When Moi was a kid, he ate cashew nuts, dry grapes, pottu-kadalai, mixture of horlicks + sugar (apdiyeh saapduven!), thenga thuruval + sugar etc in the premise of assisting amma while she cooked the dinner. He also had the perseverance and experience of tasting all the items at every stage of its Work In Progress. He knew how a dish tasted in different stages when getting cooked. He would not let the dosais come out of kallu (apdiyeh saapduven!) and tasted everything that was in kitchen – literally everything - including but not limited to uncooked, quarter cooked, semi cooked, cooked, fully cooked items. He, in-fact learnt the theory of heat transfer practically by seeing how the heat got transferred from a hot dosai to a cold dosai when kept one above the other. Moi’s dinner time at home was 7:30 PM and whatever happened, he was supposed to go to bed before 8:30. It was (and still is) a simple south Indian Brahmin household dinner that was either white rice with sambar and rasam or chappatis or pooris or idlis or dosas. Invariably, the dinner always ended with a thiyer saadham ( curd rice). No meal is complete without a curd rice you knowww….
The first time Moi cooked his dinner was when he was in his 7th std when his appa and amma were out of town for a day or two. He always had his sister - a scapegoat – standing spell bound besides him during whatever experiments he does in the house. The rava upma they prepared was undercooked and he consoled himself that being “under aged” was the problem and everything would be fine in another 10 or 15 years. That was the first and last time he had tried his hand in cooking till he joined his Engg college.
During his Engg college days, Moi shared a three bedroom apartment with seven roommates. Of the seven, couple of them were really good cooks. These two gurus took up the responsibility of cooking the dinner and it was agreed that rest six would perform the associated duties of cleaning the utensils, grinding the flour, shop vegetables, groceries etc apart from eating stomach full. The sishyas took turns in performing the duties and Moi somehow made sure that he turned ill or had important assignments to write when it came to his turn. All the fellow room mates were equally lazy to an extent that three guys shared single plate during dinner (reduction in number of plates to be washed u knowww….) On paper, the room had eight people residing in it; but the gang in which Moi was an integral part had more members and unfortunately all of them had big appetite and number of people who started having dinner in the room grew steadily. At one point of time the there were 14 and it looked like a typical bachelors mess/hotel. Post meal, the apartment looked like a mortuary when all 14 slept covering their faces in the living room (as hall had the music system and every body wanted to listen to music). Though the gang loved eating and spending time together, this set-up continued only for a year because of fights and disagreements between the sishyas on sharing the duties. The gang shifted its base to a near by Andhra mess which provided unlimited meals. ( The Andhra mess welcomed the guys without knowing that it was the last day that it enjoyed an sizeable operating profit….man…the rendezvous with the Andhra mess was fun and would definitely require a dedicated post in the blog).
During his saidapet stint , Moi had his dinner in Logu mess, setu chappati kadai, amma mess, valarmathi mess ( ask any bachelor in west saidapet..these hotels would defenitely feature in their list of favourite hotels). During his MBA days, Moi was staying in a PG ( paying guest accomodation) and shared his room with his long time friend – selvaraj ( who is now in US and claims that he has become a great cook). The PG food can be eaten only when it was hot (Medical reports ?!! say that the tounge had less chance of recognicing taste when the food is served hot.) Moi and Selva ate outside in hotels and that was the beginning of Moi’s long standing relationship with the hotels and bachelor mess’s in chennai. In
Parata ( its Barota here in chennai) , dosais and idlies where his staple dinner and man…naaku sethu pochu. Moi and his roommates longed for the homemade dinner and so, decided to make their own dinner ( koozoh, kanjiyo…nammaleh senji saapdalaam macha…).
Ask Moi what his perfect dinner would be…No second thoughts, he would come up with
Urulaikezangu poriyal ( potato fry)
Arisi appalam ( rice pappad)
Thaalichu kotina more (butter milk)
poo maadri white rice
Oorgai ( pickle)
Whatever be it – a romantic candle night dinner ( Moi had candle night dinners when there were power cuts in his house) or beggar style “plate carrying” buffet dinner or any type for that matter; cant even think of competing with the above menu when its home prepared. The real taste is when you sit on the floor and eat them in front of the idiot box.
Though Moi always believed that he had the art and chemistry, physics, biology of cooking running in his blood, he never hesitated asking for a 1st level telephone support during cooking.
“Ayio, Amma…what now? Its boiling…should I add the vegetable now…or later…” and amma would scream from the other end “ dei, your voice is breaking, come out of kitchen” and Moi always doubted if ever amma knew that one has to be in kitchen to cook!
Moihas slowly picked up the systematic way of cooking and what he lacks now is consistency in taste. It takes atleast an hour to prepare a simple dinner. Now, Moi and his roommates face the daily challenge of cleaning the utensils and keeping the kitchen neat and tidy.
From his cooking stints, Moi understands the fact that to cook – as a task - is itself tough, but the tougher is to cook 3 times a day without loosing enthusiasm and to consistently maintain the taste; the toughest is when the whole effort is not recognised by those who eat. The whole world knows that Moi admired thaaikulams (the young ladies in particular).Now his admiration towards them has increased multifold and spl round of applause and recognition to those ladies who go to office and as well perfome their duties as homemakers. You people are amazing and it’s impossible for a guy to be as patient and hardworking as you are!
As you listen to the applause, Let Moi go and prepare the dinner…