I decided to make Potato Curry today. You know it means something important when it starts with a capital P and a capital C. “Personal Computer”. Important.
Now, potatoes can be cooked in different ways, but no matter how you do it, its core ingredient will always remain unchanged. You can’t cook potatoes “badly” — that’s a paradox. It’s a bit like saying your ketchup tastes different just because you put a different pizza under it. I mean, who notices such things?
Back to the story: it all began with me having a sudden desire to eat Potato Curry. The logical next step, which I deduced instantly, was to aggregate the ingredients and create it. With this intention, I brought out my frying pan and poured some oil into it, heated it up -
I had forgotten about the onions. Onions have a guarded nonchalance in their outlook towards everything. They just sit there for days until you’re forced to ask, “Now what do I do with you?” Some would even classify this as passive-aggressive behavior, but that’s pushing off a lot of your paranoia to the onions. But the key point is this, potatoes don’t need onions — you can make it with or without them — but if you don’t use the onions with your potatoes, what they heck are you going to do with them? I once had a bunch of onions that sat around for many many months; I think they eventually became a little softer than the average onion but looked no worse than before.
Now you could argue that this is simply because Potato Curry is the only thing I am remotely interested in making, but since I’m the one narrating this story, I’m going to have to shut you up.
So there I was with the uncut onion. I turned off the stove and sliced up one half of it. By this time, the onion fumes had conveniently made their way around the rim of my glasses, and my eyes had begun to water. Understandably, I was in a bit of a rush, and hastened to add mustard seeds to my nascent Potato-Curry-That-Wasn’t-Yet-Potato-Curry.
Okay, that was too much haste. My frying pan now had in it, a fistful of mustard seeds. In case you’re wondering what the big deal is, that’s a lot. Naturally, once you put mustard seeds in oil, it isn’t very practical to wipe off the oil and put the seeds back where they came from. At least, this isn’t considered good form.
Believe me, I have nothing against mustard seeds, but to me they’re optional. The last time I made Potato Curry without mustard seeds, I hardly noticed. But when you have a fistful of them sitting in your frying pan, it leads you to look at things differently, wonder about things you haven’t wondered before.
For starters, I assumed that the best option would be to chug along and cook it, my Potato Curry With Lots Of Mustard Seeds. No big deal. But then would I have to add an equivalent amount of urad dal (Vigna mungo)? My Potato Curry would then consist of equal volumes of potato, mustard seeds, urad dal and onion. No! — that was just crazy.
I eventually decided in the next split-second that everything else should be added in the normal proportion. The mustard seeds was a problem that I hoped would go away if I stubbornly refused to acknowledge it. But problems that you ignore tend to have a way of gently reminding you of their presence by banging a frying pan over your head. Mustard seeds in oil are a problem even in small numbers, especially when they have a lighted stove underneath. As a mob, they’re even more erratic.
So there I was, adding the onion to the mix when at least one kamikaze mustard seed shot out from the pan and attacked. My quick reflexes weren’t very helpful for the onions, which looked on sullenly as I tossed some all over the stove. Fortunately, the mustard seeds were quite cowed by that time, being fried in oil and all that.
Thirty minutes later, I ate my Potato Curry. I didn’t really notice the mustard seeds. I mean, who does?