Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Being a member of the female species, it was but natural that , during my growing years, we two sisters would be seen in the kitchen helping my mother doing small errands. Since my mother did all the sweating, we took pride in the one odd dish we prepared or the cleaning we did. All that seemed so easy then, never realising that my mother would immediately rescue in case of failed missions.

I was lucky after my marriage too, since we had many helping hands at my in-laws place. So an odd job here or there, a helping hand was maximum that I did. Only in the year 2004, when I moved to Assam,a state in the north eastern part of India, I tried to do cooking in the real sense. My husband got transferred to a lovely place set amidst tea plantations.Since my husband isn't a fussy eater, I was managing the cooking experiments. Both my daughter and husband had no choice and learnt to survive  through my culinary mishaps.

A few months later I felt confident to invite people for dinner, not knowing what was in store. My husband was not very keen on the idea. Maybe he did not want to loose face before his friends. But he did not want to disappoint me either. So I went ahead confident of myself. I still vividly remember the day. I had invited two families for lunch. I did my needed shopping the previous evening. I got up early to ensure that the house was clean. As I had planned the menu, so I went around doing the preparations. I finally had prepared a couple of starters, cooked two varieties of vegetables, set chilled yogurt, made a chutney, cooked a lentil etc. I prepared the dessert and chilled in the refrigerator. I felt quite satisfied with my work. The only dish left was the cumin rice which was my main item. I had invited them around 12 in the afternoon, so wanted to prepare the rice an hour before for  it to be hot. I freshened myself up as I had time so went ahead and  laid the table.

Around 11, I went to prepare the rice. I has specially bought basmathi rice the previous evening. Basmathi is a variety of rice which enhances the flavour of fried rice, biryani or any other  rice preparation. It is usually used during occasions. The most important criteria for cooking rice is to ensure that the water proportion has to be correct. Usually when ordinary rice at cooked at home,  the standard proportion followed is two portions of water to one portion of rice. But for basmathi rice, the water quantity is reduced at least by half a cup. There are varieties of basmathi rice available in the market. Experienced hands can gauge the approximate water suitable to different varieties of basmathi rice.

I applied the standard rule and added one and half cup of water.   Each aromatic grain of basmathi rice when cooked, actually appears separate and look beautiful.  But my cumin rice, when opened looked an absolute disaster. It looked like a semi -paste. I had miscalculated the water portion and I had cooked quite a large quantity. My guests were due any moment.  I was at an absolute loss how to handle it. Even if I throw the paste away and recook, I only had the same basmathi rice with me. I practically had tears in my eyes. I was cursing myself thinking that I should not have been so confident and invited people.

One of the couples whom I had invited was my immediate neighbour. She is quite a good friend. She just walked in, seeing me in this state, immediately came to my rescue. She suggested some immediate damage control measures. I could not believe it. She took a large plate and poured out my semi rice paste. She took a jug of chilled water from the fridge. She dipped  her hand every time in chilled water and started separating small lumps of rice. She arranged the seperated rice grains on a different plate.Viola, they got separated. I too followed suit. Since the rice was steaming hot, our hands by the end of it grew red. We were both sweating, but it was disaster averted at the last minute. We just finished our task and I profusely thanked her for her timely intervention.

The guests arrived and I was really worried when the guests were serving rice. But everything went on peacefully. It was a success, nobody noticed anything unusual about the rice. Had it not been for my friend, I would have had the first culinary mishap. She saved me  a lot of embarrassment in my life.

I have had many such culinary mishaps in the kitchen, but not when I have invited people for lunch or dinner. The culinary mishaps have definitely improved my cooking over the years, and I can rate myself to be an average cook at the end of the day. 


  1. Good take on culinary disasters... probably happens with most... but an extremely well written piece.