There was a time during my childhood when my mother had to stay away from home for her job. Being the middle of the school year, my sister and I stayed back with our father while mother went on alone to the new place. She would visit us only during the weekends. This was the time we were the guinea pigs for our father- the notorious cook. He liked to take on new challenges, and failures never hindered him from experimenting on new items. It was during this time that some of his most famous creations were made.

So, one day, when mother was away, father decided to make chicken curry. The chicken was bought, the curry was made. I want to say the chicken was eaten, but not just yet, as you might have already guessed.

It was a dinner of great expectations. Father had cooked chicken for the first time, and he was beyond proud. My sister and I were excited- we would get to eat chicken. Rotis and chicken were served, with us kids eyeing for the biggest pieces. We took in one bite, and that was it. Tears started flowing, like waterfalls from our eyes. Apparently, our father had tried to make pepper chicken, and he had managed to make the spiciest chicken ever. We ate plain rotis that night for dinner.

The next day mother came home and entered the kitchen to find the barely touched chicken curry. Being a middle-class Indian family, it was of course unacceptable to throw it, and cut back our losses. The curry had to be salvaged. Mother restyled the chicken curry, adding all the vegetables she could find in the kitchen, hoping it would subdue the spiciness. A very suspicious-looking curry was re-served for lunch. It was the same, hotness wise. We could only pull out brinjals and drumsticks from the curry. And that’s how the chicken sambhar was born. Mother, later on, found out that father had put in half a bottle of pepper, that was meant to last her over a year!

Our father was not perturbed by this incident. Being his loyal foot soldiers, my sister and I stood united with him. The next item on the menu was squid fry. The process was repeated. The squid was bought, it was fried (carefully this time), father had learnt his lesson on Indian spices. We kids were appropriately excited. Anyway, dad decided to take a shower before dinner. The shower was taken, and it was dinner time. We piled into the dining room, eagerly, only to find a stray cat eating our dinner. In his hurry to get the shower done with, father had left the squid uncovered and the door open. To be fair to him, the squid did look rather yummy; only we never got to taste even a bite of it. The cat-eaten squid landed in the bin. I don’t remember what we ate for dinner that night!

There was yet another incident when a cockroach met his untimely death in one of dad’s creation. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the specifics!

Our father is living alone again these days. Thankfully, he has got himself a cook this time!

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