Thursday, April 30, 2020

Not Foolproof!

Today's prompt:
A first-person narrative in your or any other assumed character's voice, telling an anecdote into which is woven a recipe. Woven is the operant word - not listed. 500 words.

Being newly married, enthusiastic, over confident and absent minded can lead to interesting results, particularly in the kitchen, particularly in the pre-Internet, few phones era.

I thought I could cook.  There were things I could, and things I couldn’t. I had never cooked ridge gourd, for example, so the first time I made it in my mother-in-law’s kitchen it was extremely watery. She gently told me that it gives off a lot of water when you cook it. Lesson learnt.

We were in Thailand, sharing a flat with a colleague whose wife and son hadn’t yet joined us. (More staff flats were under construction). So it was a point of honour to serve good food to both husband and flatmate. I had overheard my neighbours talking about their recipe for gulab jamun. It sounded simple enough. There was a locally available Molly Milk Powder, a cupful of which you mixed with two tablespoons of maida, a large pinch of baking powder, and you kneaded a soft dough with a few spoonfuls of milk. I took out my steel paraat, (brought from desh, along with two thhaalis, pressure cooker, and rolling pin, and sundry other essentials) and did so, and made two dozen small balls which I covered with a damp napkin.

I decided to fry the balls in desi ghee, since I was making a sweetmeat for the very first time. (It was Australian, but ghee nonetheless). I planned to serve these as dessert, after lunch, which I had already prepared. Those were the grand days when the plant hadn’t yet been commissioned, the men were working a general shift, and came home every day for an hour’s lunch break. Once production started, we had to get used to the regime of morning, afternoon, and night shifts, all rather unkind to one’s body clock. On one side I made a syrup of two cups of sugar and three cups of water, into which I crushed a few of the precious cardamom pods my mother had given me, and on the other side I fried the gulab jamun on a slow fire.

I was humming to myself as I laid the table. Each batch was fried and immersed in the syrup. The men came home and we ate our lunch. Then, all eager and excited, I served my precious dessert. But…

Their spoons didn’t seem to be cutting the sweet. Both men smiled politely, and said, very nice, very nice, and managed to eat one gulab jamun each. I served myself, now full of trepidation. It was as hard as a rock. Oh no. What had I done wrong? I rushed to my next door neighbor, and told her exactly what I had done. To my chagrin, I learned that I had forgotten about the critical two tablespoons of ghee that the dough required.

I didn’t let that defeat me. I ground up the cannon balls in the blender, dry roasted some atta, and made some really delicious gulab jamun barfi.

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