Of missing a maid and impressing another
Mrs. B, my cook and domestic help since the time I got married and moved to this town, has gone on a month-long holiday to host the rather grand wedding affair of her daughter, J.
I was shattered when she broke the news. Speechless. Panic-struck. Not because I have a clandestine love affair with J, but because…“How could she do this to me? An entire month? What was I going to do?” I think I barely managed to mumble the expected genre of congratulations to save the moment.
Was she going to find me a temporary replacement? Well, she claims to have asked an old, old maid who flatly refused because she’s on the road to retirement and a young girl who just didn’t turn up the day she was to be introduced to me. By this time, I had already started downing double my daily dose of coffee and Prozac (well, almost). Then, like a knight in shining armor, came the idea that I could borrow the in-laws’ cook, A.
Here’s the quick pros and cons table that I drew up in my head when I thought of the idea:
- A cooks decadent food
- A works for the in-laws and the sis-in-laws’ mum, and, well…apparently, she likes to talk.
- A IS AVAILABLE
Yea, I made the call right away and didn’t even bother to discuss money.
A is famed to be a far superior cook than my beloved Mrs. B. She is, reportedly, what one might call a sugran or “fine cook” in Marathi. I admit she does a good job with the meat and all things sinful. MK, the husband, is very fond of her sanjoris or sweet semolina-stuffed chapattis. She does a decent job of traditional sea food and chicken preparations, too. There’s one plain and simple reason why—she uses copious amounts of fat. And she’s not particularly fond of cooking vegetables or salads—well, at least that what one gathers when one compares the elaborate meat dishes with the “I’m-doing-you-a-favor-by-making-these” veggies or salads.
That’s my problem. No, not that I despise deep fried fish or jaggery-flavored pumpkin puris. I’m on a *&%$#!* diet. For the past few months, my nutritionist has been prescribing me weird flours to make chapattis of, leafy vegetables that are best eaten raw (bolne mein kya jaata hai) and suchlike. Mrs. B understood completely that I need to shed all of those extra kilos, and so she learned how to use celery and make vinaigrette. She innovated and transformed depressing whole gram flour into yummy spinach and ginger-flavored rotis. She chopped bell peppers and mushrooms for my dinner stir fry. She even rinsed and filled my water bottles. She’s not gone even a day, and I miss her already.
Worse, A arrived today. I kept shuddering at the thought that she’s going to “report” my unkempt kitchen and general sense of “kitchentiquette” (or the lack thereof) to people who know little about it. (When I have to host a dinner party, I start by cleaning the house and shopping for basic groceries, so you can imagine what my kitchen looks like on regular days.) So, like a frenzied Mrs. Dalloway, I spent most of the morning and afternoon making my kitchen look appropriate for the most sought after cook this part of town. I dashed to the market to buy fresh and un-wilting, coriander, firm tomatoes, crunchy and unwrinkled cucumbers, and spices I had been too lazy to buy so far. I cleaned out my fridge, promptly stored the fresh curry leaves and green chilies in Tupperware, replaced the kitchen towels, and waited for her to arrive.
She did, about an hour past her expected time of arrival. With a short, formal smile, she went straight to the kitchen and began the inspection. (Darn, I forgot to wipe the microwave handle.) Here’s what followed:
A: What’s to be made today?
Me: Err…I usually write the menu on the whiteboard on the fridge…
A (walking to the fridge): No chapattis?
Me: No, not today. The salt and other masalas are here (drawing out a trolley) and the flours, lentils, rice, oils, etc. are over there in that one…
A: They told me you’re on a diet.
Me: Yes, I am. So no rice and …
A: Less oil and less salt (I almost heard a “hmph!” at this point.)
Me: Yes. If you need anything, I’ll be in the study over there.
A: I’ll find my way around.
Phew! What nerve!
In the next 20-odd minutes, I heard three pressure cooker whistles (which means she’s overcooked the spinach for the soup), clang-bang of trolleys (which means she cleaned the mint and coriander and stored them in Tupperware, thank god), fierce grating (which means the salad is not going to be crunchy), and…a liberal sizzle of…ahem, fried seer fish. Sigh.
Maybe I should forget about the diet until Mrs. B comes back.