It was a beautiful Sunday morning. My mother and I, seated on a makeshift bamboo bench, were sipping hot tea and taking in the beauty of our humble backyard when the phone rang.
As they say all it takes is 60 seconds for all hell to break loose. I saw her face turn plum and purple as she spoke. The polite conversation lasted five minutes before she hung up with the words, "Oh! It would be a pleasure to have you over, looking forward." Being the nosy-parker that I am, I asked, "Who's coming over?" My mother replied, rather worriedly, as she wiped the sweat off her brow, "Master Chef Kandla Nijhowne."
My mother, a psychologist-turned-bonsai enthusiast, is definitely not a connoisseur when it comes to cookery or food and she proudly declares that she's no gastronome. So she stood there looking aghast at the thought of having a celebrity chef as a guest for an evening cup of tea.
Time was running out and we had to get cracking. We sat tense on the dining table, analogous to a UN crisis committee mulling over the situation. We tried to arrive at an optimal menu keeping in mind our culinary constraints. "Petite Scotch egg sandwiches, Dundee cake and canapés," I recommended. "How about pakoras and rasgullas? The maid makes lovely pakoras and we'll fetch the rasgullas from the bazaar," my mother suggested with an ear-to-ear smile. "Gosh! Are we going to serve the Master Chef pakoras?" I protested. "Why? Don't Master Chefs eat pakoras? She's a Punjabi at heart and she'll love them," mother persisted.
Our world is sustained only because of our maids, truly the backbone of any household. With our genial maid in assistance, we began cooking. Piece by piece, things were coming together, just like a puzzle beginning to take shape. We somehow managed to replicate the egg sandwich recipe that we got off the internet, quite to our amazement. The batter for the pakoras was all set. The only thing left was the more ambitious part of our menu, the Dundee cake. Impossible is nothing, and all it took was truckloads of laughter and a dash of self-belief to bake that beauty.
Before we knew it, time flew by and it was past 5pm. The doorbell rang and we ushered in the Master Chef. Nijhowne was all praise for my mother's bonsai collection. My father, a great conversationalist, set the right mood for the evening tea. In the meantime, my mother arranged the plates and cutlery, and it was time for the moment of truth. My mother and I exchanged worried looks as the Master Chef helped herself to the egg sandwiches. "Delicious," she announced. As she took the second helping of pakoras, we knew our menu had been a grand success.
Phew! Triumph and relief are words that best describe our state of mind back then.
It was a Sunday never to be forgotten.