Those who have had the misfortune of knowing me also know the fact that I love cooking, and that i consider myself a reasonably good, if rather accident prone and messy cook. i'll lay the blame for the cooking bit on my mom, who had the foresight to realize even as i was a kid, that i will someday end up with some girl who won't be able to tell salt from pepper without reading the labels, and that a foodie like her son would end up eating hotel food, canned food and other lesser morsels all his life. so she decided to teach me (and my brother, but thats a different story) how to cook, sorta like an added skill to our survival kit for adult life. She also tried the same approach with washing clothes, and other household chores but that didn't quite meet with the same sort of success as cooking did. so i ended up loving cooking, but utterly loathing the cleaning up after it. either way, the cooking continues to this day.
one of the first things i mastered was what mom and i called the railway roast. it was the dry egg roast that they served with appam on the vanchinad express that we took when visiting grandparents in trivandrum, and in my opinion, its the perfect way to cook eggs. of course, that was just the starting point in a long stint with cookery. what i liked best was the creative side of things. i mean, i cook the way i drive. recipes, like traffic rules, are more suggestions than anything else. so, just like i wont drive in the opposite lane but would jump a red light if no one's looking, u can stick to the basic recipe and still experiment enough to come up with drastically different and interesting culinary results. while you might not be able to duplicate the nuances of a particularly successful experiment a second time round, its still worth the thrill of having made something that probably no one in their senses would have tried.
which led me to my own recipes, eventually. the first of which was vodka chicken and chicken kalyani (named in honor of kalyani black label beer). now, addition of alcohol like wine and vodka is a common enough practise, but i doubt very many chefs would have made a gravy that was held together primarily by the alcohol. which is the sort of experiment that i like... its sorta like playing with old tyres.. y'know, when as a kid you used to run rolling the tyre along by beating it with a stick.. you have to constantly keep balancing it and striking it to keep it moving, and ur happy when it does the simple task of rolling along smoothly while you run beside it. Just the same with these recipes, you start off in a certain direction, and as you wander along you keep adding and subtracting stuff with the aim of making something tasty.. constant mid-course updates to ensure you get it right.
of course, all of this eventually struck me as rather empirical.. i mean, the two successful recipes were the results of situations or accidents, and its a miracle that i can recreate these to some degree of satisfaction. so i decided to try and conceptualize food. y'know, build a recipe out of thin air , inside my head, and then prove it empirically, instead of throwing things around and then making recipes out of them. now, i am also an avid aviation enthusiast, as well as a bike maniac, and it so happens that the hayabusa bike from suzuki was designed in a wind tunnel. which means that they put molten modelling clay on the chassis and left it in a wind tunnel and the wind gave it the form. well, not exactly, but you get the gist. now this train of thought frequently visits the station that is my mind, considering its got wind tunnels and bikes on board, and ive always been fascinated by it. and as i was standing by my bike having a smoke yesterday, i was suddenly hit by the gastronomic enlightenment that i should make a recipe out of it. wind tunnel designed food, if you will..
now, i know this sounds ludicrous, which is why i loved the idea. so i set about thinking what i could make.. it obviously had to have the metaphor of a chassis and the modelling clay. i ruled out chicken right away since it would make for an ugly chassis, and beef would mean too huge a chassis, quail and rabbit would mean too small a chassis, and fish would mean a made-in-bengal chassis which even ratan tata shied away from. so mutton it had to be, by this simple process of elimination. process, thats what it was all about. i may never have followed proper design process in a single project i ever did, but i was neck deep in process here. probably mutton ribs, they would be the perfect size for my chasis.
the next part was the molten clay and the wind tunnel. i tackled the wind tunnel first. it was apparent pretty soon that a blowing with a hair dryer will not cook mutton, so a literal wind tunnel was out of the question. and other conventional methods like a spit roast would be useless too, since the fire would be below and the gravy would flow from top to bottom. so the metaphor was altered a bit, and heat rays became the equivalent of the wind in the tunnel. this now meant i could use anything to heat it as long as it was radiation heated. you might at this point be thinking whether i hadn't taken my analogy a bit too far, and you're right, i did think of that. but then all such doubts soon vanished since i was having waaay too much fun by now. this was almost as much fun as designing doomed-to-fail payload rockets on diwali.
so, on to the clay then. which, of course would be the masala for the meat. now a good chef never reveals the entire contents of his masala mix, so neither will i. but then this is more due to the fact that my mix will consist of whatever i haven't run out of by the time i actually test this thing. but then, the image of the wind forming the melting clay on the chassis was too vivid in my imagination that i decided the masala has to melt on to the chassis. um, meat. for once, since i was inventing my own recipe, i couldnt take things casually, you see. now the list of edible things that also melt is a pretty short list. I can only think of butter mozzarella and the like. i did a short search to see if there were any edible waxes, but gave up on that line sensing that it would mean impending disaster to my blooming career as a cook. chocolate was avoided as well since being a southie, spicy is the norm and if the food doesn't make you shoot flames from the mouth that are at least as long as the chandrayaan rocket exhaust, the food aint worth it. besides, sweet is a bit too gujju, that goat wouldnt pardon me. so lets just say im thinking of cheese, and leave it at that.
and like any proud parent, i had the dilemma of what to name my baby, since i was torn between wind-tunnel gosht, and mutton hayabusa, but eventually settled for the more exotic sounding latter. of course, this post is now coming to an anti-climactic end, but let me just remind anyone who's foolhardy enough to have read this far, that the proof of the mutton, just as with the pudding, is in the eating. which obviously means i need some lab rats. Four unwitting souls are coming for lunch at my place on saturday, i wonder if...
watch this space for the results. :D