northern lights

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Tuesday, 3 January 2012

from my kitchen diary --Part iii

Cooking for your  family is always a pleasure. The dishes that you dish out evoke  mixed response from the dining area.Some may find your concoction very yummy, there may be others who are indifferent and will gulp down any thing laid on the table with an expressionless face and some others who fearlessly go on commenting on the shortcomings of the dish placed before them without realising what goes behind it.
  'What goes behind it' is the  thing that matters.The food which is served on the  table with garnishing  and exotic  dressings has a back stage story. Kitchen misery or kitchen mishaps are  nothing new for a housewife.  We may be experts in cooking but  some time or the other we are faced with peculiar  situations which not only delay the cooking  but create situations which sometimes become embarrassing.My  first test in kitchen management surfaced on the day after my marriage. My sister-in-law and her family had come from Kerala.I did not have any expertise in the art of 'cooking management'. In spite of my servant's   counsel to make less than what  I wanted him to prepare I ensured that he made the quantity  specified by the mistress. An  embarrassing situation  arose when my sis- in -law commented that I had been too generous and prepared food for the whole marriage party.Not even 1/10th of the food was consumed. My mother had sent her own servant to our house knowing fully well that her daughter was a novice and would not be able to  handle kitchen affairs.Thereafter I stopped interfering and gave him full freedom!!
        After the exit of the boy the charge of the kitchen came on my shoulders.It was no easy task.I used to mess up things quite often.At least five days in  a  week milk was spilled.Sometimes the dough for preparing  chapatis became too watery.I rolled it it in a newspaper.It was put inside  a  dust bin to brood over its fate!!   It is a very common occurrence that the family is seated at the table waiting for steaming hot rotis,when  without any notice the gas flame will go off,an indication that the gas has let us down at a crucial moment.The arrival of guests at the last  minute tests the efficiency of the housewife.. You don't know how to manage the food for additional  numbers.You enter the kitchen and hurriedly  churn out  whatever is available. The greatest kitchen crisis unfolds when the maid  decides to take an off without any prior intimation. Surrounded by a mountain of vessels, you have to dispose them off by cleaning them.In the process you break  a glass bowl or a plate and curse yourself. But there is no way out. Do or die!  I read some where that a messy kitchen is a happy kitchen.  I personally don't believe in this dictum. I want my kitchen to look spic and span.
       Last week I had to face another peculiar situation. I was baking Christmas cakes. I had to make five of them. Four cakes were baked without any hassles.The fifth one was put in the oven.  Hardly ten minutes had  passed,when the electric current decided to go off.I was in a state of  shock!!The cake was liable to be spoilt. Immediately it was kept on gas stove. It was but natural that the last cake was a flop.Few days  back another incident occured in our house.There were guests at home. While serving  rice the tray full of rice slipped from the hand. The rice fell on the floor and could not be retrieved. The very next  day there was a repetition of the previous day's incident. This time it was chicken curry instead of rice. This episode was performed by my daughter-in-law. The poor girl felt very awkward.Every one laughed away the incident,terming it  as  kitchen  disaster!!
 Mishaps in the kitchen are universal. Every body has to face unwarranted situations in the kitchen. Some days back a friend of mine was stuck in such  a situation.It was her daughter's birthday and she was preparing chicken for dinner. When the onions were being sauted she had a look at the chicken.It was nowhere near the one she had ordered. She called the shop and ordered for another one.In the mean time the onions got burnt.How sad! She kept another batch of onions for roasting.While this was going on  the call bell announced the arrival of fresh chicken.The onions got burnt burnt again.Oh my God!! She  wanted to prepare rice but found it was insufficient for the family.How precious time is wasted  in the rigmarole of kitchen needs!! Now  finally after finishing  cooking chicken and biryani she started with a cake. Here too,she found herself in an unenviable situation.The butter cream did not get the desired consistency.It must have been bugging.In fact after getting very tired she told me to narrate this funny situation to others. She also told me that once she kept baby feed bottles for boiling,and slept .Morning she found  the gas on and the plastic completely melted.  Her kitchen was saved .It would have been catastrophic if the kitchen had caught fire!Such mishaps are scary. In my kitchen also such a situation was averted.
  Such situations can turn ugly and tragic.Even though we laugh away these disasters, it is . essential that we take them seriously.We must take basic  precautionary measures to avoid accidents in the kitchen.Some measures, which I can think of and are simple to implement, are being recounted ;
  • a.  the kitchen should not be cluttered.
  • b.  all  the items required for cooking a particular dish  should be placed at a convenient spot so that they can be easily accessed.
  • c.   when leaving the kitchen ensure that the gas and other electrical appliances are switched off.
  • d.  the gas burners tend to clog so it is essential to clean them.
  • e.  when removing a pot from the fire one should be extra cautious.
Hope these little  suggestions  ,if implemented ,will go a long way in preventing mishaps which occur in our kitchens. Happy and safe cooking!!



    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Indeed, Bua Ji.

      The art of cooking involves much more than just coming up with delicious meals. Infact, a well-cooked meal is a product of a combination of factors - the right ingredients, a hygienic and orderly kitchen, the right timing, etc. - all of which together make up what you have rightly termed as "cooking management".

      I think cooking management is also about multi-tasking. I always find myself awe-struck to observe my mother managing to "execute" so many things simultaneously, and all by herself, while working in the kitchen. My mother, and every woman who spends hours in the kitchen to keep her family well-fed, deserves to be acknowledged as a "domestic engineer" or a "domestic manager".

      Your concluding suggestions on 'disaster-proof' cooking are the most basic and essential lessons for a safe and happy cooking experience. I'll keep them in mind forever:-)

      Love to you,

    3. Dear Mrs. Menon,

      Very useful tips and another great article.

      I visited your blog before, a few months back and am glad I came back again to check.

      I guess everyone learns from their mistakes. Cooking is an art which can only be perfected by practice. Being a cooking enthusiast myself, have been through several such "kitchen disasters" but after many years of practice now have managed to learn the tricks :)

      I can cook decent enough now and looking back, am so glad I made all those mistakes :)

      All the best and keep writing !!