I am not a chef and I have never aspired to be one. Ever. I can cook rice in the pressure cooker and the most basic of vegetables. Most of my cooking before my kids were born used to consist of microwaving plates of cold rice and sabji the local “ben” aunty would provide. But in the last four years, with motherhood has come certain pangs – pangs of guilt that my kids are being conditioned to my bad food and that they are missing out on the delicacies that I enjoyed as a child. And come festival time, the pangs turn into a full fledged clamor in my mind. As much as I love the idea of celebrating every Pilayar Chaturthi with kozhakattais, every varsha paruppu with vadai and payasam and every Gokulashtami with thattai and seedai, as much as I dream about how I will be a bustling hive of activity come “pandigai” day, that out of my pan would come the crispest thattais, the softest polis, the sweetest athirasams, there is a part of me that is praying for these festivals to fall on a weekday so that I can use the convenient excuse of work to make the barest minimum to hold my guilt at bay. I also spend the two days before, working extra hours at work or taking my kids to an extra outing to tire myself out so I can convince myself that I am too tired to cook.
But Gokulashtami this year is a Saturday. And I had no excuses this morning. So I woke up and before you could say “good morning” I was already on the phone with amma, badgering her for recipes. Patta walked in bleary eyed and sensing trouble(and maybe work with the "help" he would have to inevitably provide me), busied himself with getting himself and the kids out of harm’s way. I started with the thattais. The dough had too much water, it seems, and the first batch refused to stay flat in the oil. Some of them even stuck to the bottom. I hurriedly took that batch out and threw them in the dustbin, to hide from Patta (and myself) the evidence of the beginnings of a disaster. The second batch came out brown but soft, like the chewy éclairs Cadbury’s makes. Hmmm. The third batch ended up in the trash black and sooty and I didn’t even remember at that point what thattais were supposed to look like. I then decided that maybe we did not want to eat thatta’s this year but seedai, now seedais were supposed to be Krishna’s favorite snack. So I mixed the batter for the seedais. I proudly popped the tester one in my mouth and it was so salty I nearly choked on it. I then proceeded to mix in more maavu to negate the effect of the salt. Now amma had warned me that seedais tend to burst out of the pan and splatter oil all over you and the floor. But I was disdainful that such a thing could happen to me. So I proudly put in 15 or so in the oil and within minutes, it was a war zone in my kitchen. The seedais started bursting out of the pan and I am sure that they multiplied some how while they were in there. Dodging the flying missiles, I managed to remove the seedais out of the oil and proceeded to clean up the kitchen. By which point the oil overheated and caught fire. Somewhere between fighting the oil spill and the oil fire, self-preservation stomped on my guilt clamors, stomping till they went back to whatever dark corners they hide in on most days. I lifted the receiver and said “Hello, Patta, could you PLEASE pick up a packet of thattais from the desi store on your way back?”
2 months ago