The chef’s line

The chef’s line

My husband is a “well seasoned” chef in a five-star hotel. However, he seldom enters the kitchen at home. My cajoling for a cook-date on his off-days always elicits a negative response.

On the other hand, our five-year-old daughter Prema, the youngest of the brood, loves to potter around the kitchen with me. The result is: a pencil stub here in my spice box or a hair clip there in the sugar jar and so on.

Recently, a day dawned when I had to leave home early for a family emergency, which meant that my husband was forced to use his culinary skills at home. He decided to make a spicy Mysore Rasam for the family. Out came the blender. In went all the ingredients for his special rasam powder spice mix, for the lip smacking, cockle warming, aromatic concoction he is well known for.

Lesser mortals have to check for salt by tasting, but our master chef prides himself on being able to season the food just by taking in a whiff of the aroma. When he grinds the spices, there is no visual checking required, no rubbing the powder between fingers. The sound of the blade crackling at the spices is his yardstick to get the right consistency. 

As soon as he switched on the blender he could hear a rough rattling sound, very different from the usual smooth sound of the spices blending. Our chef decided to turn the speed one notch up to drown out the rogue noise. After a brief rattle, the sound gave way to the comfortable crackling he was familiar with, which indicated that the spices have been powdered to just the right texture he desired.Lunch was a major success. The children lavished praise on Appa and the good fortune of his employers to have such a skilled chef in their kitchen.
When I got back home that evening, I was assured that everything was under control. Appa had even saved some of that super delicious rasam for me. During dinner I noticed Prema’s ears were bare and asked her where her little gold studs were. She ran to the kitchen and came back a few minutes later with the pepper corn jar in her hand and a puzzled expression, “I only see one ear ring in here. The other one is missing.”

Realisation dawned on my husband as to what had caused the rattling sound earlier when he was making the spice mix, which included black pepper corns as a key ingredient.

It did not require a rocket scientist to determine the value of that rasam. We brought out a filter and analyzed the left-over rasam and found the most expensive ingredient coarsely ground to the correct specification of the master chef. Undaunted, my husband served the same in a bowl with a flourish, “Now its fit for the Queen!”