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The bedroom door was thrown open. To someone struggling to hold on to every precious thread that is sleep, this was traumatising.
“Kirthika! Wake up! You wanted to cook lunch today!”, Amma was being impatient for no reason.
Having worked through the night, I was finding it difficult to open my eyes. They begged to remain closed. I checked my smartphone for the time. 10 AM. Shoot! I’m late!!
“Your eyes are only half-open and the first thing you do after waking up is check your mobile!”, the voice faded away even as I was trying to place its owner.
Amma was probably having one of those days. As for me, that remark was enough to make me lose any motivation to cook. I dragged myself out of bed anyway. You see, this is me trying to successfully adult. And adulting meant you had to be the mature one in the room. Doesn’t matter that the other person was your parent. But hey, by the time you realise you have to act like the adult that you are, your parents are too adult to act like adults. If that makes sense… Anyway, moving on… the star of the lunch menu was Chettinadu Poondu Kuzhambu and Seppankizhangu Fry.
I decided to have a quick bath before I started cooking (I have an OCD-like obsession with hygiene), and to my dismay came out to what I suspected my mother was up to all the while I wasn’t in the scene: she had the tamarind water sitting complacently in a bowl just the right size. The garlic was neatly peeled and ready. Every other ingredient that I required to make was there, sitting obediently in a horizontal arrangement next to the stove.
“Your Mother has done 90% of the work. What is left for you to do?” Thanks Dad.
Mom -1, Kirthika – 0.
So there I was in the stuffy kitchen, referring to my smartphone again, trying desperately to memorise every single step laid down in the recipe.
“You really need to put that phone down, you know. When you’re cooking, cook!”
“I’m trying to follow the recipe, Ma!” I snapped. There goes my cool.
“Stop being so impatient with your mother. She was making a valid point!” Thanks again, Dad.
“I. Am. Referring. To. The. Recipe.”
“When I was your age, no, wait… Actually I started cooking at 16. Anyway, when I was your age, I just had to get a short briefing from my mother about what I had to do. I didn’t have any cook book or Google, you know.”
Mom – 2, Kirthika – 0.
“Huh!” Dad went back to devouring The Hindu.
Patience, I reminded myself.
I went back to stirring and frying and sautéing. A nice aroma (I’m just starting to learn the ropes of cooking, and every single thing I get right feels like a big achievement) was filling the kitchen, and my stomach grumbled a reminder that I hadn’t had my breakfast. Why won’t this thing hurry up and get cooked soon?
The next 20 minutes were an endurance test for me. This was what transpired between Mommy Dearest and me:
“Wait! Don’t add so much red chilli powder!” she panicked.
“I’m following the recipe.”
“Fine. Do what you want.” and off she stalked out of the kitchen.
But she was back in no time.
“Add a little more salt. You’ve added too little.”
“I’ve been cooking for so many years! You think I won’t know?!”
“Ma, I got this.”
“You’re so stubborn!”
10 minutes pass. She couldn’t help but check on me again.
“Add some sambar powder. C’mon.”
“The recipe doesn’t include sambar powder.”
“You should! It gives a good flavour.”
“Ma, I’m trying to replicate a Chettinadu recipe.”
“Okay…?” she obviously thought I hadn’t finished my sentence.
“I don’t want to Mylapore-ise it with your sambar powder.”
That caught Appa’s attention.
“What did she say?”, he asked, irritated.
“She’s refusing to add sambar powder”, Amma complained a tad too quickly for my liking.
“Ayyyoooooo!” I didn’t realise till then that I could wail through gritted teeth.
“If you’re going to create so much ruckus each time you cook, Kirthika, you might as well stay away from the kitchen!” Dad lost his cool too. I think I get it from him.
“Okay! It’s done! No sambar powder! Still tastes good!” I offer a ladle of kuzhambu in an almost manic fashion. The parents tested it, and conceded defeat.
Parents – 0, Kirthika – 100. Muhahahaha!!!
“You’re done?! That’s all?!” Dad sounded incredulous.
“Yes!” I let out a huff. Whether out of exasperation or relief, I couldn’t figure out.