The situation was tense. You could hear the leaves rustling outside, the faint honking of a truck horn, far away in the distance. I looked at my flatmate, and he looked at me. No words were needed, we both knew it was do or die. It was he and I, who had started on this journey, and we’ll finish it together too. My other flatmate averted my look. He didn’t want me to see the fear in his eyes. He had joined in unwittingly, we had led him to beleive that it was easy. And he soon found himself embroiled in a battle he knew nothing of. The 4th flatmate was snoring in his bed, he wasn’t interested I presume. With a nod, I let go. The whisked egg fell neatly on to the pan. It sizzled and spread smoothly. Very soon, we had our first omelette, all ready!! A let down I know, from the introduction, but it was anything but in reality. As any bachelor will tell you, cooking for the first time is a challenge. Lets talk about how you come upon this idea of trying your hand at cooking. You wake up one fine day, in your place, a real bachelor pad, 12 noon. A whiskey bottle rolling here, a half-finished joint faintly smoking there. You look around the room, you ponder, what do I do now? Well you finish the rest of joint of course, but after that, what do I do now? And then it suddenly strikes you, and you wonder why it never came to you before. You’ll try cooking!!
Bravo! What next? Why the dish of course. YouTube to the rescue! You search for the perfect dishes to make, your mind full of roasted chicken, and smoking beef steaks, so succulent that you can almost smell it. You tell your friend, “Hey! Why not make I Can’t Pronounce This French Dish That Looks Like Red Turd?” I’m sure it’s easy.” But then you both discuss how complicated the ingredients sound. “What’s basil leaves? Can’t any other leaves do? I can see a cocunut tree from here…how about it?” “No my old fellow, it won’t give the same flavour”; “You mean to tell me that this is garlic and this is ginger? I thought they were the same thing”. Here, I must add, if you’re new to cooking, ingredients sound really scary. “Add a pinch of salt and stir occasionally, add a dash of vinegar for old time’s sake, puree the tomatoes, sauté the onions, 3-4 drops of vanilla essence, 1 cup of your blood, 2 lightly fried middle fingers, your last year’s semester results…and so on and so forth, until a man climbs out of the pot and demands that you bring him Harry Potter”. Pretty hot stuff I must say….
So, confused and rattled, you ask that person whom even Google asks for help. Your Mom. You call her and proudly mention that her son is now becoming self sufficient, and he wishes to cook for himself. “No mom, I don’t want money. I merely asked if you can suggest a few dishes that my flatmates and I can make today?” You then wait for an hour or so, after she’s done laughing, calling the next door neighbour in for the laugh, along with the maid, the postman and even the dog. Then she tells you to start with something simple. “How about chicken fried rice?” “No my son, I meant start by learning how to turn on the gas”. After that veiled insult, she tells you to make omelettes. Who can go wrong with eggs?
So you decide to make omelettes. You bring in a dozen eggs carefully so that none breaks. You’re not used to handling anything delicate, so you have to be extra careful. You bring them in cautiously, hand them over to your friend ever so gently, and then he smashes them on the kitchen counter. 3 eggs down, 9 to go. After an afternoon and 3 more ruined eggs later, you end up with your first omelette. It looks hideous, but you made it, and you’re proud.
Now, a few months later, as I look down upon my “chicken tikka masala” while the “prawns fried rice” simmers beside me, I can’t help but feel, was it worth it? Those burnt fingers, those hot oil splashes, the burnt omelette, the uncooked rice, the still alive chicken that we tried cooking? Well, I must say it was, and cooking turned out to be just one of those things that puts you ahead in the path to self sufficiency, to independence, from asking your mom what’s for dinner to asking your kid, what he/she wants for dinner. And those burnt fingers? It was well worth the effort, I believe.
After all, “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”.