I love cookery shows. Not for the recipes, most of which are common or tweaked too much for my liking — but for the neat array of bowls holding the required quantities of ingredients, ready to tip into the cooking vessel.
Come to think of it, an organized kitchen is a pleasure to work in. I try my best to maintain a kind of organisation of the contents that make it easy to find stuff, no matter how small or big it is. And of course, I also keep all ingredients needed for a dish ready before lighting the stove! I learnt the latter lesson the hard way when I made my near disastrous kitchen debut at the age of 14.
But first I must tell you about the stove.
In those pre-gas-stove days, it was the trusted primus stove aka ‘pressure stove’ that did duty in most homes. Lighting it was a complicated affair. The nozzle and burner were first heated with a little bit of kerosene or denatured spirit and then a push-pump was worked to send up a fine spray of kerosene to make the burner start working giving out a blue flame with a hissing sound. One could reduce the pressure and thereby the flame, but if switched off, it would be a pain to light it again.
And now for the story:
Having convinced my mother that I could make sheera (suji ka halwa) all by myself (hadn’t I watched her do it so many times?), I told her, ‘You just relax and I will bring you a bowl of hot sheera in a jiffy!’
She smiled and asked, ‘Do you have everything you need?’
‘Sure! Now you go and relax!’ I replied breezily.
I lit the stove and watched it burn with admiration – for my expertise! Only then I realised that I didn’t have anything to put on it! Ah, water! I put a vessel with water to boil on it and began looking for the kadhai and other ingredients.
Mother’s kitchen was perfectly organised, and I didn’t have to search for anything, but which of the four kadhais to use? By the time I decided upon one the water had begun boiling. I still had to get the rawa and in my hurry I spilled some, well actually lots of it. Some mess was ok for a novice, right? I tried to hum to still my nerves as I roasted the rawa. And then suddenly I remembered the cardamom and cashew. Abandoning the roasting, I went to look for them.
‘The rawa is burning!’ Mother called from the other room. How could she smell it from so far and I couldn’t? I ran back to the stove but magically the kadhai had been replaced with another one with fresh rawa!
‘Roast it, without pause,’ she said. I didn’t take my eye off the rawa this time and so didn’t see how things appeared magically near my right hand – the small tadka pan for frying cashews, the ghee, the cardamom and….the sheera was ready!
Mother was sitting in the other room with a magazine when I took a bowl of halwa for her as if she had never moved from there! Was it really a genie then in the kitchen? And the sweetheart that she was, she told the rest of the family how I had done it all by myself!
Needless to say, that was the first and last time that I ever cooked without first keeping everything ready at hand. And I leave the lighting of the stove till the last, even when it is the gas stove that can be switched on and off easily! After all, I can’t count on a genie every time, can I?
So how organised a cook are you?
The author is your regular neighborhood granny. Loves cooking, feeding her friends and family, telling tales and reading children’s books among others — on her Kindle. She is comfortable with people her age, older than her and of course all youngsters right down to infants. And oh, she is in tune with the times too. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp. You could call her Gadget Granny Seeta, if you like. She loves saying that the tip of her tongue is in the fingers on her keyboard!