Thursday, 29 September 2011

Bollywood Masterchef

I had some friends over for dinner last night. My friends are from a variety of cultures and nations: some don't eat pork, some don't eat what could I cook that would be tasty for everyone. I know, I'll make curry!

Now, my experience with curry has largely involved picking up the telephone and calling the local takeaway. But, oh no, I couldn't possibly do that when my friends come round - I have to cook. So, I freed the afternoon, cracked open the recipe books and got down to it. Hmmm. Six hours later I manage to grab a 2 minute shower before the guests arrived! OMG, Indian cooking takes all day!

So, just for the uninitiated (because now, of course, I feel that I have immersed myself in the Indian culture and am guru of Indian cooking) here is the guide to cooking Indian food the Indian way and the British way:

Indian Way (for guests arriving at about 7pm)

1. Early start shopping: Buy a large truck and back it up to the loading bay of the local supermarket. Purchase every spice they have.
2. Don't forget you also need lamb and chicken by the truck load.
3. Breads: Purchase large clay oven known as a Tandoor and place in garden, in which to cook the roti. Employ Indian servant to make the breads and cook them in said large clay oven
4. Ok, so that takes us up to 6am. Now you can begin the preparation.
5. Finely chop a basketful of onions, layer on copious amounts of salt and leave for hours so that they lose their excess water.
6. Now, squeeze out excess water and deep fry the onions in batches. Breathe in the gorgeous aromatic smell because this is as good as its going to get today.
7. Divide said fried onions into two batches, reserve one and puree the other with water.
8. Spices: These are best kept in a large container, otherwise all the neighbours will be round wondering if you are running an Indian restaurant from your home.
9. You will have been advised by expert recipe to purchase spices whole (not ready ground) but now you will be required to grind them to a powder. Hmm.
10. Marinate meat in spices, pureed onion mixture and yoghurt for next two hours.
11. Panic because that definitely doesn't smell right and you can't remember whether you put in a teaspoon of garum marsala or a tablespoon.
12. Now, heat meat in marinade, adding more spices as you go, for 45 minutes.
13. Check on little man on tandoor duty.
14. Mix lethal cocktails so that guests will get drunk quickly and won't notice that food is awful.
15. Finally, put dish in the oven for final 45 minutes and spend half an hour re-reading recipe and wondering what you were supposed to do with the saved deep fried onion mixture.
16. Rice: soak genuine Basmati rice in water for 30 minutes. Now cook in boiling water watching it for every second so that you can remove it from hot water after only 5 minutes so that it is just cooked and not stodgy and sticky.
17. Now taste everything. Drink heavily from hip flask (or lethal cocktails made earlier) add salt to everything and hope that no-one notices that it definitely doesn't look like the picture in the recipe book.
18. Get guests drunk before serving and laugh off your culinary incompetence. What are friends for?

The British Way (for guests arriving at 7pm)

1. Go to supermarket and purchase jars labelled 'homepride curry sauce' or if you are really pushing the boat out anything made by 'Pataks'.
2. Begin cooking half an hour before guests arrive. Put chicken in pot, pour over sauce, put in oven for 45 minutes.
3. Put Uncle Ben's boil-in-the-bag rice into saucepan and cover with boiling water.
4, Drain rice and pour cooked chicken and sauce over it.
5. Voila!
6. Next Morning: take two immodium tablets with water. Lie down for rest of day.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Will all those with MS please stand up

Years ago, I worked for Social Services. I had an admin type role but worked alongside Social workers. What I remember most notably about that time, was the diversity of personality types that were attracted to Social Work as a profession. Entering the social work office, you were met with people from all walks of life; all with a unique and diverse outlook. Of course, looking back on it now, I realise that that is as it should be. Social workers have the unique task of meeting people often when they are at their lowest ebb, and need help. And all of those people (or punters, as one of the more colourful social workers used to call them) come from different backgrounds and have different expectations and needs. It is only fitting that the team of people who help to satisfy those needs should to be equally heterogeneous.

Now, when I look around me at the people I know who have MS, the same multiplicity is what I see. The longer I live with the beast, the more I come to realise that he stalks his way between us and his pathway is indiscriminate. The stereotypical image of an MS sufferer as a wheelchair user no longer applies. I have met mums with young children, grannies, fitness instructors, yummy mummies, men with stressful jobs and a penchant for speedboats: all of whom have met, and are on first name terms with, the beast.

We each deal with him in our unique ways, with a little help from the neurologists and the ever growing pharmaceutical industry. And at some point, it will be our turn to accept the assistance of the social workers, and we will be comforted by their individuality and the fact that when you open that door to the social work office, the diversity of personality is as extensive as the reach of the beast.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Tooth Fairy in Training

Yesterday, one of my daughter's remaining baby teeth felt out. At this event, my daughter is always ecstatic, not least because it means a visit from the tooth fairy. At nine years old she still expects the tooth fairy's visit, although she teeters on the brink of disbelief. Father Christmas was abandoned some time ago, but the heavenly creature who swaps teeth for money, remains a firm friend for now.

So, at bedtime, my daughter carefully places the tooth under her pillow, wrapped in a tissue and I wait for the moment when she is deeply asleep, to sneak into her room, steal it and leave the agreed monetary renumeration. Now, don't go imagining at this point, that I don a pair of wings, halo and a sparkly skirt to complete the effect. When one thinks of the tooth fairy, one can conjure up the image of Tinkerbell from Disney's Peter Pan or Ariel from Shakespeare's The Tempest but in my house its more like the scene from Fantasia with the ballet dancing elephants (or were they rhinos???).

Anyway, I manage to sneak into her room. I delicately slide my hand under the pillow and feel the tissue parcel tucked away there. My daughter stirs and in my haste I knock the tissue and it slides down the gap between the mattress and the headboard! I deposit the money just as my daughter awakens and announces that she wants to go to the bathroom. Ok, this is it. I have about two minutes to retrieve the tissue parcel before she comes back. I prostrate myself on the floor, fumbling under the bed in the dark, amongst the dust and debris but the darn thing isn't there. Oh, heck. It must have lodged itself between the headboard and the wall! Great, I can't get it now without pulling the bed out and making a racquet as it slides on the hard floor! I decide to abandon it as a lost cause and hope that in the light of the morning, my daughter won't notice it - perhaps she will be too distracted by the reward!

My plan worked, thank goodness, and this morning I managed to retrieve the offending article and deposit it in the treasure box with the other spoils from tooth fairy visits. I almost have enough now for a full set of dentures for when I'm an elderly woman. Just a couple more visits from the tooth fairy and I'm there!