My mom is a superb cook. I am sure everyone claims that, but still, my mom is a superb cook. My lunch box in class right from my school days till finishing college was one of the most sought after things. Even if there was nothing more than bread and vegetables at home, my mom would concoct something, perhaps a bread pulao, and everyone would be licking their fingers. In college picnics, we were usually expected to take charge of one dish each. So while people grabbed for the options like chicken or other things that are usually in greater demand than the rest, I would rest easy and let people take their pick. For even if mom had to cook dal chawal (pulses and rice), she would make it taste better than chicken. On so many occasions in college when I was meeting a professor have I come back in class only to see my crazy classmates greedily chomping on my food. No guilt, no apology, all they would do is roll their eyes and tell me, “But you were away and how long could we wait?”
And then, close friends would usually come home on my birthday. My mom was not very supportive of me treating my friends out for lunch. She wanted to take the pain of cooking for everyone, and that too a multi-course meal along with appetizers, desserts, and whatever your heart desired. Birthday parties at homes were a rage. And so were other parties.
And then I left home and came here. One year now and I have just learnt to cook for myself and not have to throw the contents into the trash can. I make a good job of simple things like noodles or salads, boiled eggs, or simple chicken recipes. But it is nothing I could call friends over and exult in the glory of my culinary exploits.
Here, you have a concept called the potluck. It means that you bring whatever you want to a party. Sometimes, there are lists you sign up for. It could be appetizers, main course, dessert, whatever. Some people come to potlucks empty handed while some people bring cutlery and plastic plates and cups. No one really takes offense. The host organizes the rest of the food, and that’s about it.
I always avoid potlucks because I just do not know what to cook for a huge gang of people. Even if I put some effort and made something decent, it would break my heart to see the chicken tikka and the kebabs made by someone else vanish like hot cakes while my dish stood on the table uneaten, and every now and then people would smile politely and tell you, “Very nice food. How did you make it?”. I know how exactly your food tastes given what people say about it.
“Very well made” (polite smiles)…. Flop show.
“Very well made, hey gimme the recipe. Can I take some home?”- recipe hit!!!
So when the desi people here organized a potluck, I just made some excuse of not being able to come. How I missed my mom then. I could almost visualize mom undecided about what to make since she had so many things to make, and then the people chomping greedily on her keema curry or kaju chicken, licking their fingers as well as the plate.
But then, G amma took things in her hand (did I tell you about how someone introduced me to someone else in a party as the girl who came to the US last year and has been adopted by G?). She asked me to go ahead and tell them that I’ll bring a preparation of pulses. I was surprised. Why was she putting in her time and effort? She asked me how many people were expected while I hesitated, “Errr… maybe 10. You sure you wanna do it?”
And she said, "Naan oru dharavai sonna nooru dharavai sonna maadhiri" in Tamil. (If I say it once, it’s akin to having said it a hundred times-courtesy Rajanikanth). On the D-day, I and my friend went ahead and collected that big box of the pulse preparation from her place. It smelled so yummy that I had to keep it at my friends place so that I do not finish half of it before I reached the party.
At the party, everyone had got their share of appetizers and deviled eggs, bhaji, kadhi, raita, gajar ka halwa, and pulao. I waited with bated breath till people started to eat. And then there were comments flooding like-
“Err… who made the daal?”
“I got it. Is it good?”
“Good? It is great. Give us the recipe”.
Well, I could have boasted all about it, but the next time my friends landed at my place for a surprise dinner of daal, I’d be in trouble. So I told them the truth.
“Err…. I brought it, but G made it”.
“What? Your G amma again? How we envy you!!!!”
By the end of the dinner, there was almost half the quantity left. She had made too much. After dinner every one had packed boxes of leftovers to carry with them. And while collecting my box, I suppressed an amused smile finding my box licked clean and dry. Not a single bit of food was in there.
It reminded me so much of those birth day parties and my empty lunch box afterwards. Thanks you G. You saved my day. You made my day. You got me pot-lucky.