Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hitchhiker's Guide to Cooking

Fresh out of college life and trying to start living on your own, one is beset with a wide variety of problems and challenges. But every other challenge dwindles in front of the enormity posed by the challenge of cooking your own food. However easy it might sound, the reality is very different. So, for all newbies who are looking to enter into uncharted waters, here are a few tips (based on personal experience) which might stand them in the long run.
1. The most important thing to understand is that whosoever opined "Too many cooks spoil the broth" was an absolute genius.
2. The concept of learning does not hold true while cooking. You might have cooked an awesome curry yesterday. But if you try to replicate your feat , you might as well end up making a puke-inducing curry today. So, your learnings from yesterday don't really count.
3. Pressure can be a big detrimental factor. Ergo, you must know how to soak in the pressure caused by the high hopes people have from you. Promise only what you can deliver; never over-do
4. Always keep a mobile phone handy. You will need to call your mom every two minutes.
5. Knives and strippers ( i prefer calling them strippers rather than peelers) are more dangerous in real life than they actually seem. Unfortunately, they are indispensable.
6. Cooking is NOT in the genes. But, yes, if your mom is actually not so good a cook (no offence intended), then you better not try!
7. There is something called a safety-valve that comes with a pressure cooker. And btw, people have died in the past due to exploding pressure cookers.
8. When you go to shop for groceries, please remember to purchase burnol(an ointment applied to burns and scalds) as well.
9. Vegetable vendors are the smartest people around. Learn to keep them happy or you might end up eating potatoes that were meant for the municipality trucks.
10. Adding more salt than is necessary is blasphemous. A little less salt never killed anyone
11. N course meals (N=2,3,4,5...) sound very exciting and mouth watering. But that is where the excitement stops. A one course meal isn't all that bad.
12. Onions can be very harmful to your eyes. They go much beyond the spects
13. Exotic food tastes much better when eaten at a restaurant. So, why take risk?
14. Washing utensils doesn't come naturally. But, it can be learnt with practice. And, its also the safest option around. Becoming a pressure-cooker-washing-specialist can also earn you a lot of respect, awe and admiration.
14. Maintain a good relation with any one you can think of. This includes your newspaper-man, the security guard of your building, the nagging bai who does your household chores, your neighbour, your office colleague, your cab driver and anyone you can think of. Who knows; you might get a lunch/dinner invitation

Now, for those who are freshly starting out on their own in the of Pune
1. Spencer's is a nice option to go shopping for your groceries as long as you aren't really looking to buy green vegetables.
2. No one really knows the source of water supplied in the taps at your home. Better be careful!
3. While in Pune, do what the Puneites do. Which is: sit and eat at any place you can think of. This also will save you the trouble of cooking.
4. Pune can be a really boring city if you run out of ideas(although this has got nothing to do with the cooking business)

I don't think a cooking guide of this sort can ever be complete. So, if you happen to read this, please feel free to add/append. All your suggestions are welcome. Also, if you gained anything out of it, please remember to call me home for dinner :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Sinhagadh is about 30 minutes drive from the city of Pune if you happen to travel by the same autorickshaw as we did. Besides being outrageously enterprising which meant driving at speeds in excess of 60 kmph on the very unmotorable roads of Pune, he also gave us frequent demonstrations of his ability to keep his vehicle airborne for several seconds at a go.As if this wasn't entertainment enough, he had turned on the music system which kept dishing out long-forgotten Bollywood numbers from the late 80s. So besides the driver himself, we had the melodius Kumar Sanu and Udit Narayan for company throughout the 30 minutes ordeal. By the time we reached the Sinhagadh base camp, we had been mentally wrecked.
Before embarking on this trek, we had consulted a few websites dedicated to trekking in the Sahayadris. And whosoever wrote that the climb should not take more than 45 minutes must have either been heavily doped or must have been totally out of his senses. Even if you discount me, there were still 9 others in my group who could not have made it in 45 minutes. To make matters worse, we decided to take the road less travelled. Consequently, we had to take frequent pit stops on our way to the peak. But this also provided us with the time to reflect on the journey and come up with theories to help people who decide to replicate our feat in future. For those with a financial bent of mind, there are small huts at different points along the ascent which sell nimbu-paani (the desi version of a lemonade). The cost of a glass of lemonade is inversely proportional to the height gained. The higher you get, the smaller is the amount of money you need to shell out for a glass. Second tip would be to never ask a local or someone from the NDA the time it would take to get to the top. For them its always a walk in the park. Plus the sarcastic squirm that comes for free with the reply will make the entire effort of coming all the way to the place an excercise in vain.

Once you have reached the top, the view is a spectacular. Its lush green all around and you can feel yourself walking in the clouds. To add to it, the small huts serving home cooked food. I am not a big foodie and i am not particulalry fond of Marathi food. But the marathi dish called jhunka bhakar (correct me if i am wrong) that we ate in one of the huts had a divine taste.

To go along with it was a red hot chatni which might have been fatal if consumed in moderate quantities. We lived on to tell the tale. And before i forget, we also had the pleasure to of tasting a Japanese desert called Okhabe which is made out of Soyabean and rice.The remnants of what once was Tantia Tope's fortress aren't particularly inviting because there is hardly anything left behind. The only consolation is the fact that you are seeing something that shall forever be a part of history text books.
On our return journey, our team was depleted of 4 members who backed out after the strain of getting to the top proved too much for them. This left us with just 6 people. We decided to take the safest route down. And this might sound chauvinist but we decided to follow a newly married couple (they atleast looked like one) in the hope that the lady would take the easiest route. Luckily, our hunch proved correct and we managed to stalk the couple successfully till the very end. Thereafter, the team was depleted of another four members who went off on their mobikes leaving behind me and a friend to fend for ourselves. The journey back from the basecamp to home was more excruciating than the trek itself. Besides having to change three rickshaws on our way, we had to put up with people who only spoke languages that were alien to us (read: marathi, konkani (i am guessing)). Somehow, we managed to use sign language to communicate with them where a slow nod of the head meant that we were ready to accept whatever price they quoted and a vigorous nod indicated that they should quote a price which is even higher. Any other gesture was taken as a sign of hostility. So we decided to go with the financially unviable but physically safe option of a slow nod of the head.
2 hours and 4 autorickshaws later: broken, bruised,tattered but in one piece; we reached our home safe but not sound.