Kitchen Confidential

I haven’t told anyone this, until today. But thanks to Timehop reminding me of this day, I think it’s time I admitted to this faux-pas of mine.

***

‘Counting down to Turkey Day with chocolate cheesecake’, I posted on Facebook. I was publicly admitting that I’d said I’d bake something for Thanksgiving with my family that week, even though it had been years since I’d baked anything. I had also never baked a cheesecake at that time (though I had done many no-bake versions), so I didn’t even know what could happen if I made a mistake. I, however, staked a lot on the claim that while I can’t cook, I can bake. And I’d complicated matters by asking for choices, and had landed up in this chocolate-coffee cheesecake situation. The responses on FB were not really encouraging. My ‘friends’ made fun of my cooking skills and pointed out that I’d once invited my cousin home for lunch, and made enough lady finger curry to feed half a person (in my defense, I had no clue just how much lady fingers shrink when cooked). I was mighty encouraged by the support and told everyone I’d prove them wrong, with video evidence in return.

***

So there I was, the day before my Thanksgiving trip to Portland with 6 boxes of cream cheese and a shiny new cheesecake pan. I was very careful, as I measured out the ingredients and began blending everything. It seemed like everything was going fine, until I got to the fourth box of cream cheese. As I scraped it out, I saw that there were some green dots at the bottom. I wondered if it was moldy, and sniffed at it. But it seemed fine. I knew the first three boxes had no issue. I opened the fifth one, and again, this one had the green specks, too.

Now, I was a little worried. I was baking in the middle of the night, which meant I had no chance to go out and buy more cream cheese. I also didn’t know what would happen to my cake if I used lesser cream cheese than recommended. I couldn’t show up without a cheesecake because I knew my family would laugh me out of town. Also, they’d very nicely told me that they wouldn’t take me home if I didn’t show up with the cake. Sigh.

I tasted the green-speckled cheese and it seemed fine. But I didn’t want to take a chance. I also began wondering if all the cheese was past its expiry, and what I’d already used was just not showing any signs yet. So I pulled out all the packets from the trash (yes, yes, it’s gross, but I may have already ingested mouldy cheese, so whatever!) to check the expiry date. That’s when I saw it. I had bought 3 packets of regular cream cheese, and 2 of garlic-herb flavored cream cheese. That explained the green specks, but it didn’t solve my problem. How could I make the cheesecake I’d promised if I didn’t have enough cream cheese? I evaluated the pros and cons of showing up with nothing vs. showing up with a weird tasting cake, and decided I’d take a chance.

And that’s how I made a chocolate-coffee cheesecake that included some garlic-herbs mix as well. Thankfully, my over enthusiasm for extra dark chocolate meant that the onion-herbs flavor was largely drowned out, and the cake tasted pretty alright. No one who ate the cake realized what I’d done. Infact, someone even commented on the fact that it had a slight salty taste, like really well made brownies that aren’t super sugary. I claimed that I’d used the bakers secret of a tinge of salt, without admitting just where that tinge originated.

And that’s how I invented a recipe for chocolate-coffee cheesecake, with garlic and herbs. I also got away with it, until today, because I never told anyone what I’d done. But I couldn’t help but post this when I saw the prescient comment on the FB post, that said, as long as you don’t pull a Rachel, with a link to this video.

Sometimes, you can mix up recipes, and it won’t taste like feet.

 

Advertisements

Dear Childhood Friend…

Dear A,

I didn’t think I’d write to you again, but I can’t help myself.

Last week, I went to the wedding. I went because your mother asked me to, and I don’t say no to her.

It felt weird.

I can’t believe I didn’t go to your wedding. I can’t even remember why, it was so long ago. I wish I’d been to yours, but since I didn’t go, I am glad I went to this one, even though it felt weird..

It’s weird how nobody from our childhood could talk about me, without talking about us. It’s like we were this unit. I didn’t know how to react, so I smiled. But I couldn’t help but think of how different things would’ve been if you’d been there.

It’s weird how grown up A looked, and how he didn’t even know who I was. He doesn’t know just how many hours we’ve spent chatting while he slept peacefully in his crib.

It’s weird how AN didn’t recognize me when I said hello. The only time we spoke was right after, when I visited aunty before my wedding and that was almost 3 years ago. Why would he even know me? But how weird is it that he doesn’t?

It’s weird that V never met you, and he never will meet you.

It’s weird that when the bride introduced me, she said, “this is my childhood friend.” I would’ve called myself your friend first, after all.

What wasn’t weird though, was when aunty told anyone and everyone there that we’re best friends.

Are.

Love always,

D

 

Me too, me too, me too

Why don’t people name the culprits when they say #metoo, you say.

How do you name the culprit, I ask.

You should, you insist. You should.

But you can’t, I say.

You should. You must stand up for yourself.

I wonder…

How do I name the guy who purposely stuck his arm out and grabbed me when I was twelve?

I wonder…

How do I name the guy in the backseat of the bus, who’s arm sneaked up through the gap to touch whatever he could while I was asleep? I was fourteen and we’d almost reached before I realized it wasn’t a mouse, it was a human hand.

I wonder…

How do I name the guy who flashed a bunch of schoolgirls in Kerala just because he knew we’d be so shocked we wouldn’t scream?

I wonder…

How do I name the guy who I yelled at and got thrown off a bus in Delhi? I was worried for days after that he’d find me and do something worse.

I wonder, I wonder, I wonder…

So I simply say – you can’t name everyone because you don’t ask them their names if things happen on the streets.

Then you say you should if they’re people who can be named.

 

Then I wonder again…do I name every single person who has committed some version of a micro aggression, some version of discrimination…

Do I name the people who cut me off in meetings because I’m a woman?

Do I name the people who thought I could work late just because I was ‘single’ and therefore couldn’t possible have a life?

Do I name the people who would accompany their wives to the bathroom because of shady characters nearby, but wouldn’t do the same for me as a friend?

Do I name the people who thought it was OK to say that I should hang a dupatta outside the door as a sign of my presence in a room?

Do I name the people who think being Type A, and being loud men who can drown out a woman’s voice are one and the same?

Do I name the people who mansplain my work to me?

Do I name the people who attempt to physically intimidate me to make a point, and then chalk it up to having a temper as if I couldn’t possibly have one, too?

Do I name the people who think of me as a ‘diversity’ filter, vs. as someone with a brain (and an opinion to boot)

Do I name every single one of them, and if I do, would they try and understand why I’m naming them, or will they just say that I am overreacting. That I’m not professional, not a good friend, that I’m one of ‘those’ crazy women.

Do I name those who don’t do anything, but are complicit in their silence?

Do I name you?

 

We are a startup, and so…

We will not use a single point of contact for communications with a vendor. Instead, we expect people to follow up with different people for different parts of the process, and those people won’t talk to each other. Let the vendor rework stuff multiple times, that’s simpler.

Our feedback will be as random as to suggest re-doing work in an entirely different style, when all we wanted was to make things darker. We will not put this on email, however, because we only give clarifications on the phone with no paper trail.

We will blame our delays on another external consultant, because we don’t want to take any ownership for any breaks in our (non-existent) process.

We will have a person who claims they are a sign-off authority, but whenever there is an unpleasant decision to be communicated, we will hide behind “our team thinks…”

We believe “empathy” means not having to take accountability for our actions. We will throw around the word whenever someone pushes back on us, to claim that they do not have “empathy”.

We will claim that there’s no one person over-seeing this relationship. However, the person will suddenly show up out of the blue just to send emails at midnight, based on one person’s word. We will not give the other person a chance to share their side of the hassle. Because, we believe “two-way empathy” is about us.

In short, we don’t have a process because we are growing and trying to accomplish a lot with minimal resources. If you have a suggestion on how we can work together better, don’t tell us because we don’t want to hear it.

After all, why should a startup have a process? That’s a big company thing. We are so nimble, we will instead communicate vaguely, go back on our commitments and approvals, and if someone dares question us, well, that just means you don’t have the empathy to work with us, right?

 

Of being offended…

These days, my blog is becoming a very rant-y place. If you’d like to read something more fun, I suggest going to the Wanderlust category instead).

Offended (adj): resentful or annoyed, typically as a result of a perceived insult.

The feeling of being offended is a very interesting thing, in that different people get offended for different things.

Some people don’t like it if someone swears.

Others don’t like it if people pull their legs or make jokes about them.

Still others may get offended just because they don’t like the timing of what you said.

It’s easy to say that if everything could offend, you may as well not say anything, because that way you don’t offend. Except, that’s another form of offense, too.

Sounds confusing?

It is. It is, because, offense, like beauty lies in the eyes of beholder. And many times, you can offend not by what you say, but how you say it. That’s why it’s so important to think through what you say and when you say it. You may not think that what you said was offensive, and you may think a puff of smoke blew away all the anger in the room.

But that may just be in your head.

Because, like I said, offense lies with the beholder and not with you. And therefore, when the beholder tells you about it, try not to get mad at them the second time. This isn’t about you, really, it’s about other person and why they felt what they felt, however illogical it may seem to you.

Listen, apologise (preferably meaningfully, if you are a big enough person), and help make things better. Remember. It may be nothing to you, but a lot more to someone else. Especially if they are in a minority to start with.

Just. Be. Nice.

And for those who watch this stuff unfold, and say nothing – you are a perpetrator, too. You are silent, and complicit, and you let this happen because you didn’t have the courage to stand up for someone who needed it. So if you think you’re ok because you weren’t involved, think again, and think hard.

You’re as much to blame as the other person.

 

 

Of metro rides and being independent

On Thursday, my personal space was invaded, and I was physically shoved.

My problem isn’t really with the fact that I was shoved. It’s also not with the fact that this happened at the metro turnstile, which meant that I wasn’t able to scan my card not once, but multiple times leading to a man (not the one who shoved me, or maybe he was?) yelling at me. Not once, but thrice in a row.

My problem also isn’t with the fact that I tried to call this entire experience to the attention of the metro staff and that they refused to try and isolate the perpetrator (I don’t know who shoved me, and whether their attempt was to shove me, or grope me). Forget the person who invaded the physical space, they didn’t even rebuke the guy who yelled at me for not moving fast enough for his liking.

My problem is with the fact that the female guard at the turnstile believed that if she apologized on behalf of the other passengers, I’d let things go. Even though she and her colleague let the men RUN scot free while I pointed and yelled that I wanted them stopped so I could change the person’s final destination from the railway station to the police station.

My problem is with the fact that the metro supervisor tried fobbing off the entire incident with varied excuses ranging from the fact that the lady officer empathizes with me “because a woman understands a woman problem”, to “excessive crowds to control”, to “we cannot do anything, Madam, passengers should behave like educated people”. The last was the point at which I stalked out of his office because I realized there really was nothing I could do.

My biggest problem, though, is that thanks to this entire incident, the next evening, I called V to come get me when I couldn’t find an Uber to get home at 8.30PM. I live 2 KM away from work, in Bangalore. I’ve lived for four years in Gurgaon, and I never once had to ask someone to bail me out of a situation.

I always prided myself on being independent, and I actually (kinda) like public transport. And yet, here I am, trying to decide what bothers me more – asking my husband to come pick me up, or driving myself to and fro the one location that’s best connected to my house by public transportation.

Bangalore Metro, you just made me lose a portion of my independence, and for that, I cannot forgive you.

Note: The best (and only) outcome of my kicking up a fuss was that the guards started yelling out a public service announcement at the turnstile – “Please move away and give the lady passengers some space.”

ET, when did you become a neighbourhood aunty?

Dear Economic Times,

Last I checked you were a business paper. That’s right, BUSINESS. I understand that conception and fertility are businesses now (and probably bigger than most other businesses), but that still doesn’t give you the right to judge those of us who are a “tad late” by your standards. Brilliant piece of reporting by the way, what with the use of that phrase, in addition to quoting “a research” that states whatever point you’re looking to make, with zero data or methodology or even a source. I’d love to know if this research was carried out by an intern in your office as a full-fledged summer project, or whether she came up with it over a tea break just in time for you to send the article to press.

I’m also curious by that photograph you used to illustrate your point – are the treatments and doctors you quote (good job with the subtle paid advertising gimmick Aveya Fertility and Cloud Nine group!), also guaranteed to give you the Caucasian skin the model in your stock photography sports? I’ve seen enough of these models in fertility clinic ads around town, so maybe the idea is to wait till one is a ‘tad late’, and then get a double whammy of fair skin AND a baby (or two, or maybe more because anyway one must be freezing ones geriatric eggs at 30)?

My favorite portion is your section on prenatal precautions, which tells me I HAVE to quit smoking, but I only need to ‘limit’ my drinking. Is this a concession for today’s generation? I mean, what is this limited drinking – how much do you think an average woman drinks, and therefore what’s the limit? I got my drinking chops in Gurgaon so I’m a “tad” worried that I may be over your limit. I’d also like to understand what are the so-call ‘acceptable levels’ for weight. Your esteemed professionals don’t really tell me this, just like they don’t tell me how I’m supposed to “keep my pre-existing conditions under check”. I assume they mean continue to take the relevant medication, but it sounds like you want me to will it away. I will try that and let you know what my medical practitioner thinks of my attempt.

Basically, you claim you’re telling me the pros and cons of my choices, but all you have are sweeping statements, generalizations, and enough quotes to convince me that the 3/4 of the page this article took up was paid for by these so-called concerned healthcare providers. By the way, did you consider the fact that the planet is already groaning under the weight of the people we have, and maybe, just maybe, not everyone needs to necessarily procreate?

ET, I think you should go back to what you’re supposed to do, and what you’re actually reasonably decent at, and report on business news. Dr. Shenoi and her ilk can work with other papers in your group, and maybe Aveya can be a part of the Ads for Equity program, given that they’re only a few months old.

After all, there are enough well meaning neighbourhood aunties as-is, without your having to take on the mantle of one.

Best,

Me

PS: For those concerned, this is the article in question. The top search result leads you right to…surprise surprise – the Cloud Nine website. I guess there really isn’t a doubt on who’s judging those of us who are “late”, and how much they benefit from fear mongering to aid their business?