My Husband, the Gourmet Cook
By SONIA SHARMA
Your husband can cook! Wow! How lucky!
That's the general reaction I get from girl friends who come to know of my hubby's forays in the kitchen. It's a dream come true for many women. In most Indian households, at least, it's usually the women who do the cooking. Even if one loves the art of cooking, not to mention the pleasure of eating, the day-to-day task of preparing a meal for the family remains a tedious chore. Hovering incessantly over our heads like a dark cloud is the eternal question: What to cook for dinner? So when women come across another who's husband actually cooks, there is a tendency to swoon in ecstasy and exclaim, "Oh, how lucky you are!"
I'm one of those fortunate ones. Or am I? My husband loves to cook. He says it relieves stress and helps him relax. So every once in a while he reigns in on my kitchen for some therapy. "Honey, just sit back and relax," he says. "I'll cook dinner tonight." Now, my husband is a high-class chef. Not for him the mundane dishes like daal and rice. He likes to whip up cuisine with exotic-sounding names like Shrimp Fettuccine, Rogan Josh, Lamb Pasanda, Yakhani biryani, and Nawabi egg curry.
So the big question is, "Do I get a break that night?" Of course not!
I'm the one who has to scout around in shops for the essentials ? that particular condiment, the purest Spanish saffron, the freshest organic lettuce, the perfect leg of lamb, the largest shrimp, and on and on goes the list. I'm the one who has to wash and chop the veggies, hack the meat senseless, peel and devein the shrimp.
He can't chop onions, as they tend to irritate his lacrimal glands (In other words, they make him cry!) Raw meat gives him goose bumps. Shrimp reek. Ginger is so difficult to scrape. So I have to prepare all the spices, pots and pans. Then, and only then, will my lord and master deign to enter the kitchen. And then too, not without all the fuss about ambience and mood. Out comes the bottle of chilled beer, a glass of wine for the relaxing (!) honey (yours truly), mood music and a starched apron.
Then his Highness will inspect the pan of the day by holding it high against the kitchen light. God forbid if there is any oily smear or scrap of hardened food from previous cooking. I will get a taunting cluck as he rushes to the sink to give a thorough scrub with soap and hot water. This from the guy who throws his dirty laundry on the bathroom floor, two inches from the laundry basket!
Now the connoisseur is set for his grand production. In goes a gallon of olive oil (plain vegetable oil is so not gourmet). He slowly saut�s the meat and vegetable that I chopped, tosses in the pasta or rice that I boiled, adds his spices with a flourish (a la Emeril Laggasse), garnishes with the cilantro that I carefully washed and chopped. He then leaves it to cook for eons on low fire so that we don't eat till 11 pm.
Then I set the table. Serve the accompaniments - salads, raita, naan that I have made. Clean up all the mess he habitually makes with turmeric stains and oil splatters and answer his smug question, "Honey, how was the Rogan Josh?" Or, "Did you like the Shrimp jalfrezi?" Twenty times!
"Yes dear, it was delicious," I retort monotonously. "Thank you. You are the best", I offer even as I am thinking about the next day when I get the kitchen back ? where I will go on to cook conventional lentils and rotis in thirty minutes flat ? from start to finish.
Oh, but dare I say I am not the lucky one? After all, the best part about guys who cook is that they are constantly giving you "helpful suggestions" on how to make your dish better. Yes, ladies, I am truly lucky. It's just that once in a while I wish my luck to my girlfriends. Let me be the poor housewife married to a guy who knows naught about cooking and who will gladly eat whatever is plunked in front of him!
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