Foodies

Just now a Noble Coffee barista described to me for the umpteenth time the coffees they're serving today. I realize this is part of her job, but as soon as she began enumerating flavor notes, my eyes unfocused and her words became a soup to my ears. I've been here often enough that I've technically heard detailed descriptions of each one of their coffees, but I can't remember anything about them. The only knowledge that has stuck is that their dark roasts nauseate me, whereas everything else is nice.

There has been an explosion of gourmandise in the past decade. It has been an extremely verbose reboot of food as an aesthetic object. You might think that someone who never shuts up about food on this blog and who has stopped bothering with the nondescriptive language of recipes would be pleased with this revolution in gastronomic discourse. More and more people talk about food. But what do they say?

Dylan Moran has this bit in his standup, on wine. (He is, too.) It's the model of what I just said about Noble's coffee: There are two kinds of wine, he says--the kind that make you go "mm, mm, that's ok, let's have eight of those," and the other kind: "jesus what is that?!" An uncle of mine calls the former kind "drinkable," and indeed, this is the highest compliment that one can give a wine. Moran's wine bit is exactly what this new logorrhea about food is not. The baristas at Noble are trained to go on about caramel, white peaches, charcoal, and fresh earth, but not to say anything about how the coffee hits you. These endless descriptions are pure cognition. Anything visceral gets lost. This is not taste for the sake of pleasure, but taste for taste's sake. Foodies are to food what birders are to birds. They discern, identify, catalog, and record.

I have two friends who in their adolescence dated. One is a food snob, and the other is an aspiring food snob. They're still friends, and when they see each other they argue. He repeatedly tries foods he doesn't like to get himself to like them. She finds this ridiculous; if he doesn't like something then he doesn't like it--that's his taste. He counters that some things are acquired tastes, there are foods you don't like as a child but like as an adult. Yes, she argues, but you don't go out of your way to force yourself to try those foods again. She implies that her tastes are entirely natural, but she cultivates them. For both of them taste is mimetic, but for him it has a unidirectional relation to the body. He wants to like things because he's heard that people with taste like them. His body is supposed to behave, not speak.

You'll encounter this muteness if you ever dine with a foodie. He'll reverse engineer the dish for you, dissect its flavors, tell you if it meets his standards. It's a kind of magic trick, but while those performances appeal to the part of us that doesn't think and longs to be confounded, this is the babble of one cogito to another.

28 August 2012

Hackers

[The Legacy of (Zero) Cool

Coolness has always slain me. (Who adds the awkward “ness” to cool but the uncool?) No matter how much older I am, unruffleable youths in sunglasses constitute a crisis of difference for me. Will they hurt me? How can they pull it off? How do they not betray their bluff? How dare they? The answer, of course, is quite simple, and quite impossible for me to understand more than notionally: they’re not me.

So it’s not surprising that in middle and high school, when the above crisis was a daily occurrence, I became attached to a film that integrated coolness with the identity I held at the time... ]1

27 August 2012

Slicing Bread for Pudding

On the rare occasions I engage in the kind of conversation that is to scroll through the participants' respective stores of Things to Talk About ($5 app), I find that I've already discussed in some gaudy blog post everything I would bring up. Yes, the person who would hear my recycled story probably hasn't read the blog post, but still I stop myself from bringing up the subject again. Nobody would know how limited my repertoire of potential entertainments really is, but I feel pathetic repeating what I wrote publicly. Like pulling something out of the back of the closet and wrapping it as a birthday gift. No, it's more than that; I'm preemptively ashamed of being that elder who happily and seemingly unwittingly repeats the same rotation of stories over and over. Except in this case over and over is twice. It also goes against this notion of mine that the dignified thing to do is to write one thing and live another, to forget what I've written when in conversation, or at least pretend to. And don't certain kinds of thought thrive in secrecy, or at the very least at an address the route to which is circuitous and indeterminate?

Having said this, I may as well reverse the phenomenon that causes me such egoic anxiety and say what I repeat everywhere but in writing. Which is nothing special, really, although clearly I'm excited enough by what it says about me (what?) that I tell everyone every time I cut my finger making bread pudding. It has happened twice, but I think it has happened thrice. As with all injuries that are minor but more than a scratch, when the knife slips (predictably by now--I know that this knife and I are bound to meet in exactly this way yet every time I begin slicing I think that somehow, through no tangible precaucion, I will avoid it) there is a rush not just of shock and blood, but the thrill that what's happening now I can later report.

It's quite simple, the way it happens. Holding together sliced bread, especially stiff, stale bread, is a precarious thing. I cube the bread with a serrated knife. First I cut it one way, then another, and finally a third way. It is this third angle, when I am pressing the shifting columns of bread down so that they may be sliced finally into cubes, that something slips. I'm not sure what, to be honest, so maybe it isn't so simple. This last time I screamed, not so much in distress as in frustration. That growling scream of things escaping your ridiculous designs of control. (Equally ridiculous: I sometimes take it upon myself to disagree with the maxims of advertisements. The other day a car ad said "the highest form of power is control," and I was like, yeah, as if!) Part of the scream was that--god damn it--things went exactly as I expected but refused to admit. I have a friend who engages in many semidangerous activities and his reort to his worried mother (I'm equally worried, but usually say nothing) is that he takes deliberate precautions. It sounds very rational, the way he explains it. There are somethings you can't avoid, he admits, but most things you can reduce your chances of by thinking about, devising habits or plans of action around, and making a point to carrying those out. Yeah, sure, I always say, resigning myself to the impossibility of safety. Dealing with the details of trying to control fate gives me a headache. Hence I continue to cube bread in the same manner.

When I tell this tiny story, the humor I'm so thrilled about is the irony that bread pudding, something so innocuous and not at all difficult to make, is the most consistent source of bodily harm in my life. (At the moment that's not true; there is work, which provides a generous helping of scratches, small punctures, torn nails, and callouses on my hands that I must say I'm not at all a fan of. Those rock climbers that intentionally sandpaper their hands for extra grip must be vain in an entirely different way than I am. But then it's less about the appearance of my hands than it is the feeling, or rather the lack thereof. I rub my fingers together and get a thick nothing. This is disappointing.) This sense of humor is almost immediately tiresome to me, yet I repeat it.

Just like my recipe for bread pudding. Despite my slight disappoinment with the results every time (a bit too goopy and the egg is not very well integrated), I never really change the way I make it. Every time I go back to look at the recipe in my previous blog post on bread pudding, letting it tell me the proportions of ingredients, although I never follow them exactly. It did turn out fairly well this morning, because there was no milk last night and I turned to condensed milk, which my father keeps cases of about the kitchen. I turn my nose at the use of the stuff in tea or coffee, but for bread pudding it is apparently superior to milk.

I was very happy with myself for thinking to soak it overnight to bake it in the morning for breakfast, but I must tell you, in case you become enamored of the same plan, that bread pudding takes a long time to bake. How long? Long enough that coffee on an empty stomach began to feel like a kind of implosion of the viscera before the pudding was done. You will open the oven door frequently. You will dawdle on the computer as if in an airport. You will salivate. You will look at the time obsessively, although you will not know at what time you put the pudding in the oven, nor for how long to bake it. You will worry at first that there is too much liquid for the bread to absorb, and that it will turn out inedibly soggy. Then it will rise like a cake, and you will know that all is well. Wait, though, until it browns on the outside, because you never know what's going on on the inside.

Bread is surprisingly resiliant; fingers are more fragile than you might expect. But fingers are not in any danger, really. It will only feel like danger, and though you will curse when something beneath the skin is torn, and every time in the future you make bread pudding you'll be afraid of it happening again, you also watch horror movies. (I don't, but not because I'm immune to their pleasures--after all I've stayed up in a terrified trance of episode after episode of the The X-Files until I finally fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. Which is another thing I repeat orally.) A hasty if self-consciously allusionary and untheorized explanation.

19 August 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

That I would see "Beasts" (as everyone buying tickets called it) was not at all certain. The trailer had induced an exasperated groan. A child's voice said "The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If just one piece busts, even the smallest piece, the entire universe will get busted." At the words "get busted", it cuts to a shot of antarctic ice crashing into the ocean. Oh lord. Ecological fallacies for environmentalist campaigns are all well and good, but as a master narrative veiled as a child's wisdom, it grossed me out. Here was one more to add to my list of movies not to see, which has been growing unmanageably large lately.

But there I was in front of the Varsity (the sense of this name eludes me), looking at showing times. I had just sat in the cafe above Bloomsbury (a far less opaque name for a bookshop), poking laconically at my keyboard at about one sentence every five minutes. Two cups of coffee, somehow, had given me ennui rather than the characteristic ballooning of the ego. I kept blaming various things. It was one of those days. The coffee was bad. The thick smoke that turned the light yellow and the mountains charred and hazy made me tired. (That which claims things as parts of an identity protested with desperate confusion: but I like smoky days!) None of this changed the fact that I was undead, standing there in front of the theater. I saw that "Beasts" began in ten minutes. I looked at the other films. "Hope Springs", solely on the basis of its title--ew. "Moonrise Kingdom", STILL PLAYING--ew. "Savages", I'm not even sure what that is, but I guess Blake Lively's agent has found ways to try to keep her career from dying after the last season of Gossip Girl ends next year, although honestly I think it's the rest of the cast who might need to worry. Something with Jack Black--ew. I had not watched trailers for any of these. At least with "Beasts" I understood what kind of ew I was getting into. What the hell, I thought, I have a regular source of income for the time being, I'll spend $6.50 on ew. Who knows, maybe the trailer's barely obfuscated environmentalist moralizing totally misrepresented the film. Maybe I'd even like it.

There were some things to like. But my urgent need to urinate halfway through sent me to the bathroom, rather than willing myself to stay in my seat for the last 45 minutes. One thing I liked was the epigrammatic speech the fisherwoman cum voodoo practitioner cum mother to lost children gave to her little flock. She slaps a red mess of glistening red crayfish in front of the camera. "Animals are made of meat. You're meat. I'm meat." (She goes on to name a number of familiar farmyard animals.) The film is constantly daring the audience to be comfortable with their own fleshiness. This off-the-grid estuarine community appears to live solely on meat and booze. The ritual back at Hushpuppy's (the child star of the film, who I also liked) home is: Her father slaps a freshly slaughtered chicken on the grill, rings a bell and yells "feed up time!" She rushes off to eat, making her way among a chaos of chickens, goats, and pigs. In her voiceover narration she refers to everyone as an animal, not distinguishing humans. Actually, the voiceover is less narration than a collection of pithy, extremely general teachings, like a tiny, impractical Sun Tzu. She does, however, introduce her community in voiceover, known as The Bathtub. She says of this primitivist wet dream that "Daddy says The Bathtub celebrates more holidays than anywhere else," and we are given a montage of Bathtubians hollering from a parade float that could've been made at Burning Man, swilling booze, playing with fireworks. I was given the impression of people trying very hard to convince themselves they were having a good time, and I was not at all sure this was the intended effect. The music was joyful during these celebrations.

Despite the deliberate gross-out provocations of the camera (look at all this meat), I think The Bathtub is supposed to ultimately look like a noble alternative to late capitalism. This story divides the world in two: the people in the city, and the people in the Bathtub. The plot revolves around the city people constructing a levee that raises the water level and sinks The Bathtub. It is this artifice to which Hushpuppy refers when she says that something busts. (That shot of the ice crumbling gets carted at the same moment in the film as in the trailer, to my disappointment.) The trouble with the philosophy that Hushpuppy develops of a perfect universe that busts is that, honey, the universe is always already busted.

The film points to complications in the future rather than the past. As our drunken Bathtubians try to put the world back to the way it was, everything just keeps going more wrong. They blow a hole in the levee with dynamite, only to find that their home is half dead and muddy after all that time underwater. Then the city people forcibly evacuate them with helicopters to a hospital. The Bathtubians soon escape from this nightmare ward where sick people are "plugged into the wall", in what I guess is supposed to be a triumphant rebellion against a civilizing mission. The busting of their home is mirrored in Hushpuppy's father's health. "My blood," he says, in a rare moment of nondenial, "is eating itself." Which is a poetic way to talk about an autoimmune disorder, but that, ultimately, is what grates: the artifice of these voices posed as authentic alterity. It is the "Forrest Gump" problem: having someone simple speak your half-baked philosophies makes them sound profound.

That, and how distant these characters ultimately are to us. Chances are, the audience lives in the capitalist world this community so vehemently rejects. Like a Jean Jeunet film, we are entrated to love this band of misfits. They're rough, drunk, and scary, and yet they're drowning in cute. The problem is, we may all be animals, but animals have this thing planted in the animal: a mind. This is a film convinced that the solution to the mind-body problem, and to every other binary opposition, is to privilege the other side.

~

It has come to my attention, via an article in Film Comment that I spotted while waiting for my brother to finish reading Backpacker in the periodical section of the public library, that Benh Zeitlin (the filmmaker, who I'm sure would scrupulously reject this title) may not have fashioned all of the contours of Bathtubian speech in the image of his own romantic vision of how simple folk should live. (Incidentally, there are a number of backpackers about town this weekend. The herd of Pacific Crest Trail hikers, brought on, as my brother deduced, by the recent publication of Wild, are all at this point in their journey. Four of them entered the library in the twenty minutes we spent there. They generally come in what I assume are romantic pairs, with tiny packs carrying virtually nothing. Their food is cached at several points along the trail. I still wonder at the logistics of this, just as the gritty realism of "Beasts" makes me wonder where they get all their booze and breakfast cereal to feed the chickens. Maybe I just can't handle magical realism. In any case, trade does not exist in this film, but its artifacts seem to undergird the Bathtubians' alternative society. This turns their moralizing about The Big Bad City, to my mind, like the whiny urgings of dumpster divers to bring down The System.) In this article, in which he is interviewed in New Orleans, he says he had to "revise toward the people"--that is, revise his script to the actors' lives, mannerisms, etc. (He also says that the film came out of an epiphany he had in Europe that he "didn't want to be an expat", yet he moved to New Orleans. As much as the article declaims Hollywood tendencies to exoticize that city, I think it's safe to say that those "clichés about black magic and magical negroes" are precisely why Zeitlin has planted himself there, and what animates the fantastical in "Beasts".) He likes to think of the process as "organic". He says "I think it was hard for people, people who don’t know this city and this region, to understand how deep the roots go and how impossible it is to transplant what’s here to somewhere else."His film has failed to translate to "people who don't know this city" the deep roots of its characters, instead leaving them, well, floating. The mystery that drew Zeitlin to the Mississippi delta has been preserved, or missed entirely--your pick.

Yes yes, the beasts. There are in fact beasts, which occupy a parallel cinematic universe for most of the film, a bit like the hilariously nonsequitor dinosaurs in "The Tree of Life" (but then in that film, what isn't a nonsequitor). The Aurochs, tattooed on The Bathtub's resident earth mother goddess's arm, are said to eat people. They are, then, the animal that busts our supremacy over the animal world. They also look like pigs. Sort of cute, gentle-eyed pigs, with snuffling snouts. They have big tusks, yes, and they allegedly eat their kin (I know, I'm wading into a big pool of muck by selectively distrusting parts of the fictional world), as well as trample stuff. Anyway, they bow to Hushpuppy at the end. I guess we were expecting them to do something bad, seeing as they were loosed from the ice by the catastrophic storm (Katrina). I think I missed the point. I stopped following the metaphoric register about halfway though.

13 August 2012

Anya's Thai Bistro

Some are silent because they're silent, others are silent because they have high expectations of speech. My cousin is afflicted with this taciturnity in all communicative acts, including cooking. He lives therefore suspended on his way to a perfect utterance, a perfect dish. Well, perhaps the former is my own particular problem, whereas his metaphysical ambition plays out culinarily. For now he's the pastry chef at Amuse, and in the same kitchen makes all of the ice cream for Mix. He was recently asked by someone who has a tendency to imbue everyone with (extra)ordinary ambitions if he would like to one day start a his own restaurant. He reworded this wistful inquiry into something certain: "I will." I laughed because I was won over by the earnestness of his ambition

His face is stern, yet vulnerable with youthfulness. He asked for a beer when we were out for dinner at Kobe, and the waitress shot back "are you old enough, honey?" His pale skin made his blush all the more raw. His temperament--which some interpret as easygoing calm--is such that after a moment he said "that's quite a 'tude," and when asked, said that no, he would not hire her.

Asking such a serious soul for his opinion of a restaurant is a treat. He considers judiciously, and is careful not to taint his answer with what he considers to be personal bias. He said of the new Thai place in town, furrowing his brow and lowering his voice (though it already rumbles low from his narrow frame), that it has a small menu of "simple food" that's "very authentic." By "simple food" (a phrase he uses often) he means to distinguish it from fine dining, but also to commend its decency. There's a bit of a passive-aggressive jab in calling it "simple food," yet his aesthetic, I gather, is something like simplicity. For a recent family gathering he made a sauce of slowly sautéed slices of red pepper and onion in olive oil, something that is also done at Amuse. At amuse, he said, they use a lot of spices, but he just used salt and pepper. He didn't give any indication which he preferred, but personally I'm for his version. From anyone else I would've rolled my eyes at "authentic", but I sensed he meant something specific rather than magical. He simply meant that the food was closer to what he tasted in Thailand than it was to Thai Pepper, a restaurant that strains to be innovative and upmarket. Then again, maybe my brain was mush. While his short oral review was not glowing, exactly, a considerable excitement for this place had been transferred to me.

Because of what he said about Anya's, I walked in to its low cavern of a dining room with a kind of serenity. The space appeared to me through a mist of sentimental trust, as in at that stage of infatuation when anything the other says is beautiful. Following this simile, you'd think I'm about to say that in retrospect everything was crap and the things that mesmerized me, empty. Not exactly. But then I have yet to have a second date, which I plan to. I have a rendezvous planned with sticky rice and mango.

I developed an amused affection for the place. Surrounded by empty shops, the room had a quiet romance to it. There were a few other full tables, none of them exasperatingly boisterous or scarily quiet. The lighting seemed soft, in part because of the sizzling sounds from the kitchen, which soothed. The kitchen was just behind a counter that reached up to the chef's waist, and from my seat I had a view of vegetables searing in small rounded pans.

As far as I can tell, they have a crew of three: Anya the chef, her husband the waiter and host, and a large man in chef pants and Crocs, who I assume assists Anya. The arrangement doesn't fit easily into the roles that divide the labor of a restaurant. Anya apparently takes orders when she can (or perhaps when she feels like it). Her husband does all the service: greeting, bussing, taking orders. Their assistant must do dishes as well as helping cook. I think we met Anya. She was efficient, as her husband theatrically exclaimed on his way back to her behind the counter. He eagerly came to wait on our table, apologizing that we hadn't yet received menus, only to discover that we had already placed our orders with his wife. "She's so quick!"

The husband (I didn't catch his name) in his somewhat flustered way was eager to please. I couldn't help but read this as the desperation of someone treading financial water. Businesses down here never last for long. They're easily forgotten. Only when I heard that Anya's was here did I remember that I had heard a couple years ago that The Underground Market existed. Now it's gone, along with everything else except for Anya's. The emptied out shop spaces that surround the tables give the place a certain allure just as they made me worry for its fate. Here I was happily removed from the normal functioning of Ashland's commercially saturated downtown. It was a bit like being backstage.

Through my misted gaze I was enamored of the food, although it helped that there was variety to sample between the four of us. About halfway through my ample bowl of pad thai, its flavor was no longer a flavor. But that's true of just about anything you eat that much of. Everything, I thought, had a freshness. Thai restaurants have this tendency to devolve into rich, slightly sweet masses of whatever. You begin piling oily glue into your gullet. Here the flavors remained distinct, and the vegetables crisp yet piping hot. The chopsticks had a purpose other than making Americans feel cool, allowing you to pick up and sample individual chunks of tomato, bell pepper, chicken, broccoli. (Yeah, I heard that somewhere, and it's not specific to Anya's at all. One could do the same thing with a fork, but we have a tendency to use that instrument as a shovel.) The Thai tea seemed to cater to the tastes of Ashlanders, who say "not too sweet" as praise. I wished for overpoweringly syrupy tea on principle, but then I had to admit I enjoyed this modulated stuff.

When we left, Anya's husband made sure to send us off with "see you next time!"

12 August 2012

Lunch

I hate my lunches.

Every other time I've worked (seldom) it's been somewhere far-flung enough that if I din't bring a lunch, I was fucked. (That's how I put it to my coworkers; that is how one puts things in a hard hat, apparently.) On jobs in the middle of nowhere, I worried constantly about lunch. Afternoons driving back wondering if I needed to shop for tomorrow's lunch; evenings taking inventory of the kitchen, either literally or mentally, from some horizontal pose; nights re-cataloguing the evening's information into something to eat; mornings trying to remember not to forget to prepare and pack; lunchtimes eating not to want to eat later and overdoing it, turning my guts into a pendulous weight, splashing excess up into my esophagus. Of course, the future tense's reign over my consciousness gets periodically overthrown while regularly employed. Worrying about lunch turns quickly into falling into lunch, lapsing into going out the door, remembering, maybe, eventually, to sleep. Waking up becomes the bends, when the excesses of this slippery new relationship with time slap down all at once.

Nonetheless, lunch was one of those unavoidable realities. Working within two blocks of downtown and two blocks from a supermarket, it isn't really. I don't bother to pack lunch from home. Whatever. Instead, I walk to the store, and among a plethora of options get more or less the same thing every time, and I'm beginning to loathe it. But then, you know I love to loathe. Every time I get a roll, a piece of cheese (there's a bucket of leftover small pieces to save me from letting a larger block rot in my backpack through the afternoon), and some kind of fruit: a smoothie, a couple of plums, a banana. Unlike the nervous gorging of before, this lunch programme is never quite enough. Yet what small item do I fill it out with? I never know. Chips? A soda? A carrot? With a few small variations (whole wheat roll vs sourdough roll, havarti vs cheddar that sticks to the top of my mouth vs tiny wedge of brie) I still keep eating the same thing every day.

And my written prose spills disgustingly into my speech, like the smell of the mold spores puffing out of the rice cooker when the door is opened for the first time in weeks. Others' spillages, too, resemble what is new yet ossified. Nevermind 'technology', cyborgs can be of habit. Imagine not Locutus but those cheesy Torchwood lumberers as speech orders itself with a giveaway jitter.

Then again, who cares what spills and hardens into brittle? (It's rhetorical, but: clean freaks.) The compulsion to aestheticize needs to die, it's so ugly.

10 August 2012

Sneha Rajaram Posts

I am no cook, but sometimes I get a mad scientist urge to try out something new. Being on a diet for my apparently stagnant liver adds enough challenge to interest me.

My boyfriend has a liver problem too, and we get all diseases together, which some would say means my liver isn’t the only stagnant thing in this story. So when he started salivating at all the cupcakes and sponge cakes out of our dietary reach in the supermarket, I decided to Bake a Cake.

First problem was sugar, which I wanted to substitute with jaggery (I seem to remember something about molasses in my sixth grade project about the “American Revolution”, but I could be mistaken). So the possibly historically significant jaggery, combined with racist-Gerald-Durrell’s-Corfu-conjuring olive oil (monounsaturated fatty acid, a term I learnt yesterday) instead of butter, and egg whites only. So far so good.

For the flour, I decided to use ragi (finger millet) flour, which however when eaten by itself, tastes too organic even for my pretentions to rural, traditional, “natural” food. Ragi balls are the traditional South Indian farmers’ and labourers’ food, fêted now by New Age dieticians, and hence politically deeply suspect to me. Not to mention their dense undifferentiated texture makes them cleave to the roof of my mouth and disallows mitigation through any kind of spice or sauce, making my paranoid mind think someone wants to out me as the spoilt urban refined-flour-eating inverted snob that I am.

I looked around and found some lentil flour, which I added confidently because I once mistook it for refined wheat flour and the cake that emerged thereof was edible. And a bit of oats for good measure.

Oh, and I mashed some bananas with my hand because I love to feel the stuff ooze from between my fingers. Added those too.

Then I “beat” the batter with my hands again in the absence of a blender, and it came out way too dark brown (damn ragi again), like it was the very organic Mother Earth that sustains us all. Trying to ignore my cake making fun of me (no mean feat), I proceeded to pour it into a stainless steel vessel (ungreased, of course, I forgot), and put it into a pressure cooker, this being the closest thing I have to an oven.

Having always steamed stuff in a pressure cooker before, I wasn’t sure whether to put water in or not. More worrying for someone who grew up with a physicist parent was the rubber gasket that expands with heat and makes the thing airtight. I see rubber gaskets and think of the O-rings of the Challenger, which Feynman’s post-mortem team found were responsible for its crash. I wasn’t sure if the gasket would burn if I didn’t use water. I put the gasket in, sniffing for burning rubber in the first few minutes.

But apparently cake (if I may call it that) burns faster than rubber. Smelling it beginning to burn, I put in water and took out the gasket so I wouldn’t get steamed cake. Then a rattling, poltergeist racket penetrated to the bedroom and I rushed to find my best stainless steel vessel dancing an angry jig inside the cooker, tossed by the boiling water.

I haven’t used my cooker recently, so I hadn’t predicted this. The expensive organic brown basmati rice my sister very sweetly bought for my diet turned out to take forever to cook in it, and by the time I figured out I had to soak it first, I was tired of using the cooker. My boyfriend suggested I try it on the squirrel outside, and I said no, it only eats peanuts (this was my vanity speaking, it actually ate half a peanut when I tried to give it a handful, and all my Enid Blyton dreams of squirrels and nuts died an early death). However, the squirrel ended up eating a handful of that expensive brown basmati rice faster than I’ve seen anyone eat anything. So now I’m reduced to the dilemma of worldly wastage of expensive food vs. unworldly satisfaction of our gourmet squirrel.

The last question: what to do with the egg yolk? I cooked it very crudely on the gas without oil just for solidity and hence portability, and packed it to appease the stray dogs in the neighbourhood who let me through in the daytime but get really territorial at night.

Anticlimax: Protection money taken care of, the cake was done and it came out okay. A bit pretentious-tasting, and a bit dry, but otherwise pretty good. The secret? I used very inorganic, toxic to the liver, good old baking soda. That stuff’ll make anything into a cake.

Sneha may also be found on Bite & Dribble, in her other post on this blog, and over here.

7 August 2012