Friday, July 5, 2013

Bloating Chapatis, Blaring Alarms

By: Madhur Prashant, Humber Student & International Centre Student Ambassador

A change of place needs numerous adjustments to be made on behalf of the mover. Here’s one of my learning experiences in my new city, Toronto.

My Problem

Food tends to give me trouble in more ways than one. I prefer to talk of only one.

My mind often conjures delectable food images that juggle in my head. It gets troublesome during meetings or lectures where I can’t do much, except get grumpy and jumpy. When in Toronto, I am reminded of tangy, flavor-full, drowning-in-gravy Indian food (Not all Indian food is overflowing, spicy and oily). South Asian Indian food is diverse with umpteen tastes, palates, whims and regional cuisines. It takes a while before a meal is ready to be stuffed into our bellies.

My Fun

To beat homesickness caused by the garish images tormenting me, I and my brother decided one free evening to cook an Indian meal. After a couple of hours, our feast was ready to be served, except for Chapati (South Asian unleavened bread), the vital show-runner without which our meal is hardly complete (rice is another contender). A chapati is made by rolling out a small portion of kneaded whole wheat flour into CD sized, almost perfect circle (sometimes even bigger) cooked on a skillet and then directly over flame.

I was soaked in the aroma and smoky fumes of curry, probably a thing of pride for a South Asian, and a mind-numbing sensation for the neighbors. This heady mix of smells made me proud and assured me of my culinary skills.

I rolled out a portion of dough into a circle-lookalike and placed it delicately on the angrily fuming, simmering skillet. It started to fill slowly with hot air, rising gradually in parts. I gently dabbed it with my clean kitchen cloth and waited until it had puffed! I picked it gently, lest it burst open, and put it on a serving plate.

So, here it was - my first bloated chapati in Canada. I slathered ghee (clarified butter) all over it, which melted instantly, forming a thick, shiny puddle in the slowly deflating Chapati.

I repeated this procedure with the rest of the Chapatis, oblivious to my skillet reddening over a very, very hot stove. From it was building some smoke, invisibly rising and sneaking into open space. The chimney wasn’t turned on. Of course I wasn’t noticing, for I was busy gloating at my bloating chapatis!

The Melodrama

A few minutes later, TTTRRRNSNNNSNNNN! A sharp, jarring, devilish, loud sound pierced through my self-congratulatory oblivion.


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‘What’s that?’ Stunned in the middle of giving a half-rolled out lump of dough some shape, I looked up. Above me was smoke, staring down at me like devil. ‘Ohhh Noooo!’ I ran towards my brother in his room. He was smiling, looking calm. I was not smiling and I was not calm.

‘Oh! Is it the alarm? Stop it! The neighbors will call the police! Stop… they may send me back home (India)! Stop it!’ (It is shameful to be sent back home for creating smoky disturbance by, of all things, bloating chapatis!) I wasn’t thinking, only fretting all the more so since I saw my brother calm and laughing inside.

I ran back to the kitchen, turned off the stove, put the smoky skillet under running water, opened the door to our balcony, pushed open the window, and tried physically to push out the smoke, all at super speed.

Meanwhile, my brother looked around for a cloth. ‘Relax! Relax!’ I was sure a fire truck would soon be speeding towards me, with alert firemen accusingly pointing fingers at my puffed chapatis. The smoke had gathered around the white round smoke detector. He looked up and waved the cloth vigorously under it, trying to clear away the smoke. The alarm blared, until it finally calmed down!

Ten seconds later. ‘Oh!’ I said, suddenly hearing myself in the deafening silence. Inside me, something was still shaking.

‘Just wave a cloth when the alarm sets on, and it will stop blaring. And please open doors and windows when making food! Keep the chimney on if you can’t open these.’ He pacified me, and laughed at me staring at the now peaceful smoke-detector on the ceiling.

Logic behind My Drama

Why this worry, you might be wondering. I am horrified at alarms because these draw everyone’s attention. For me, an alarm signifies, well… alarm! False or real alarms during my undergraduate years at residence saw us run out into the open and watch fire trucks arrive immediately. The rest we know. I had imagined the same here.

Tempering and seasoning of food is usual back home in India, but then we generally don’t have smoke detectors installed in homes.

My chapatis and other food items have not been affected by smoke alarms. I know; if there is smoke, there is also a cloth nearby to silence it away. So, I roast, bake and temper at my own will!
By: Madhur Prashant