Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Ona sadya

On Sunday we were invited to a friend's home for onam. It's late for several reasons.
The immediate family were tired this year and wanted to ply their energies into the matriarch's 71st birthday the next week. So we all pitched in and made a malabari biryani. The biryani took several hours and i felt sorry for the cooks. There was a main cook. My husband, and two main helpers, his sister and sister-in-law, and three children and me helping with the rest. I had been peeling and cutting the raw materials for the mutton's marination early in the day and later chopped a salad, split the cashews, fried the popadoms, and generally hovered and tasted and had cold drinks and whiskey-laced drinks at regular intervals. I'm never considered a great help on these days. But i and the kids did our best, cleaned, wiped, cut whatever we were asked to do. 

The burner was small, there were too many cooks in the broth, the kids got hungry and ate the nuts, cold drinks and and finally found the biryani too spicy, which is strange, because it is not supposed to be. But I'm no expert.

I don't know what's fun about cooking. The only thing that happened was that the 'able' women were in the kitchen, sweating and tiring themselves out. The main chef was sweating a lot, and worried about the biri. And, in the end, the rice didn't cook. We finally settled down to eat at 11.40pm and then the kids found the food too spicy and wasted much of what was on their plates.

After we divided the leftovers and left, it took us another week to get to the leftover biri. We steamed the first lot in the biryani vessel and had it on the Sunday. We had the next lot the next Sunday. To tell you the truth, I'm sick of leftovers.

Now this onam, there were four women cooking. And cooked chicken too. It was celebrated late because these two families (related to each other) went to kerala to attend their grandmother's 100th birthday. So they finally had an onam celebration with in-laws and children and fish.

All the men behaved slyly, and went into a room to drink. I, the sole female boozer, had a spiked coke. I'm not sure what was in it, but it was strong. Despite telling the host I was okay the way I was, eating starters and generally enjoying female company, he just didn't believe I could be happy and replete sober.

After the first sip, i remembered why I like to mix my own drinks... and why I like to have them at home. I drank it slowly, first wondering if i should pour it into the tulsi plant in the tiny balcony. But then i noticed the gods on the pot. How many times had I been there and never noticed them. I worried that the tulsi would wilt and die and the family's luck would turn bad. So I looked at the other plants and then I sighed and had my drink very slowly and with lots of diet coke. My husband later told me I should have gone to the kitchen sink and thrown it away when no one was looking. I am slow.

I stayed away from the chicken curry... and refused to sit at my designated spot -- the leaf was loaded with food. What did they think I was... an elephant?

In any case, I'm worried about being considered a boozer. The men felt i absolutely had to have my drink. And the women were uncomfortable about drinking with me... and I uncomfortable about drinking in the company of disapproving (well-hidden) teetotallers. The kids made it sound worse. One slyly alluded to my 'drink'.

In any case, the spouse and I have decided on a few excuses for the next time he and his friends intend to have a drink. I'm going to say 'my-fish-are-pregnant-and-need-me-sane/I'm sick/on medication/having a headache. Take your pick.  

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