So, Hubs (looking terribly sweet and slightly chubby these days) has developed a new and impassioned interest.
Cooking ‘biryani’ is what he wants to do.
And I use the word ‘impassioned’ because Hubs only operates with the utmost of intensity.
Whether it was his pursuit of me or his desire to move to Mozambique or Seattle, it was all done with unimaginable drive and single-minded dedication. He railroaded my doubts with the deftness of a left arm spinner. I found myself stunned and then soon after, married. When it came to Mozambique, he came charging for my fears, brandishing them away with what seemed like pretty elegant word-swordplay.
“My sweetie”, said he, “Africa is elemental.” I fell for (what I saw as) romantic proclamations regarding the essence of Africa. We landed up in Maputo where I managed to survive for a whole year on the three phrases of Portuguese I had learnt.
Hubs, of course, landed up in Portugal to learn the language in a complete and compelling way. Like I said, what he does, he does with great passion and commitment.
This brings us back to biryani, his current love interest.
It all started when he returned from a visit to Karachi last month.
As the crispiness of a Seattle autumn filled our senses, Hubs returned home looking rather pleased with himself and declared “Sweetie, I have bought you the most wonderful thing from Karachi.”
My mind raced in wonder, heart beat a little faster and I found myself wondering what this exquisite surprise could be…jewelry, clothes, some amazing books…?
I go into the kitchen and decorated with great pride on my kitchen counter are two huge pateelis.
“Aren’t they great?” He beamed.
I was not sure how to react to the fact that these were the ‘lovely’ gifts.
Graciously, I nodded my approval, inwardly seething with annoyance. They were huge, had arrived in their very own suitcase and were taking over most of my kitchen counter.
Was my brilliant Hubs’ wisdom waning? How long was I supposed to retain a look of delight on my face regarding these pateelis?
He is intently looking at some recipe notes, shooting me sinister sideways glances, subtly warning me to not ask some meaningful question about life (my favourite type of question). Kind of reminds me of why I banished him from the kitchen during the first year of our marriage
But this, dear readers, was only the beginning. The pateelis were bought because he wants to cook chicken biryani every Friday evening. Thing is, Hubs is not particularly great with social outreach, so it was made clear to me that I had to rustle up the guests.
Yes, every Friday. Hubs likes a pattern.
So, it can’t be spontaneous. It has to be every Friday. For the past four Fridays I have been scurrying around looking for guests. Hubs looks particularly indignant if I don’t find willing attendees.
He looks vulnerable, my heart goes out to him and so I invite people.
Then the next two days are spent depositing the leftover biryani at people’s doorsteps because outrageous quantities are cooked. And I’m told that three pateelis will be used. I did not know that three pateelis were required to cook biryani. But apparently there’s transfer involved, simmering the chawal, chicken and all.
Once the Tupperware containers full of biryani are deposited on people’s doorsteps on Saturday mornings, Hubs eagerly awaits responses. Normally, people message fairly quickly to rave about the biryani, and rightly so, because it is very good. But if some of the responses are delayed, then Hubs begins to look a bit dejected.
Our teenage son has requested us to quit sending biryani to his friend’s parents because he feels that we are too eager to receive feedback. We ask him to discreetly find out from his friend whether the parents like the biryani. Of course, they always do!
I encourage feedback with some diplomatic maneuvering because it makes my sweet, impassioned Hubs so happy. He can look quite forlorn if favorable reviews are not received.
I can understand why this is so.
Hubs puts in an incredible amount of effort during these Friday afternoons. Sleeved rolled up, intellectual and eager to begin, that is my Hubs.
He first looks at the WhatsApp videos of our driver, Naseer, giving instructions and cooking the biryani. Then the recipe is followed to a T! Hubs is big on precision and exactness of method. I am asked not to speak to him while this is happening. This is a bit hard for me to understand, as I cannot follow precise methods or routine. I also prefer not to focus too intently, so while I cook, I talk on the telephone, listen to a podcast or write bad poetry in my head.
Hubs is heavily into focus, at work, in life and also in the kitchen. (That is probably why he has a job and I don’t.)
Post video-viewing, he seems deeply absorbed in this aromatic process of shifting chicken and rice around from pateeli to pateeli (three pateelis are used). All the while, I am still not allowed to speak. He is intently looking at some recipe notes, shooting me sinister sideways glances, subtly warning me to not ask some meaningful question about life (my favourite type of question).
Kind of reminds me of why I banished him from the kitchen during the first year of our marriage. Hubs had decided to cook haleem for me and it took him six hours. I wandered aimlessly around the colorful streets of New Orleans, trying to not get held up, while Hubs cooked. That’s when I decided his cooking ‘style’ was too labour- and time-intensive, and so I managed to keep him out of the kitchen.
But guess what? He’s back! With a vengeance.
He operates with brute force that’s sort of exciting in a pseudo-masculine kind of way, but also bewildering – in that how long is one expected to keep up this interest in chicken biryani? And where can I find more people to invite? The last couple who came over are our dearest friends, let’s call them N and T. They loved the biryani and ate with gusto. The evening ended on quite a sweet note. Hubs started to feel sleepy shortly after dessert (as is his norm) and proceeded to address both the guests (husband and wife) as ‘sweetie’ (the endearment reserved for me). When I pointed that out to him, he claimed that the cooking of the biryani had so relaxed him that he could barely stay awake. And so, he had gotten confused in his sleepiness.
Bottom line was that cooking biryani was a super-tranquil pastime. Hubs retired to bed a happy man.
He’s not always pleased though.
A few weeks ago, he looked terribly hurt. He discovered that I had ordered biryani for our son from our very pleasant desi caterer. After some shattered reactions, he explained that he felt very sad that I would order from outside the very dish which he had by now (manically) perfected.
He decided to sample the outsourced biryani and declared it to be “third-tier type,” cooked by “some little old woman in some kitchen.”
Loosely translated, that means that it just did not measure up to his authentic cuisine. This impassioned monologue went on for a very long time.
I plan to only order biryani from outside when he’s out of town now. Hubs is sweet and very earnest about his Friday afternoon kitchen expeditions. I will not hurt him.
Also, the good news is that he will soon be moving on from chicken biryani to haleem. So, I can invite the same people all over again and tantalise them with the idea of a new dish. I do not have to think of new people to invite.
Of course, this, too, will be cooked up with the same level of determination.
Truth be told, I continue to bask in the love of a very focused man whose capacity for a brute/forceful kind of commitment to all his endeavours does not cease to impress me.
If anyone would like to come over for dinner on Friday, please email me directly.