A Good Spread
by Vimala Ramu
(Bangalore, Karnataka, India)
From times immemorial, a ‘good spread’ in English language means a lavishly laid out dining table. Cooks would make exotic dishes, good in quality and quantity and offer them to the epicureans and gourmets.
But with modern gadgets and with the quality of grocery one gets these days, I got to find out that a ‘good spread’ may mean a totally different thing.
Our mother used to cook rice in bronze vessel on the clay stove with charcoal as fuel. The food would remain in the vessel till it was served on to the plate to be consumed. But once I bought a pressure cooker (of a famous company).I put rice and water in it for cooking and kept the cooker on the lighted gas stove only to find my half cooked rice splattered all over the ceiling!
Analysing the situation, I found that, if the steam vent was clogged, the safety valve would get punctured and blow off sending forth a geyser of rice and water towards the ceiling. If the safety valve was stuck for some reason, the ‘weight’ on the steam vent would pop out with a big thud and hide itself in some remote corner of the kitchen and the rice geyser along with steam would merrily spew forth upwards with a great force. Result? Food on the ceiling! The geyser would not stop till the last grain of rice left the cooker and stuck itself on the ceiling.
It must have taken quite a bit of research and experimentation for the manufacturers to come out with the safe (comparatively safer) models that we know now. Anyway, probably it was this sort of a situation that was responsible for a new phrase to be coined, “A pressure cooker situation” by journalists.
Well, if the gadgets are responsible for the ‘spread’, the provisions we get in the market are also culprits sometimes.
A certain lady of my acquaintance used to justifiably pride herself on her excellent ‘thenkol’ (a crisp spaghetti like savoury made out of rice and urd dal flours). She used to carry her own press for the purpose and used to treat her relatives to the tasty snack when she stayed with them.
Once she offered to make it for her granddaughter and her fellow grandparent. The old gentleman was a widower who was missing his wife’s tasty preparations. Gratified by the lady’s offer, he bought her 2 kgs of pure ghee at exorbitant price and asked her to fry the thenkol in ghee.
Our lady was used to making it in refined oil. She would first fry a piece of tamarind in the hot oil to remove the impurities before putting in the first thenkol. But when asked to fry in pure ghee, she was mighty impressed. Getting all the ingredients ready, she made the dough into balls ready to be pressed. She heated the ghee. When the first perfectly shaped thenkol was slowly eased into the hot ghee, hell broke loose. The ghee started frothing like champagne and rose out of the hot frying pan and spilt on to the stove, the counter and the floor while the lady was watching helplessly.
Seeing all the effervescent ‘pure ghee’ bubbling out like lava , she switched off the stove in sheer disgust and walked out of the kitchen asking the maid to do the ‘mop-up’ operation.
The thenkol dough was later converted to dosa batter and used.
So, a ‘good spread’ need not mean only the one on the table. It could also mean the one on the ceiling, stove, counter and kitchen floor! *******