Two things are guaranteed/taken for granted/enjoyed for sure when I am invited for a meal to any friend’s place in Ranikhet. There will be great conversation and laughter…and there will be tasty, delicious food. Meals cannot be ordered or bought from some wannabe chef in the town, so its home-made food with a few exotic twists. Every friend has some superb recipes tucked up their sleeves, and I am treated to perfect pulaos, commendable curries and satisfying salads…and everything else in-between.
I drive back from these perfect parties with just one question on my mind…HOW DO THEY DO IT? How do people just call up and say, “Hey, haven’t seen you for a while! join us for lunch!” and then proceed to load the table with good, yummy food?! And some appropriate drinks and snacks?! and then, to add queries to questions, sit in the sun and laugh and chat with me as if the food is just cooking itself in the kitchen?!
Through the last ten months of 2014, there have been a zillion calls to” join us for lunch” and I have driven back with a full stomach and that one question whirling in my head. And that niggling thought , “one day, Mala, you need to call these lovely people and give them some equally good times and ( the more terrifying bit), good food”.
Cooking is my definitive Achilles heel. I can hear friends and family scoffing in the background while I write this. Visitors love the food which emerges from the kitchen. They dig into the pressure cooker and ladle out fragrant fluids onto their plates, talking and laughing all the time. Dosas are plonked from the tava to the plate and the chutney seems right too.
I enjoy cooking for myself. I enjoy cooking, while folks peel garlic/cut veggies/perch on the kitchen counter and regale me with gossip/tell me what they want to eat from the limited house menu card.
My blood freezes when I think of inviting friends for a proper lunch at home–with crockery, cutlery, drinks, snacks, food and a sweet dish. I will gladly knit a pair of socks for every friend instead…I might even knit them sweaters!!
Ten months of panic and frozen blood have come to a head this weekend. I have taken the culinary bull by the horns and invited people over for lunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Different menus for different guests and ditherings of different kinds by this cook! However, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel–dimly, but yes, there is light up ahead…and what has come to light?
- Friends do not come over for just the food–its the fun, the frolic, the laughter and the ease with which hair is let down.
- Cooking dishes which I already know is a good way of getting a delicious table together without reaching for the tranquilizers.
- The quiet hours after our evening walk are best suited for culinary times. The TV can spew out dialogues and music in the background, the dogs nap contentedly and I can cook in peaceful solitude.
- That leaves the morning to get the salad done, cook the staple cereals, tidy the house, brush the dogs and look presentable myself.
- The final hour before the guests arrive can be used to write blog posts ( like this one!), check emails and just tap around the house.
Saturday lunch was a blast. We gathered around the table, served ourselves, shared hiking stories , listened to some spicy tales about some reclusive residents of our hamlet, and the hours flew past. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.
Today’s lunch is about to happen. I am ready to have a blast. The table is set, the dogs look good and its going to be fun.
I am going to bury that terrified feeling soon! Just thirty more lunches to go!!