka Salan and flambe it in Bud Light !

Management Class : Meandering thoughts of a fickle mind

mental baba 1:39 AM
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