Saturday, July 31, 2010
No one – not our parents, not our closest friends, not even ourselves – could have predicted this. After all, we had always been a ‘solid’ couple. And yet here we were, separating after 8 years of marriage, sorting through our things and deciding who would keep what.
Part of me didn’t want this to happen, but somewhere, I realised that Yash was right – there was no point in living together under the same roof as strangers.
Strangers? Yash and I? Even the mere suggestion seemed ridiculous! We weren’t ‘strangers’ to each other even when we met for the first time in catering college. Though it wasn’t ‘love at first sight’ kind of a thing, we had hit it off very well and so, it was only a matter of time before we became a couple.
I glanced at him as he sorted through our huge CD collection. “Tell you what, you keep all of them. I am just taking a few. In any case I have a huge collection of songs on my I-pod,” he smiles. I nodded and walked away, trying not to step on all the stuff scattered all over the floor – stuff that held our memories – memories of better times. We were so happy together, I remembered. What went wrong? Just when did we become ‘strangers’, I wondered.
Yash kept coming and asking what to do with some of the stuff, but mostly, I left him alone. I was not too interested in what he took and what he left. After all, I was hardly home and when I was, I was mostly sleeping. My job as a chef at a world renowned restaurant took up most of my time and all of my energy.
I’d had to work very hard to get to where I was. It is ironical that though women are the ones who cook at home all over the world, in restaurants, it is a completely different story. Most top chefs are men and it is quite difficult for a woman to break through the glass ceiling. I was very proud of what I had achieved; in fact I was very proud of what Yash had achieved as well – his food based travel program was immensely popular.
Success hadn’t come very easily for us and the early days had been excruciating but on hindsight, we survived them because we had each other. Whenever Yash would be back from his travels, I’d have some fancy ‘welcome back’ cake baked for him. And ever so often, he’d whisk me off for a short vacation when he was travelling. Every free minute and we'd be on the phone or on the chat with each other. Somewhere along the way though, cakes, spontaneous getaways and chats gave way small matter-of fact post-its – “there’s some soup in the fridge for you” or “will be back on the 18th and going away the next day.” Strangers? Worse, it seemed! Most days, we hardly had anything to say to each other.
My thoughts were interrupted when my eyes fell on Yash who was leafing through a book. The book. The one in which we had written about our dream of starting a restaurant. The book had everything – the concept of our restaurant : a meeting place for writers and artists, the look: wooden floors and cozy sofas that people could sink into with bookcases and paintings across the walls, the menu: complete with the recipes we had experimented on.
A dream that seemed destined to be confined to the pages of the book. Forever.
Chancing upon the book after ages seemed to break the silence between us and we smiled at each other as we started talking about the time that was. And soon, we were talking about everything under the sun. Ourselves, work, politics. We stopped talking only when we realised that the afternoon had turned to dusk.
“Let me make us some tea,” he said. “Is there anything to eat?” So while he made tea, I pulled out some cookies and buttered a couple of slices of bread.
He handed me my mug and as I bit into the bread that I had dipped into my tea, I said “No one can make bread the way you used to make it.”
“What do you mean ‘used to make’? No one can make bread the way I do. Period.”
“Don’t flatter yourself! It’s been ages since you made bread.”
“Making bread is like riding a cycle. You never forget it,” he proclaimed. “Wanna see? I will bake you a bread you’ll remember,” he continued.
And so, I mixed the yeast and the sugar in some warm water, I measured out the flour and Yash started kneading the dough. Suddenly, it felt like the old times when we used to cook together.
“There is not too much space on the counter to knead the dough,” he says. “Let’s quickly vacuum the floor. Then I can knead it on the floor.”
“Whaaaaaat? And make laadi pav in the true sense of the word?” I was horrified by his suggestion.
“Oh stop behaving like a posh chef at home,” he teased with a smile that went straight to my heart. I was almost tempted to tell him not to go, when his cell phone rang. He had dough sticking to his fingers and so I held the phone against his ears, almost unable to bear the closeness.
“Yes, yes. 11 is fine.” “No, no, there isn’t too much to move. Yes, a small tempo should be ok,” he spoke into the phone.
When the call was over, we looked at each other silently for a moment and then I slipped out of the kitchen. He continued to knead; occasionally, I could hear a thud as he dropped the dough on the platform. Job done, he joined me in the balcony.
“Care for some wine?” he asked, finally breaking the awkward silence between us. In the time it took for the dough to rise, we’d polished off one bottle. While he shaped the buns, I opened another; by the time he put them in the oven, we had drained the second one too.
I wondered if it was the wine or the music or whatever else. I didn’t even remember who made the first move, but suddenly, we were in each other’s arms, kissing.
The ‘ting’ of the oven brought us back to reality. I went and checked the bread. It had this lovely brown crust and it was so soft and spongy that when I pressed it between my fingers, it sprung right back. I brought it to my nose and inhaled; the aroma filled me up.
“Perfect. I will always remember this bread,” I said as I went into the bedroom and closed the door behind me.
When I woke up, it was almost 10 in the morning. The movers would be coming soon, I thought. There was no sign of Yash; when I went to the kitchen to make coffee, I saw the post-it on on the fridge: Off to finish a project I should have taken up years ago. Will arrange to move everything once I am done.
I had fallen in love with Yash all over again and I missed him terribly but work kept me from brooding too much. Then one day, to my shock, I found him waiting for me at home when I returned at night. Laid out on the table were some legal looking papers – our divorce papers, I thought with a pang.
He started talking the moment he saw me, “I got stuck at the name. Other than that, in the last 3 months, I’ve done all the work on our restaurant.”
Our restaurant? What was he saying? I looked at the ‘legal looking’ papers – they were about a restaurant – our restaurant!
“So choose a name….I thought of Canvas, Chalks and Chopsticks. The other one is Plumes, Palettes and Plates….which one do you like?
“Plumes, Palettes and Plates,” I said as I moved into his arms. He continued to fill me in with the details, but all I could hear was the beating of his heart.
So just what is 'laadi pav'? Pav is a marathi word, taken from the Portuguese word pao which simply means bread. It is called 'laadi pav' more because of the way it looks. When baked with all the buns stuck together, it ressembles slabs of the floor and hence the name.
This is one very easy bread to make, I've taken the recipe from Vaishali's blog and except for a few.....ummm.....cosmetic changes, I have followed her recipe to the tee.
Ingredients:Bread flour: 3 cups
Salt: 1 tsp
Baking soda: 1/2 tsp
Sugar: 1+ 2tsps
Yeast: 1.5 tsps
Warm water: 1 - 1.5 cups
Butter/oil: 3 tbsps
for brushing the top of the buns:
warm milk: 2 tbsps
melted butter: 1 tbsp
Stir the yeast and the sugar in 1/4 cup of warm water and let it sit for about 15-20 mins or till it expands and froths
Sift the flour and baking soda together and transfer it to a large mixing bowl.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture and mix it into the flour. Pour the water in thin trickle and begin kneading the dough.
When it clumps together, turn it onto the kitchen counter and knead for a further 10 - 12 mins, till you get a smooth and pliable ball of dough.
Then, sprinkle the salt over the dough and add the butter, a tbsp at a time and knead till all the butter has been absorbed by the dough.
Leave the dough for rising in a well oiled bowl; it takes me about 3 hours for the dough to double.
Then, punch it down and divide it into eight pieces. Shape them into rectangular buns and lay them close to each other on a jam roll pan. Let them rise for another 30 minutes, once this rising time has elapsed, you will see that the gap between the buns has closed out, making the buns stick to each other.
Brush the milk on the top of the buns and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for about 20 mins. Turn off the oven, leave the door slightly ajar and let the buns rest for a further 5 mins.
Take them off and brush the melted butter immediately on top of the buns; doing this ensures that crust remains soft and the buns get a lovely shine.
It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!