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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Morning After

Although I’ve always loved the idea of cooking, the stuff I’ve been making for years hasn’t been much to write about...just the regular, boring, everyday stuff.

I’ve been without any domestic help for almost a year now and, so, when I’m in town, I cook on an almost-daily basis. Or, at least, three to four times a week. While a lot of it is still the regular stuff, now I’ve also started to make new dishes. Stuff that I’ve never had before. And, surprisingly, I’m turning out to be a pretty decent copycat cook! (Sadly, I’ll make it to the category of people who can kick up a great meal with whatever ingredients you give them. Or, the kind who don’t need recipes to cook.) Except for the two curd-based dishes that I made, one with lotus stem and one with arbi (or, colocassia , if you’re the snotty type), every other new dish I’ve tried has turned out beautifully. To be fair to myself though, even with these two dishes, the flavour was pretty good but what went wrong was that one turned out a little gooey and the other a bit chewy. Overall, I’ve been feeling a bit chuffed about the cooking.

But, all along, secretly, I’ve been worried about cooking pasta. Yeah, that’s silly, I know. But, the thing is, I haven’t made it for years and was not sure I’d be able to get it right. A few days ago, however, I bought myself a packet of pasta, spaghetti actually, even though I wasn’t fully sure that I’d have the courage to try it. So, for four days, as I dithered, the packet just sat on the shelf in the kitchen, in full view, giving me the glad eye. Eventually, I succumbed and decided to bite the bullet last night.

To go with the spaghetti, I decided on what some people call the greatest sauce in the world. Just reading the recipe used to make my mouth water! I loved the sheer simplicity of it and the hint of flavour it promised. There’s nothing much to it, really, if you decide not to drive yourself crazy wondering where in hell you’re going to get San Marzano tomatoes or the yellow onion from and, instead, use whatever is available. And, thankfully, the sauce turned out quite well. The pasta? Cooked al dente and coated beautifully with the sauce. Hell, I turned out a pretty darned decent plate of pasta! All that was missing was a bottle of red.

Still feeling smug about it, I was drinking my coffee this morning, talking to a friend and recounting the pleasurable conquest of the night. The chat went on for a bit, from this to that and then some. Finally, we hung up and I decided to make my breakfast. On days I plan to have boiled eggs, and today was one such day, I set them to boil as soon as I’ve finished making my morning coffee just so that they’re done by the time I’m ready for breakfast and that I don’t have to wait. So, as the lovely-looking Ramata Diakite was belting out an African tune in the background, I headed to the kitchen to fix my toasts, boiled eggs and tea. And, almost immediately, I sensed that something was wrong because I could smell something burning. My first reaction at such times, usually, is to think it’s an electrical problem and that a wire is burning. But, it wasn’t. What was burning, in fact and most embarrassingly so, were the eggs! I felt such shame. I mean, who burns eggs while boiling them?! The pan was burnt and smoking. The two eggs, of their own accord, had split and the top of one, somehow, had popped out of the pan and was resting on the counter. Oh, what utter shame even for a copycat chef!

Anyway, resisting this very strong and overpowering urge to immediately do away with all remaining traces of my latest humiliation, and muttering the choicest, I slowly peeled whatever was left to peel from whatever was left of the two eggs. I guess I belong to the if-you’ve-cooked-it-you-have-to-eat-it school of thought. So, still cursing, I made my tea and toasts and, finally, was ready to eat. Then, I closed my eyes, clenched my teeth – well, in a manner of speaking - and bit into the burnt eggs. And, you know what, shockingly, they tasted pretty damned good too!

Something to remember, then, this morning after the night before.


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