When my wife and I moved to Pakistan over three years ago, we decided to do so with the bare essentials in order to travel light. Within weeks, we were up against the challenge of stocking up our new kitchen, not only to take care of the routine cooking but also to host get-togethers for new friends and acquaintances.
So my wife did the rounds of shops in Aabpara and Blue Area, buying dinner sets, cups and saucers and serving and cooking dishes. Yasmin, our first maid in Pakistan, took care of the cooking and I rarely ventured into the kitchen as work in those tumultuous days of late 2007 and early 2008 kept me busy round the clock.
When I did decide to make a comeback to cooking, something I enjoy a lot, I found I was hamstrung – our new kitchen was missing a pressure cooker, an essential item in almost all Indian homes.
No problem, said our domestic help, you can buy a pressure cooker in the local markets. So off went my wife to the ‘bartan’ stores in the bustling Aabpara market near the Lal Masjid and returned with a pressure cooker.
|The three-eyed monster|
For those of you who have never used a Pakistani pressure cooker, here’s a description: It’s larger than its Indian counterpart, has a whistle that never blows and in most instances, it’s totally rubbish. Sorry, but there’s no other way to describe it.
The dal prepared in the cooker emerged as a lumpy, jelly-like mass that tasted gruesome. Vegetables cooked in it looked and tasted no better.
Within weeks of the arrival of the cooker – which resembled an ominous three-eyed monster – I was interrupted while filing a report by a loud bang that seemed to come from the direction of the kitchen. My wife and I walked into the kitchen to find Yasmin cowering in a corner, the contents of the cooker spattered all over the walls and the ceiling.
That initial “blast” was followed in rapid succession by two more. Such a desperate situation called for desperate measures. I decided I would have to ask someone visiting India to get me a pressure cooker. An opportunity presented itself soon enough when an acquaintance – a lady of Indian origin married to a Pakistani – sought my help to get a visa to visit her folks in Mumbai.
This was well before the Mumbai attacks and the visa was issued to the lady after I made calls to a few diplomats. The lady got in touch to thank me and asked if she could get me anything back from India.
|Our trusted Hawkins|
“Yes, you can – a pressure cooker,” I replied. She gamely agreed and a colleague in Mumbai bought and passed on a Hawkins pressure cooker to her, which she carried back to Islamabad. And that was a very happy ending to our misadventures in cooking.