One of the prerequisites of being a good girl, by desi standards, is the ability to effortlessly whip up a meal that is tasty down to the last bite. We can do it with our eyes closed and one hand tied behind the back. Not because we are so talented in the kitchen, but because we have an unending bounty of “gharailoo totkay”, or home remedies, to fall back on. Gharailoo totkay contain the solution to every problem, from too much salt in the curry to a stale cake, and can fix any mistake.
Take toothpaste – there are 10 different ways to use it to save yourself from kitchen mishaps. Burnt your finger lifting the lid off the pot to check if your curry is done? Apply some toothpaste. Fingers smelling rancid after peeling the tons of onion and garlic that go into desi food? Smear that toothpaste on your fingers.
You cannot make any mess in the kitchen that cannot be remedied.
If you’ve burnt your curry to a crisp, all you have to do to salvage it is decant it into a new pot and then pour some milk into it. I’ve never tried this one myself and have many, many questions about spoiling the integrity of a recipe, but better milky than burnt, I guess. Another way to save a curry is by adding chunks of diced potato. You do this when you have over-salted your dish. You end up with the right amount of salt, but the wrong kind of vegetable. Personally, I would take the extra sodium over the carbs any day.
That’s not even my favourite one, though. That honour goes to this little gem: if you suspect that the food you’ve just cooked has been poisoned, then the best way to find out whether it’s safe to eat or not is to toss a small amount into an open flame. If the flame turns blue, that means the food is poisoned. If it stays the same colour, the food is safe to eat.
I love the idea of tossing little bits of everything into a flame in front of my guests to show them it’s safe to eat. Quite a nice little trick to liven up the table at my next dinner party.
And because desi people eat more than just curry, we have non-curry related tricks, too.
If you have ever been dismayed at how fast your tomatoes ripen and go bad, melt a few drops of candle wax onto the stems. This is supposed to keep them fresh for twice as long. Remember to peel off the wax before tossing them in the blender.
We also have a few tricks about using stuff from the kitchen to help you around the rest of the house: the next time you cut yourself enough to draw blood, forget the disinfectant and Band-Aid and slap on some coffee grounds – it stops the blood flow and the caffeine instantly numbs the pain.
No matter what your problem is, there is a desi solution. Whether you are brave enough to give it a go is a different story.
The writer is an honest-to-goodness desi living in Dubai
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