Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Someday I'll wish upon a star...

Today, I'm thinking of the kurma avatara myth in the Dasavataras, in which the devas and the asuras churned an ocean of milk to raise the nectar of life from its depths. I imagine it was glistening and viscous. When it caught the light just so, it would shimmer. When you dipped a spoon in it, it would ripple, then settle in its pristine goldenness. When you drizzled it on ice cream... but it seems sacrilegious to think of drizzling the nectar of immortality on ice cream.

As you grow older, you learn things about yourself. I now know that I will never be tall and thin and that dressing like I am will only make me look ridiculous. I know that no matter how reluctant I am to start exercising, I will get into it after the first ten shitty minutes. I know that I cannot walk too long in high heels without wanting to cut off my toes. And I know that when I start browsing Foodgawker, it's not because I want to find something to cook, it's because I'm hungry and had better fix myself a snack before I get hangry. None of this self-knowledge is of much use: I still buy skirts for amazons, put off working out, wear high heels and limp and am too lazy to leave my desk to get a snack. So I browse through Foodgawker for page after page, looking at gorgeously lit photos of beautiful food. Incidentally, I am so over the word beautiful to describe food and produce. I think chefs on TV shows have used it to death. The word has ceased to have meaning. Octopus tentacles might be delicious, I don't know, but they are not and never will be beautiful. So I'm going to cast about for other adjectives to describe food, as I tell you about all the things I've been snacking on of late.

A took me to a fancypants Italian restaurant, the sort that sold tomato and red pepper broth for 300 rupees and convinced us at the time that 400 was a reasonable price to pay for bits of toast with mayo on them. Still, the one dish we really went for was also the simplest, a bruschetta with finely diced tomatoes and a few slivers of basil. The basil plants at home are getting out of hand and badly need pruning. I did my bit by pinching at them here and there till I had a tidy pile of leaves. I've made bruschetta before, but I think the thing that made this place's the best I'd ever tasted, besides the fact that it compared favourably with toast smeared with mayo, was that the tomato was very finely diced. The toast was dry and rubbed with garlic. Then the tomato was piled on and its juices allowed to seep down. The whole thing was topped with only chiffonaded basil and a glug of olive oil. It was pulchritudinous. My toasts were thinner and lacked structural integrity. I rubbed them too energetically with garlic wearing out holes in their middles. Luckily, my tomatoes were too roughly chopped to fall through the holes, because my knives aren't sharp. The basil tasted nice. I ate three, then went back to Foodgawker, only breaking to snack some more on chocolate.

On the rare days that I do plan ahead, I've been making a salad. Amma's big on saving on food waste, so she collects the rinds of the limes I squeeze and pickles them in salt. I dig these preserved rinds out of their jar and whir them in the blender with mustard, green chillies, fresh basil, olive oil, salt and sugar. The resultant sauce is acid green and tart tasting. It dresses a salad of poorly chopped tomatoes, onions and cucumbers very well. I keep the salad in the fridge and pick at it all day long. It's foxy.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cooking for one

I notice a distinct difference between how I cook for myself and how I cook for others. When A is around, I plan ahead and shop for fancy ingredients. I soak, ferment and stew. I make multiple component dishes and plate up on fabulous pottery. Not always, but often enough. I even take photos of the food in natural light, and post them on Instagram. 
When I eat alone, my food is brown. That is the colour it turns, no matter how it begins. On Tuesday, I spent an hour boiling dal into submission, first in the microwave, then in a pan on the stove. It turned brown. I added some stewed cabbage to it, and as much garlic as I could be bothered to peel. Then I left it to cool on the hob and went to bed without dinner. In the morning, I checked on it, half hoping it was spoiled enough to throw out, but it smelled alright and looked as unappetisingly brown as it had, despite the natural light. I couldn't justify throwing out perfectly good food, so I boiled it again, mostly out of spite, and then cooled it and shoved it into the fridge. It has lain in there ever since, judging me, every time I reach into the fridge for another ear of corn. That's what I've been eating mostly, microwaved ears of sweet corn, with salt rubbed into them. Except, the salt in my spice box has gotten into the turmeric and cumin sections, so it's become a spice rub all by itself. I remind myself of the anti inflammatory properties of turmeric as I gnaw on my corn and watch reruns of Master Chef. I even pop a vitamin pill every morning. 

Today, I felt fancier. I sauteed onions and mushrooms in a pan, and then cooked them up with Ching's Secret two minute noodles. I even scattered leftover pizza seasoning from a sachet over the top and congratulated myself over my thriftiness. The whole thing turned brown. I left it in the pan to cool and boiled up another ear of corn.