Keep it simple

Sneha is a staunch, dyed-in-the wool South Indian, born and bred in Chennai. She comes from a long line of super cooks — her great grandmother, her grandmother and her mother just to mention a few. Her husband and two sons are good cooks, too. Sneha believes that with women going out to work, it is time for men to enter the kitchen. Her husband and sons and she take turns to cook — a fine arrangement. It leaves her a lot of time for other activities.

There are many demands on Sneha’s expertise. Very often, people call and ask for advice. It must be said in her favour that she gives it unstintingly. Chandra is one such person who often seeks Sneha’s help. She refers to Sneha as SME (subject matter expert) which is apt.

Chandra and a group friends congregated at Sneha’s house for dosas. The aroma of sambar was all-pervasive. Everyone was in raptures over the pan-fresh, paper-thin, crisp dosas, served with onion sambar, coconut chutney and chutney powder. Chandra went home and profusely praised the food she had eaten. Her daughter asked, “Why don’t you get the recipe from Sneha aunty?”

Promptly, Chandra phoned Sneha and asked for the recipes. “First, the sambar,” said the master chef and went on to explain how it is made. Evidently, Chandra was sitting down at her end with notepad and pen. “Just to be sure I have all the ingredients I need...” And reeled them off. “So far, so good,” averred Sneha. “Be sure to get the special small variety onions as they make the sambar more flavourful,” she cautioned. “Remember to garnish with coriander last and season with mustard seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, and curry leaves.”

“Now the chutney. Grated coconut, fried gram dal...Is that right?” “Perfect!” was the encouraging reply. “I’ll let you know how I fare,” said Chandra. Blithely, she set off on her dosa expedition.

True to her word, she called Sneha a day or two later. “How did everything turn out? What about the sambar and chutney?” Sneha wanted to know.(She had packed some chutney powder for Chandra earlier.) “The sambar and coconut chutney tasted different,” said a despondent Chandra. “Why? What went wrong?” Sneha wanted to know.

“I don’t know!” “Did you follow my instructions about the onions, garnishing and seasoning?” “Yes, and I even added ginger and garlic to the sambar.”

“Did I instruct you to add ginger and garlic to the sambar?” Sneha sounded aghast. “No, you didn’t. I thought you forgot to mention it.” The expert was rendered speechless. “And you said the chutney needed just ginger. But I thought adding garlic would improve
the taste.” “And did it?” Sneha couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of her voice.

Then she relented and asked, “What about the dosas?” “They were fine.” “You didn’t add ginger-garlic to the batter?” Sneha teased. “Keep things simple.
That is the secret of good cooking,” she advised.

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Keep it simple

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