In my previous blog, I talked about my cooking disaster of baigan ki sabzi. The next incidence in the series happened when I was newly married, and used to stay with my in-laws at Shimla. The cooking was done by my mother-in-law with the help of servant. Being a responsible Gr A Govt Officer, I was exempted from cooking, asI was left with very little time, after office hours, which I spent in roaming around in Mall Road at Shimla, accompanying my husband. Before marriage, I had learnt enough cooking to cook a decent full course meal, but had never dared to cook anything in the presence of my mother-in-law for the fear of spoiling it. I soon got a chance to cook when both my in-laws were out of station, and on a Sunday, the servant proceeded on leave. Apart from cooking a conventional dinner, I decided to surprise my husband and two brothers-in-law with my excellent culinary skills. I decided to make “Atte Ka Halwa”, as I had successfully cooked it once or twice before marriage under the guidance of my mother. I could not realize what a major role this guidance used to play in my amateur cooking, as it meant that every small step ranging from selection of right sized pan to switch off the gas after cooking, had the approval of my mother, who, being a veteran of cooking could judge the quantities with her eyes better than any measuring cup. This time, I was alone in the kitchen, but was confident enough and ventured into “mission halwa”. Now, may be the pot was too small for the quantity of the flour( or the flour too much to be stirred in the pot), or the flour remained under roasted before I put the water in it, what went wrong that day is a mystery yet to be solved. The main point is, the outcome of my half an hour labor was shattering. The dish in the pan could no longer be called halwa, as it reminded me of lei, a term used in my childhood time for a homemade paste made up of flour and water, which was a substitute for gum given by mothers to the kids to do unproductive art and craft works. My fighter instinct still declined to accept the defeat, and I decided to make it eatable somehow. So, I took lot of dry fruits, roasted them in ghee and mixed them to the halwa. I tasted it again, praying to god for some miracle, but the halwa was still as tasteless as before. Now, I felt really disappointed. I wanted to show my culinary skills, but if I would have served the dish, it could have spoilt the recognition earned so far by coking tasty lunch. So, I concluded that there is no harm in serving the food without sweet dish, as nobody knew about this failed venture. By that time, the two pet dogs of the house had come to the kitchen, sniffing the fragrance of ghee. I gave a small portion of halwa to each of them, which they accepted gratefully and rest I kept in a pot in the refrigerator to be given to them for the next day.
The next day the servant came back from leave and while I was having breakfast, he came apprehensively to me and stood by. I looked at him and he asked, “Madam! What is to be done to that dish?” “Which dish?” I asked as I had almost forgotten the previous day’s incidence. Most politely and sincerely, he replied,“ the one you cooked for the dogs yesterday.” Now, I could not control my laughter, and while I laughed uncontrollably, through his conversation, I got to know that my younger brother-in-law was watching my cooking venture quietly the previous day. When enquired by the servant about the unrecognizable dish, he told him that the dish was cooked by Bhabhiji for the dogs. I could understand the perplexity of the servant as he was surprised at the munificence of the new “Officer Bahu”, for putting a large quantity of dry fruits in a dish made for dogs, but was hesitant to question her. After knowing that the dish was originally meant for the family members, but was served to dogs because of being uneatable, he appeared to be quiet relaxed. Though I was disappointed with the cooking disaster of the previous day, this changed my mood. Though now, I have mastered the art of cooking many dishes, the memories of the halwa which proved to be delicacy for dogs, still bring a smile to my face.