In The Waiting Room
I wanted to travel for a year, maybe two. But sadly, Covid had halted my plans and instead, I nurtured my wanderlust by taking cooking classes around the world online. I decided to use a platform called Traveling Spoon that offered an authentic cooking experience, connecting you with local people in foreign locations for a 90-minute Zoom cooking session.
My cooking skills have only ever been average. I grew up in a cottage on the south coast of England with an Aga cooker that remained on all the time. The Aga cooker was the home heating system and the cooker. My parents did not know how to adjust the temperature; therefore, it remained the same temperature for cooking and heating the entire year. It didn’t really matter, no one in my family could cook. But that did not stop me from loving the food my mother prepared. Her favorite stew only needed the can opener. A can of meat, a can of peas, a can of carrots and a can of tomatoes were emptied into a pot and heated.
For my first class, I decided to choose the ‘Masala Dosa’ and Chutney class in India with Kaushik. After having a challenging time attempting to arrange a meeting time, due to my schedule and the massive time difference, Kaushik wrote to me:
‘I will be in Silicon Valley for six months at the end of the week. We can go shopping together in Millbrae.’ Silicon Valley is about an hour from where I live.
Well, I thought to myself, that’s not very authentic. He is flying to California and knows the area. I have lived here for 20 years and did not know there was an Indian shop in Millbrae.
When the meeting date arrived I drove to Millbrae and parked directly outside the Indian shop, grabbed a cart and walked into the shop. As I looked around childhood memories of my life in England floated into my mind. I noticed that my favorite British biscuits were available. I proceeded to fill my basket with chocolate digestive biscuits as a charming, very healthy-looking man approached me.
“Ahh Jill, I recognize you from your picture on Travelling Spoon, greetings, I am Kaushik, and I am very glad to meet you. Shall we begin our shopping”. I followed as he placed items into my cart. A bag of turmeric looked like it will last me a lifetime, frozen masala mix, we are cheating, dried red chilies, Bengal gram, seedless tamarind, and a large bag of dried chickpeas. I questioned if I will ever use these ingredients again after the class.
I had invited my daughters to join me for the Zoom class, but as usual with my adult children, they were too busy. Instead, a girlfriend, Lynne, joined me. She arrived with a bottle of wine that she placed on the counter away from the screen. Both of us wondered if he would think we are not taking this seriously if we sipped wine throughout the event. We then put out the ingredients and lined up the utensils. Agreeing which side of the counter and stove was hers and which side was mine.
At 6 pm Kaushik was on the screen waiting patiently. He greeted us and proceeded to explain the popularity of what we were cooking in India. He instructed us to begin with the Masala Dosa.
I chopped the onions and then Lynne began to fry the onions for the potato stuffing. As she fried, I stood by the mixer next to the screen. I placed the packaged prepared Dosa mix in the food mixer and added the water. Before I turned the mixer on, I took a metal spoon and scraped the flour from the sides of the mixer. I turned to Lynne – “Are you okay?” She smiled and mouthed the words – wine – I nodded in agreement. The atmosphere with Kaushik was no laughing matter. He was a serious person and kept his eyes on us as we moved from task to task.
I placed the lid on the mixer and turned it on full power. A loud bang echoed throughout the kitchen. Sharp plastic pieces slammed against the refrigerator, Lynne screamed, I jumped away from the mixer leaving the mixer spinning as the entire contents in the mixer shot across the room. I finally hit the off button and then there was silence.
I looked at the mixer. The whole left side was shattered. As if it had exploded. I then realized I had left the metal spoon in the mixer. It shot through the side of the mixer and across the kitchen. Pieces of plastic were in the mix, on the floor, in the frying pan. I burst out laughing, uncontrollably, tears rolled down my face. Lynne descended onto the floor laughing and then crawled to the bathroom. “I’m going to pee myself,” she yelled.
Kaushik remained calm and stoic. He brought his face closer to the screen trying to stare at the spaces the screen would not allow. I was grateful there was limited viewing, Lynne crawling out of the kitchen was a strange sight in the middle of a cooking lesson.
“Everything okay?” He asked.
I could not bring the laughing under control. Should I reach over to the leave meeting button, and end this experience? I started to snort. As I tried not to laugh, the snorting became louder. I tried to breathe deeply but looked up only to see lumps of Dosa mix hanging from the ceiling.
Lynne walked back into the kitchen composed. However, as she entered, she stopped at the bottle of wine, opened the wine took a swig and looked at me. I nodded. She filled the glasses. I moved myself away from the screen’s view and chugged the wine. Kaushik rested his chin on his hands patiently staring at my kitchen.
“Everything okay?” He repeated.
His voice from the computer penetrated the room.
He pushed his face closer to the screen and lifted his right eyebrow.
“What happened?” He calmly asked.
“I left the metal spoon in the mixer and turned it on full power. The spoon shot out the side of the mixer.” I began to snort.
He lifted his left eyebrow again and replied: ‘Shall we proceed with the chutney?’