Pastry and the Progress of Civilisation

On the weekend gone by, I was attending a class on how to cook Hokkaido Cheese Tarts and Xiao Long Bao, the famous and delicious soup filled dumpling. The class was a birthday present from my darling wife, and as birthday presents go, has been the best one since she got me Ticket to Ride, which continues to provide hours of fun to this day. In time to come, the ability to make xiao long bao or cheese tarts may provide more cumulative pleasure and meaning than Ticket to Ride. But why speculate? For now, I shall write about the insights I gained during the class.

As I went through the class, the teacher pointed out that xiao long bao, for all its fame, does not have particularly exotic or expensive ingredients. It’s made with flour, minced pork, gelatin, and the same seasoning ingredients – sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and salt and pepper – as are found in any East Asian chicken. The only really unusual ingredients are yeast and gelatin, which are procured easily enough. The reason you have to pay almost a dollar a dumpling, said Ms Tan, is that making the dumplings is both time consuming (you start the night before by adding yeast to the flour) and highly skilled; and that restaurants have to scour China to find skilled dumpling makers. Xiao Long Bao, she said, was all about the people making it, and not about what they were making it from.

This, I realised, is an interesting parallel to my older aunts’ and uncles’ idea of a good time. But as I thought more about it, I also realised that it is brought about by dramatically different circumstances. Let me elaborate.

My older aunts and uncles, all born before 1947, started adulthood as post-Partition refugees in Jammu and Delhi. Those were bleak years, not just for refugees, but for India as a whole. Material luxuries were scarce, or didn’t even exist. Automobiles and telephones were on a waiting list. Fruit and butter were major treats. But even with fruit, variety was limited; and so the treat was more to have a lot of a single kind of fruit, than to have many different kinds of fruits.

The thing that wasn’t scarce in those days was people. And so for my older relatives, their idea of luxury involves people doing work for them. The more work, the better. For my bua, bliss is having her driver drive around in the rains with no destination in mind. The driver, who has to control the car in miserable weather and driving conditions, may disagree. But anyhow. As they – and India – became richer, they started treating themselves to newly available material goods as well, but never quite lost the habit of thoroughly enjoying themselves by getting other people to do the work on their behalf.

Today, the situation is dramatically different. Free economies, free trade, and internet shopping, among other things, mean that we are spoiled for choice when it comes to material things; and they all cost much less thanks to the Chinese manufacturing miracle. Smartphones and motorcycles are within everyone’s reach! There are five different kinds of grains in the market. The fruit shop has fruits from all over the world, and farmers in Uttarakhand are now growing zucchini. What a cornucopia!

The trouble with cornucopias is that if everyone1 can have a smartphone, a smartphone ceases to be a signal of status and wealth. So if displaying your status and wealth is important to you, you can’t really do it with material things; unless you get really rare and exotic material things. Or, you could buy things which require something else scarce to make them – that is, skills. Such as xiao long bao.

So, sixty years ago, when money was limited, but things you could buy with it were even more limited, the only way you could show off was by buying labour. Today, money is widespread, things you can buy are even more so; and so the only way to show off is again by buying labour. What a full circle, and what a sandwich generation it makes those people who grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s and could impress others with laptop computers or automobiles.

This is possibly overgeneralisation, but I think there’s another difference between buying labour in a scarcity era and in a post-scarcity era. In the scarcity era, you paid for conspicuous waste, like having five domestic servants run around to find your glasses; while in the post-scarcity era you pay for conspicuous skill2 like folding the perfectly symmetrical dumpling. Which brings us back to the class.

At the end of the class, I can testify to the importance of skill. Making the dumpling dough is easy enough, and the stuffing is even easier. But picking out the perfect quantity of dough, rolling it out into a flat disk that’s thinner on the edges, and then folding the disk into an aesthetically pleasing dumpling are skills that take probably take months of practice to get right. Frustrated at my fumbling efforts, Ms Tan frequently took over the doug rolling herself, and the bun folding even more so. About twenty dumplings in, my folding technique finally became adequate, if not good. It was hard to overcome habit and heed Ms Tan’s advice to do the folding right rather than do it quick3.

During the class, demonstrating a method of squeezing out dough, and noting my Indian origins, Ms Tan told me that it was the same method as would be used in making pratas. Too embarassed to admit that I have never made a paratha by hand, and buy frozen ones from packets when forced to make them for myself; I merely nodded; but this observation, coupled with her comments about xiao long bao being all labour and skill and not material cost, made me remember a classified advertisement that had gone viral a few years ago.

I’m not sure if the classified was real or a photocopied joke, and I can’t even find the image any more, so I’m describing it from memory. It was in Tamil, and listed several job openings, along with the salary offers against those openings. Beginner software engineers, or something similarly white collar, were being offered 8000 rupees a month. A parotta master (or perhaps it was a dosa master) was being offered something much higher – ten or twelve thousand rupees a month. In general, people were amused at a blue collar occupation making much more than a white collar occupation. Further commentary, if any, focused either on the utter commodification of IT skills, or on pointing out that domestic and cooking skills were actually in very short supply and worth paying for. But it was only on Sunday that I realised that Douglas Adams too had made a pertinent comment on the situation, many years before the classified had come out. It is this quote from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series:

The history of every major Galactic Civilization teds to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?’

So yes, a parotta master making more than a software engineer has a lot to say about the dignity of blue collar jobs, the commodification of coding skills, the changing demographics and economic fortunes of South India, and our tendency to carry around too many expectations. But at a very big picture level, it also suggests that South India, as a civilisation, has started the transition from Inquiry to Sophistication. Hurray!

A Return Journey for Vada Pao

Although it’s widespread in India, the samosa is not originally from India. There may be a metaphor in there about the Aryan Invasion Theory, but let’s ignore the metaphor and focus on the food. Here’s a Quartz story about the origins of the samosa:

From Egypt to Libya and from Central Asia to India, the stuffed triangle with different names has garnered immense popularity. Originally named samsa, after the pyramids in Central Asia, historical accounts also refer to it as sanbusak,sanbusaq or even sanbusaj, all deriving from the Persian word, sanbosag. In South Asia, it was introduced by the Middle Eastern chefs during the Delhi Sultanate rule, although some accounts credit traders for bringing the fare to this part of the world.

The post seems to have been written by a Pakistani person, so it focuses more on the Pakistani keema samosas, while briefly acknowledging that in India, it has been vegetarianised, so that the samosa filling has become potato instead of meat.

I never knew until I was out of school that samosas could come with meat instead of potato and peas. By that time, I had already gone off samosas forever. This was because of how bad potato samosas in Delhi can get, especially when you’re trying to make them as cheap as possible. Of course, for government canteens, which operate on lowest financial bid contracts, making things as cheap as possible is imperative, so there is nothing quite as awful as a government samosa. It is the nadir of cost cutting, and features the coming together of:

  1. The worst quality of potatoes (and Indian potatoes are already pretty bad compared to potatoes from the rest of the world)
  2. Deep frying the samosas in dalda instead of oil
  3. Watered down tamarind chutney

Now consider the vada pao. This, unlike the samosa, was almost certainly created in India. And it started out vegetarian. It has always been a deep fried mashed potato ball stuffed inside a bun.

What if we sent the vada pao on the reverse journey of the samosa? That is, from a vegetarian potato beginning; we turn it into a meat item? We mince various kinds of meat, fry each in besan (or maybe even another sort of batter), and then put the result into a pao. And after various experiments, we figure out the best possible meat and batter combination and end up with something that’s more expensive, but far tastier and healthier than a potato burger. If it works, we could give the recipe to Central Asia, as a way of saying thank you for all the samosas.

Android R

Google names major Android versions after desserts. Which is why, two and a half years ago, when the ‘K’ version of Android was scheduled to be released, Indians started campaigning for Android Kaju Katli. In a great blow to deliciousness, Google named Android 4.4 KitKat instead.

The year after that, Laddoo was bypassed for Lollipop. We now face a situation where at one major release a year, there could be a few years before another Indian sweet is in the running. Consider:

  • This year should be Android M, where the best contender from India is Mysore Pak. It faces fierce competition like marshmallows, macarons, macaroons, marzipan, and marble cake. Its prospects are not good.
  • After M comes N, and I can’t think of a single Indian dessert that begins with n. Whereas the west has nougat. Which is disgusting, but at least it has a name beginning with n.
  • Next we have O, where again I can’t think of a single Indian dessert. Even Asian desserts, which I thought might have a chance, because apparently the preferred spelling is Umm Ali, not Om Ali, which is just Indian caterer spelling. So… Android Orange Marmalade?
  • Android P next. We could potentially have Android Pedha, Android Petha, or Android Piste ki lauj. But if you can’t get Android Laddoo, no way are you getting Android Pedha.
  • I can’t think of anything, Indian or Western, that starts with Q and is also a dessert.

Which brings us to R, where for the first time India has a serious contender: Rasmalai.

It would be wrong to call Rasmalai the king of desserts. For starters, it’s feminine in Hindi. But more than that, it has no monarchical pretensions, so you couldn’t even call it the queen of desserts. Go to a sweet shop – particularly Evergreen Sweet House if you want to have the greatest rasmalai in India – and you’ll find rasmalai lying placidly (in plain or kesar form) among the gulab jamuns, kala jamuns, and cham cham, not at all suggesting that it tastes better than anything else around. The laddoos may occupy the top shelf, the anjeer ki barfi may come at the beginning on an alphabetical listing, but the rasmalai is content to maintain a low profile until it comes to the crucial question of how it tastes. It is, therefore, the primus inter pares of desserts. It is a dessert for republics, not decadent monarchies. For reasons of deliciousness as well as reasons of politics and philosophy, we should therefore devote all our energy to campaigning for Android Rasmalai, even if this means taking away our chances for an Android Mysore Pak.

At one Android release a year, there are five years to go. This gives us enough time to build up our campaign. You might say it is too much time. You would be wrong, because we have to defeat the enemy within: Rasgulla/ Rosogolla.

There is a grave threat that by the time Android’s R release is coming up, the insidious Bengalee lobby will try to promote Rosogolla as an alternative contender for the name. This is all the more sinister, because if they succeed, not only will they have scuppered the chances of the more delicious Rasmalai, they will have further succeeded in promoting the originally Oriya Rosogolla as something Bengali. For the sake of both deliciousness and Oriya pride, we must not let this happen. It will be a matter of great shame for all Indians if the first Indian dessert to make it to an Android codename is an abominable, oversugary mess instead of a perfectly balanced, nutty and spicy rasmalai. Besides, the Bongs can always try for Sondesh.

Join me to promote R for Rasmalai my comrades!

Rice Must Be Annihilated

When I moped last week about the dust and haze in Delhi, I forgot all about the reason it’s so particularly horrific at the beginning of the winter: because farmers all over Punjab and Haryana are burning rice straw to clear the fields; and the smoke from this is drifting over to Delhi. This means that you actually see the air getting darker and more horrifying as you leave the urban parts of Delhi and enter the rural parts towards Haryana (whether towards Gurgaon, where I bicycled yesterday, or towards Sonepat, where I drove on Thursday). The urban parts might be nastier in terms of automobile exhausts pumping the air full of nitrogen and sulphur oxides; but the outskirts just look horrible.

The Times of India had an oped last week about how air quality is not the only ecological disaster that rice cultivation causes. It’s also sucking up groundwater, turning land fallow, and runaway power consumption.

For one, withdrawal of groundwater substantially exceeds annual recharge, with the result that the water table falls continuously each year. As the water table falls, each additional kilolitre of water requires more power for its extraction than the last kilolitre. The subsidy on power thus increases continuously and is met from the state budget.

In many regions the water table, which was initially less than 10 metres, has already fallen below 500 metres, leading to a huge adverse impact on state finances.

(The Times of India)

All things being equal, this would have hit a limit when power tariffs (or diesel prices for gensets) kept rising to respond to the demand. Or, additional power would have been generated.

However, thanks to a combination of subsidised power tariffs for agricultural users, state owned utilities, and agricultural landlords’ grip over politics in Haryana and Punjab, it hasn’t happened. The state owned utilities are too broke to put up new power plants or buy more power for that matter. All that happens is status quo, and less and less power availability, so everyone just starts running their pumps or factories on diesel gensets.

All this limited electricity supply being used to help produce something that isn’t that tasty, and could make me diabetic; when it could instead be used to power my Haryana factories hurts me personally.

The oped also cribs about the part Minimum Support Prices and FCI procurement rules play:

Coupled with attractive minimum support prices (MSPs) and policy directives to FCI to procure the bulk of its rice supplies from these two states, an irresistible economic incentive is created for the farmer to grow rice, rather than the alternatives – maize, other grains, pulses, horticulture, that are more suited to the natural ecology of the region.

The writers suggest moving to average cost pricing for power, hiking MSP for rice, and getting the FCI to purchase rice from eastern India instead of Punjab and Haryana to fix this problem. All well and good, and I hope this happens. But this works either on the supply or the intermediary side, and doesn’t really fix the problem of demand. And the problem of demand is this: Indians are obsessed with eating rice. If nobody was eating rice in the first place, it wouldn’t be getting sold in the private sector, non-FCI market.

How do we get people to stop eating rice? One way is to appeal to their better sentiments and point out that they’re just bringing horrible air pollution upon themselves. But in a society where people refuse to stop bursting firecrackers, even though with firecrackers they suffer the pollution effects of their behaviour directly and immediately, I have my doubts about whether this will work. We will therefore have to resort to guile.

I think the best way to discourage rice eating is with a flanking attack of shame and aspiration. When rice eating is shown to be a matter of shame, people will feel embarrassed about doing so; but also ask ‘What shall we do instead?!’ When an alternative is presented that is actually better and more aspirational than rice eating itself, this objection will also crumble.

Fortunately, this alternative already exists. The keto and other low-carb or no-carb diets preclude rice eating altogether. And they lead to awesome fitness and good looks, as seen in low-carber Hariflute.

Look at that sexy beast. Just look at him. That’s what you become when you cut out rice and switch to ghee and bacon.

So that’s what people have to aspire to when they cut out rice. But how to shame them into considering giving it up in the first place? For that, I think the impetus has to come from another Twitter heartthrob – @majorlyprofound, who has for many years now mounted a campaign of scorn against short, dark, small hearted rice eaters who can’t become fast bowlers.

If Major’s rants are more widely spread across the world (or at any rate in India), people will begin to refrain from eating rice for fear of becoming short and dark. In North India, which is where the devastation caused by rice cultivation is the worst anyway, we could even accelerate this campaign of shame by pointing out that rice is for cowardly monkey-cap wearing Bangaalis and traitorous Madrasis who refuse to speak Hindi. Yes, this is a course of action that plays on lamentable stereotypes, but fuck it, those stereotypes are there anyway, and we might as well put them to good use in cleaning up Delhi and Haryana’s air.

The time has come for a Biryani and Basmati Boycott. Are you with me, comrades?!

Lonely Planet, Amethyst, Parks

This isn’t the common name for it, since a Google search doesn’t seem to throw up the link I want, but there’s a Lonely Planet Curse: as soon as Lonely Planet (or, to be fair, any major travel guide publisher) lists a restaurant/ hotel in their guidebooks, it starts getting an influx of tourists. Since it now has a captive market, the place in question lets service standards slip, raises prices to white-people levels, and earns the lasting ire of the locals over there. I think Adri rants about this often.

I was at Amethyst in Royapettah today and I suspect it may be suffering from the Lonely Planet Curse. It was certainly full of white people, and at least one table had a French couple reading an Inde de Sud guidebook. If anybody’s seen the latest South India guidebook, can they verify this?

The Lonely Planet Curse would explain the averageness of the food and coffee there. It’s not bad – it’s just meh. I wouldn’t refuse to go to Amethyst ever again because of bad food, but I’d never go there for the food. The desserts are still very good, though. The lemon curd cake I had today was fantastic. So was the banana bread, but then I am biased when it comes to bananas. People who are going to go ‘Haun!’ or ‘TWSS!’ in the comments, here is a pre-emptive ‘Shut up.’

But the thing is, you don’t really go to Amethyst for the food, which is just a bonus. The reasons to go to Amethyst are:

  1. You are a corporate whore who still wants to pretend to be a hippie
  2. You want to gawk at all the hot people or posh people or actual hippies there
  3. You want to buy nice presents for your darling girlfriend
  4. Amethyst is lovely and you can sit and wander around among plants, fishponds and cats

The new venue is even greener than the old premises in Gopalapuram. They’ve planted pineapples which haven’t come up yet, and have a huge melon (or perhaps pumpkin) patch, as well as brinjal plants. Delightful. I was there last week as well, and I sat in the verandah to write and blasted out almost a thousand words in three hours. As a place to just sit down and write, the Amethyst verandah pwns my guesthouse room, my office, and five star hotel coffee shops (which I tried last year). Though to be fair, doing this writing-on-the-verandah thing during the July monsoon is probably far more comfortable and far less hot and sticky than doing it in May. But even then the green cover would probably help.

So it’s partly the air of artsy hippieness that surrounds Amethyst that keeps taking me back there (and telling other people to meet me there)  and partly the greenery. But I realised that the hippies come there because of the other hippies and the greenery too – so fundamentally it’s the greenery. It’s the third greenest place I know in Chennai – the first two are the IIT Madras campus and the Horticultural Society.

However, I never invite people to meet me at IIT Madras (unless there’s already a quiz on there, but let us not delve into these boundary conditions) or the Horticultural Society. As is my wont, I mused why this is so. After all, with such wonderful greenery, why not invite people to meet me there?

After due consideration, I realised that this is because our social norms – especially in India –  demand that we combine socialisation with consumption. We either meet at coffee shops, where we consume coffee – or restaurants, where we consume food – at the movies, where we consume images – or at malls, where we commit wanton consumerism in general. Thus, most people who adhere to social norms will not go to a place merely because it is green. On occasion, I have suggested to people that we meet at the Horticultural Society or the (Delhi) zoo, but I am not quite as beholden to social norms. (As Bernard Woolley put it, this is “an irregular verb. I have an independent mind. You are an eccentric. He is around the twist.”) Anyway, either they never agreed or the one time someone did agree, the zoo was closed. So it goes.

I further reflected that changing social norms would be difficult and time-consuming, whereas getting parks to add a restaurant, or a small cafe, or a gift shop would be comparatively simple. In fact, many Delhi parks have done this. Deer Park has Park Baluchi, Lodi Gardens has the Garden Restaurant, and the Garden of Five Senses has something whose name I cannot recall at the moment. The only trouble is that these are all high-priced, and there are no lower price alternatives. The parks have street food hawkers outside, on the footpath, but none inside. As far as I know, Chennai does not have anything at all inside its parks, but growing up as I did five kilometres away from both Deer Park and Nehru Park, Chennai’s parks seem ridiculously tiny to me, and I suspect that they wouldn’t be able to squeeze a restaurant or food court in.

In an ideal situation, parks would have restaurants, cafes, small shops, and other such things to attract people for whom greenery was not sufficient motivation. Which is most people, when you come to think of it.

And then finally I remembered that somebody had already written about this, in 1961.

Certain qualities in design can apparently make a difference too. For if the object of a generalized bread-and-butter neighborhood park is to attract as many different kinds of people, with as many different schedules, interests, and purposes as possible, it is clear that the design of the park should abet this generalization of patronage rather than work at cross-purposes to it. Parks intensely used in generalized public-yard fashion should have four elements in their design which I shall call intricacy, centering, sun, and enclosure.

Intricacy is related to the variety of reasons for which people come to neighborhood parks. Even the same person comes for different reasons at different times; sometimes to sit tiredly, sometimes to play or to watch a game, sometimes to read or work, sometimes to show off, sometimes to fall in love, sometimes to keep an appointment, sometimes to savor the hustle of the city from a retreat, sometimes in the hope of finding acquaintances, sometimes to get closer to a bit of nature, sometimes to keep a child occupied, sometimes simply to see what offers, and almost always to be entertained by the sight of other people.

 (The Death and Life of Great American Cities)

Jane Jacobs, ladies and gentlemen. One of the twentieth century’s leading badasses. You’d be well advised to read the whole thing – all 448 pages of it.

What Do They Call This In France?

Angus Third Pounder

I mean, what tops Le Royale? Le Imperiale?

Wikipedia to the rescue. The Angus Third Pounder is not sold outside America and Canada (where it is called an Angus Deluxe in Ontario). No clarification, however, on whether this is because the rest of the world has the metric system, and wouldn’t know what the fuck a third pounder is.

My Trip in Beer

Cobra Beer

In order:

  1. Stella Artois, near the Tower of London. Recommended to me by Nega Maami.
  2. Amstel, at Henry’s Bar in Piccadilly. Also a Nega recommendation. Dry and delicious.
  3. Cobra, along with delicious paalak paneer at a place called… Punjabi Spice? Punjabi Spirit in Hounslow. As strong as Kingfisher, without the unpleasant aftertaste.
  4. Warsteiner, on the Lufthansa flight to New York.
  5. Heartland Brewery Wheat Lager once I got to New York. Not too bad. It was Masabi who suggested meeting at Heartland Brewery, and I have to thank him for it.
  6. Heartland Brewery Pumpkin Ale. Delicious, but an acquired taste. With every sip, I thought to myself – ‘Is this really beer?’
  7. Sam Adams, in the Dulles lounge. If this is the pinnacle of mainstream American beers, I weep for that unhappy nation.
  8. Uerige Alt in Düsseldorf. Even more of an acquired taste than the pumpkin ale, and very difficult to get used to if practically all your beer till date has been lagers.
  9. Franiskaner Weissbier at Frankfurt. This, I think, is the start of a beautiful friendship.

I tried nothing at all in Texas, mostly because I was far too zonked. Corona will have to wait for another time.

Haapy Onam

Happy Onam to all my Mellu readers and fans! You guys rock. May your days be filled with immigration to Gelf and lots of todee.

I first thulped Onam sadhya five years ago at the IIMB mess, where the Mellus in the batch prepared and served it for lunch. Whatta meal. Burp.

Today, alas, I am stuck far far North of Hebbal Flyover. And Delhi doesn’t have a single dedicated Mellu joint (at least, that I know about). Woe.

Mangos

Appropriate uses for mangos:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Fresh fruit served with icecream
  • Mango pickle
  • Panna
  • Added for flavour while steaming fish
A terrible waste of mangos:
  • Mango milkshake
  • Mango lassi
  • Mango icecream
  • Murabba
Borderline uses of mangos:
  • Chhundo

Not Wasting Food

Love Food Hate Waste has five tips on how to save money by not wasting food (via). Although the list has been designed with a UK audience in mind, some of the tips hold equally well for us junta sitting in India. For example:

Tinned beans, frozen vegetables, meat and fish and dried fruit, nuts, pasta & noodles, rice & grains, are all essentials with a long shelf life – meaning you will always have the ingredients standing by to pull together a delicious meal or to jazz up your leftovers. The trick is to replace items once you have used them up. It helps to keep a note stuck on the inside of the cupboard door – scribble down items as soon as you have finished them and check it when you write your shopping list.

Planning your meals is one of the most effective ways you can cut wastage and food bills. Start by checking your fridge, freezer and store cupboard so you don’t shop for things you already have.

(Love Food Hate Waste)

When I was in Bangalore, not planning my meals in the morning could lead to disaster. I would forget I had fruit or salad lying in the fridge, and then eat dinner out near office assuming there was nothing at home to prepare. By the next day, the salad would have spoilt, and I would have wasted the salad as well as the cost of the dinner out. Sticking a list of what I did have on the fridge door every weekend would have helped in the planning meals if I’d checked it every day and planned my dinner and breakfast according to it.

On a related note, it’s time to bring up another rant about refrigerators (people who read my mailing list know I do this often). Picking a refrigerator is fraught with peril. You’re always trading off convenience with expense and a tendency to waste.

I positively hate manual defrost refrigerators. If the light goes for extended periods (as it does so often in India) you wind up with a huge puddle on the kitchen floor. If you forget to defrost, whatever is in the freezer gets iced over and you have to go at it with a pickaxe. And I’m too much a twenty-first century types to remember to defrost the thing myself. That’s the fridge’s job, dammit!

Now unfortunately a frost-free fridge comes in large sizes and so uses more electricity than the manual defrost ones (in addition to being more expensive to begin with anyhow). The large size also means you have a tendency to throw stuff in there and then forget it’s there – as I did with my salads.

Fortunately, there are mitigants. You can cut down on the wasted electricity by filling the freezer with water bottles so all that energy goes to some use. And sticking a list of what’s in there on the fridge door could help you avoid forgetting it.

Extreme geekiness alert: In fact, if you wanted to truly power-use your fridge lists, you could create an individual Post-it for every item, and flip the Post-its around so that what you were planning to use in the evening would be right on top. The only way to be even geekier is to have a laptop in the kitchen and update your fridge MIS on an Excel sheet (or Google spreadsheets for that matter) as you remove stuff from the fridge and eat/ cook it. Sadly, my kitchen in Bangalore was too small to allow this. But I recommend it highly – a laptop in the kitchen also means you can download recipes.

The stuff I’ve written above does assume that:

  1. You do your food-buying-and-preparing yourself, instead of leaving it to your bai. Given how much people complain about the quality of their domestic help, they damn well ought to do it themselves instead of leaving it to their bai.
  2. You’re a relative newbie when it comes to managing your kitchen, and you haven’t internalised obvious stuff like remembering what you have already.
  3. You actually have a kitchen (so many people in Bombay just take dabbas and heat them) and give a shit about running it properly.

What with current trends of urbanisation, corporatisation, sararimanisation, growing numbers of young migrant professionals, growing salary demands of bais, yada yada, I think the number of people fulfilling the above conditions will grow. This is my yumble contribution to them. Maybe, I should set up a post/ page for useful kitchen tips.