The Terrible Cook

Avni Singh, Class 7, Podar World School Sama, Vadodara

I write regularly and I should say everyone expects me to write a touching piece that embodies a message. But this time, I would like my story to embody something else: laughter—the incoherent but magical laughter of children. This is life to us. We laugh at meaningless things—when a friend skids, when someone burps, and whatnot. This incident is one such.

One summer vacation, Ramya’s uncle went abroad with her aunt and cousin. Ramya had the whole house to herself. She decided to cook a traditional south-Indian dish for her friends at the office. She was already famous for not knowing anything to do with cooking or the kitchen. This was a good opportunity to change the popular opinion, or so she thought. She sifted through the entire kitchen to gather all the ingredients she needed. She even climbed a ladder to unearth the jars kept on the top shelf. By the time she finished cooking that morning, she felt as proud as a chef who had just won the Master Chef India title.

She entered the office beaming. “I have made sambar rice for the first time. I think it’s going to be really tasty,” she announced. Her friends looked at her skeptically, “Really? We’ll see.” By lunchtime, everybody in the office knew about Ramya’s self-cooked lunch. They all crowded around her as she took out her lunchbox. With a flourish of her hand, she pulled off the lid. Instead of the golden-brown sambar rice she had put in her box, the thing inside was grayish-white in color! Everyone laughed hard. Somebody said, “Don’t lie, Ramya. You’ve brought yogurt rice.” Ramya put her finger in the so-called yogurt rice, but it wouldn’t go in; it was pretty hard! Chaos reigned the lunchroom for a few minutes as they tried to figure out what it really was! Their senior, Hari, suggested eating out. He seemed wise. So Ramya agreed, and they all had a wonderful lunch. She spent the next two days wondering why her sambar rice hardened.

When her uncle’s family returned, she narrated this incident. At first, they roared with laughter. Then, with the spirit of a detective determined to catch a master criminal, Aunt decided to find out what went wrong. She asked Ramya to point out the ingredients she’d put in the sambar. Ramya did so. She pointed at a jar of rice powder and explained how she went to great lengths to get it down from the top shelf. Aunt cracked up. She told Ramya that the “rice powder” was, in fact, Plaster of Paris! Had Ramya and her colleagues eaten it, they’d have had to spend a few days in the emergency room of a hospital! All the same, she did change the popular opinion within her family—she was now famous for being a terrible cook.

Several years after the incident, we, the children of the next generation, still smell and feel the texture of the food she cooks before eating!


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