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The biggest reveal of this lockdown period has been that the L&M can cut vegetables, and how!

Over the years he has admitted often enough that cooking is something that doesn’t interest him in the least. That’s okay with me. There are women who aren’t interested in cooking and there are men who don’t like cooking. It is alright. The difference is that as a man the L&M gets a lot of leeway for his lack of interest whereas a woman in such a position would be derided and mocked if she so much as served a meal with a single curry leaf out of place. Anyways…

The L&M has always been busy. His day used to start with physical training at 5-30 in the morning, followed by office work, evening games with his troops, followed by more work till late. This of course was when he was in station, the rare occasions. The major part of his life as an infantry man was spent away from home on various duties. In such a scenario, not just the kitchen, the home itself was my forte and I ruled it. Whenever he was home though, he went out of his way to shoulder as much of the responsibilities as possible, except – you guessed it – cooking.

He tried, one had to grant him that. I remember the time he was home on a week’s leave and said he’d help me roll out chapatis for dinner. I had to send him out of the kitchen tactfully because instead of perfect flat rounds, which shape they needed to be to puff up when they were put on fire – they were coming out in all shapes of the various continents, and uneven to boot. He peeped in a while later, to find the four-year old First Born rolling out chapatis for me. ‘You are letting him help you?!’ The L&M asked amazed. ‘Am I not even as good as a four year old?’ Caught very badly, I told him a barefaced lie, ‘Oh no, no, no. It’s not that. Our son likes to help, so…’ I don’t think he bought it.

The few times he had insisted on helping with cutting the vegetables, each piece took on an unique shape and size. The onions especially, where they needed to be thinly and evenly sliced, came out chunky, some cut lengthwise and others breadth-wise. What’s more, he was not open to instructions or even suggestions. I was young and healthy and didn’t need any help those days. So I simply kept him out of the kitchen. Of course, he filled water, laid the table, put away things in the fridge, made tea/coffee for himself, washed dishes if needed…. but cutting vegetables was a no.

When my back started giving me trouble, the house-help stepped in to give assistance. She helped with breakfast, made lunch. That left only dinner for me to make. Things were manageable and going rather smoothly when Covid-19 came to town and turned it all topsy-turvy. The lockdown meant the house-help couldn’t make it. It was just the two of us on our own. Again we stuck to the same old division of labor. Cooking was mine, the rest of it was the L&M’s to take care.

One day things were pretty bad. The back was really acting up. So the L&M came to my aid. ‘Move aside,’ he said, ‘I’ll cut the vegetables!’ I was skeptical. Cut the leafy greens? No way. It needed finesse. Even the house-help botched it up half the time. But there was no other way out, so I reluctantly handed the knife to him and moved aside. When he finished and I went in to cook, and my eyes jumped out of their sockets. He had done a pretty damn good job of it. I posted pictures in the family group with the caption, ‘Dad cut these greens!’ Not that the children were as impressed. They are cooks in their own right and cutting veggies is nothing new for them.

As for evenly and thinly sliced onions, we aren’t there yet. But today morning I got some evenly sliced okra for the mezhukkupuratti. No mean feat that for a second attempt.

© Shail Mohan 2020