Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

Kitchen Stadium

I didn’t notice it while making pasta sauce on Saturday, nor when G and I made sambar on Sunday, but J noticed it when he and M were watching me prepare dinner on Monday.

“It’s like you’re cooking on stage,” he observed. 

The new apartment is set up so that anyone in the living room or dining room can see exactly what someone in the kitchen is doing. Think of Beni Hana’s or Kitchen Stadium (see the video below).

My first real foray into the kitchen happened after watching Iron Chef in high school. This usually entailed buying tofu from Pathmark, the local grocery store, and then subjecting my parents and sis to whatever weird concoction I happened to make that night. It was awesome!

College provided further opportunities for experimentation, but before I started grad school, I asked my mother for a one-week Cooking Boot Camp. In that week, I learned the basics of making sambar, rasam, and other random items. For Boot Camp graduation, my mom handed me her book of recipes, and I kind of felt like I could be an Iron Chef.

Graduate school has given me plenty of opportunities to pick up new cooking skills. BD taught me a few tricks my first year, and I’ve learned a lot from watching AR in the kitchen. Perhaps it was for these reasons, or maybe it was the realization that I finally had a Kitchen Stadium to call my own, but when I got an e-mail from a friend saying he was hosting a potluck today, I decided to prep for something I had never made before: pesarattu.

When my mother found out about my foolhardy pursuit, she first sent me the recipe, and less than an hour later, asked me to call her before the potluck for some pointers. In the phone conversation that followed, she told me how to put the batter onto the frying pan. I listened to everything she said, but I had made similar items like dosa before and wasn’t sure why pesarattu would be any different.

Fast forward to this evening. I was already declaring victory in my apartment after preparing the batter. For my victory lap, I decided to make a test pesarattu on the stove before leaving. To my dismay, it crumbled when I tried to turn it over. J was my guinea pig, and while the aesthetics of the finished product left something to be desired, he seemed to enjoy the flavor. No worries, I told myself. The first try never goes well. At least I know what to expect at my friend’s place.

Then the first pesarattu at my friend’s place crumbled. R and PV immediately offered assistance, and R took over the stove. The next pesarattu shared a similar fate to its predecessors, and while we got the hang of things after that, subsequent ones took several minutes each to make, and we were only using one pan.

H, the host, laughed as he said, “It’s like K is an Olympic gymnast going for difficulty points.” Chuckles echoed from outside the kitchen. By the time I had finished the ninth one, it was nearly ten, and people were getting restless for dinner. I had to abandon the kitchen and join the group.

While the experience was a bit more intense then I would have liked, I had a lot of fun trying out a new recipe, especially one that I never imagined I’d be able to make just a few years ago. I still have some batter left, so maybe I’ll try again tomorrow in Kitchen Stadium.


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