दल चावल

Cooking was somethig I never really paid much attention to. Usually got two square meals a day and a hurried breakfast at home, and a sandwhich or a dosa and a couple of samosas or a vada pav was enough to get me through the day. Things changed when I was left to fend for myself at home, with my parents going away for a while. The first few days was a great time - ordering from restaurants around the place. Every time the food was a little cold, or a little stale - if the rice was not, then the peas were in the pulav, or if it was a pizza, the thing went rubbery before the end. Don't know why it is so, but food ordered from a hotel never really seemed to fill up the stomach. Anyway, push came to shove, ended up getting food poisoned, retched the filthy half-digested excuse for food out, had a drink and sat to think about things.

It was time to start cooking my own food, and something that was not maggi. The procedure was a little straightforward for dal rice, which is more or less staple. Put a measure of dal in, a little water, and a spice called 'haldi' on top, then put in the rice, add water to that, put everything in a pressure cooker, pour a little water at the bottom (or you make a bomb) and close the lid, wait for the steam to come, put on the stopper, wait for it to whistle a few times, and then the food would be done.

Sounds simple?

The first time around, there was too little water, and I didn't let it whistle nearly enough times, got the whole thing out after five whistles. Big mistake. Everything turned out undercooked, the dal and rice had merely swollen up a little, there was a lot of steam around, a hungry stomach (with its contents emptied), and no food. Put everything I made down the drain, and started again. Thought for a second about famine in Africa, but let it pass.

The second time around, I let it whistle seven times, put in a little more water, and finally sighed in relief looking at the food. It was edible, but just barely. Had added too much of the spice in the dal, but the rice was more or less perfect.

The third time around, I knew, somehow, exactly how much water to put, how much spice to add (and to let it spread like a film on the water instead of dropping in lumps) and I not only ended up with something edible, it was actually good.

Not too much of an achievement really, but the thing was there is something about eating food that you have cooked yourself that is immensely satisfying, it's like you never have to worry about hunger anymore (not that I did, but still). Basically, it fills the stomach just a little more.