Bhaiya ek kilo aloo aur tamatar de do!

The journey of setting up your household is challenging enough for anyone in any country. Especially when you have to do so in a whole new part of the world with your clueless spouse! Thank God for the likes of Skype and Google Hangouts, as only video calls to parents and youtube “how to” videos are the savior of newlyweds.

Now, before I expand on my share of challenges, a brief introduction, as most of you have no clue about my life. I have lived on my own in a metropolitan city in India and I have lived abroad as a child. So, when I shifted to the U.S of A, I did not sing praises for the size of shopping malls, but what did overwhelm me was the variety of choices I had at my disposal for any item I decided to purchase!

In our first few days of being married, I decided to impress my man with my culinary skills that were never really developed thanks to lethargy (though I usually blame studies and work). “How hard can it be”, I thought to myself and decided to prepare a grand Indian meal of sorts!

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No, not prepared by me!

Those of you who have an idea of Indian cuisine probably know it requires a lot of ingredients and spices. A lot of precision in the timing of cooking is required – a fine line between chana masala and an overcooked chana bhuna masala!

That is how we carefully choose the names for the dishes ‘AFTER’ we have prepared it. Often, I don’t intentionally start to make the dish that ends up on the dining table. You may call that a lack of skill set, I call it improvisation 🙂

So back to the topic, the first grand meal as a wife for my man. An elaborate menu is decided upon after much contemplation with suggestions pouring in from my mom, his mom, my sister, friends etc… If only so many people and countries were involved in solving more grave global issues!!

I will not disclose the menu as to some of you master chefs, it may sound too simple and to some novice cooks too ambitious. Either way, it does not matter to me anymore as that day I was all set to own my kitchen!

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As every strategic move requires a game plan, here was mine:

Step 1 – Decide menu: Ask his mom what all he likes. Before you judge me for not knowing details of my husband’s choices let me tell you our marriage was arranged by our parents and living in different continents during our courtship we could not date. Not a lot of food discussions happened apart from the usual “What’s your favorite dish?” Besides, this was barely day 18 or 19 post marriage, not sure as I was jet lagged!

Step 2 – Ask my mom how to make those dishes. She explained in great detail, with full confidence in her daughter’s ability to google half the ingredients and procedures that she stated.

Step 3 – Buy the ingredients.

Step 4 – Cook it and voila.. surprise! surprise!! when he see’s it all served beautifully.

SIMPLE right? unfortunately, things halted completely at step 3!

What on earth do you suppose went wrong? Let’s see the scenarios –

  1. Did I not find the right store? Nope, I knew exactly where the stores were.
  2. Did I not reach the store? Nope, I had to walk right across the road from our house to find almost every possible food item.
  3. Did I not find the time? Nope, I had all the time in the world to make it all happen.

What did go wrong was a million choices I had to make right from the moment I entered the stores!

The shopping cart: Yes, apparently you need to have a ton of variety for the shopping cart! Big, medium, small, one with child seat belt and one without, a small customer in training cart for kids, a mini car shaped cart for kids.

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Some places I saw a big stick attached to one end of the cart, honest to God I thought it was a medieval means to make your location visible in that maze of aisles.

Later I realized it was just a means to stop people from taking the cart outside the door in the parking.

One store even had this magical shopping cart that reminds me of the ‘LAKSHMAN REKHA’ reference from the Ramayana. It locks if you try to take it beyond the parking limit of the store!! Of course, I know it was not ‘magical’ but using smart wheel technology with electronic signals and all in freaking shopping carts! How many carts are people stealing here and why! What on earth do you do with stolen shopping carts people? I understand parents of toddlers using such high technology to keep kids under their purview but shopping carts….

Next choice was the ‘milk’ I had to buy. Let me not even start with the zillion kinds of milk – whole milk, partly skimmed, skimmed, unpasteurized, buttermilk, 2% milk, 1% milk, blue, violet different freaking colors of bottle covers that have a different meaning! Apparently, there is a color code to know before you choose milk.

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Even after racking my doctor brains I was not completely sure what kind of milk to get, as I did not know my hubby’s preference. Sorry to say this was not a question that came up during our long distance conversations before marriage!

Similar things happened with almost every item on my list I had to open google for the variety of pasta and cheese and bread and tomatoes. The onions also betrayed me, red, white, yellow, green!!

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Life was so simple when all I knew was red onion and the fancier spring onion, used in Chinese dishes. The same day I learned green onions are also known as Salad onions A.K.A Leeks A.K.A Cebollitas A.K.A Scallions. I am still wrapping my head around this one and my working theory is, the best spy in the world loved onions and decided to hide under a new alias every time.

Also, let’s not even talk about the size proportion of vegetables and fruits. If the Indian website says to use 2 medium onions you probably need to use just 1 of the onions you get at Walmart! For future reference, I am referring to a big red onion here 🙂

Finally, after I had to google my way across the limitless aisles I gave up on the idea of cooking as the various colors of potatoes mocked me.

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My resolve was broken, I could not prepare a meal for him that day and tears almost welled up in my eyes as I walked back home remembering the sweaty, balding, bushy mustache, broken tooth smile of the vegetable vendor below my building in Mumbai. Walking back home after a tiring work day at 9:30 pm, with the last ounce of energy I would buy my groceries before I headed up to my apartment.

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Source : Google images

All he had was one variety of onion, potato, and tomato, no google required just a little haggling for the price, a free bunch of cilantro and green chilies was thrown in and life was sorted. Little did he know on that day, oceans across a lady is remembering the simplicity of telling him, “Bhaiya ek kilo aloo aur tamatar de do!” *

*Translation- “Brother, just give me potatoes and tomatoes!” )

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