yet another search and rescue mission. my five years here have seen quite a few of this. this time though it was a matter of rice and death. i'll have you know that i'm the undisputed rice-cooking champion of the upper midwest south indian male graduate students association. among other traits that south indian males do NOT inherit from their moms is the ability to take raw rice and water and make it something edible. but its our staple food and sambar and rasam take back bench in deference for there can be no magic without the manna. so we start trying from a very early age (ie the day we step into the haloed apt kitchens and find out the flame is now a red,glowing electric coil). after 4 years of flying lids, whistling cookers and pasty white globs that are just one big,fused carbohydrate molecule i started to come into my own. i was conferred the title of l33t rice-geek by my roomies and promptly garnered the requisite CMM and six sigma certification. this caused rice making to become one of my primary duties and the art form that it was, it was a challenge, day after day, to come up with the quality that i'd made standard. it was an even bigger challenge yesterday, when i found that the all important weight/whistle had deserted me and gone awol.
if in all those words above , "whistling cookers" caught your fancy , there is some explanation in order. why not , you may ask, just go with an electric rice cooker like all those other grad students ? no spare parts that are small enough to get lost in the hell hole, all you need to do is plug and play. there are quite a few reasons but let me explain it in the worst way possible - through an unrelated metaphor. lets say you travel a lot by train. you go from madras to bangalore or hyderabad or wherever it is that you want to go in a train pulled by a electric locomotive. sitting inside one you really dont know what is pulling the train, the journey is quite immaterial and the destination is all that matters. now think of a trip from mettupalayam to ooty. the train is pulled by a steam locomotive. unless you are a ruthless serial killer hunting your next victim or you know that you are the next victim of a ruthless serial killer riding the train with you, you are bound to love the ride up the mountain with all the smoke and whistles. cooking with a pressure cooker as opposed to an electric one is somewhat exactly like that (due credit to mr.douglas adams for that line). you enjoy the sounds that scare your neighbors into thinking you have some sort of a mechanical monster and the sights that turn your kitchen into something that resembles a cloud gently invading a walkway in ooty. another reason is that i like giving out subliminal nods to things i enjoy, like heavy metal, and going by weight alone its tough to beat a Prestige in that category (ok..bad reason..sorry ). so steam beats electric and thats settled.
coming back to the weight, the rice was already on the heated coil and i was beginning to get flustered. timing was of utmost importance in my secret process and if things didnt go well i'd just have to start all over again. i ran through a mental checklist of what had happened after my extremely rigorous ritual of cleaning the leviathan vessel. the weight had to be in the corner of the drawer but it wasnt. i stole a glance at my roomie who was busy perfecting his version of a golt rasam for certification and decided against accusing him. it took all my knowledge of poirot and holmes to deduce that there was a possibility that the weight which can balance itself fairly well when vertical might've fallen on its side and rolled off into the deep recesses of my kitchen's closet and there it was , slightly dusty but still ready to face action.dinner was saved. my process is still intact , but the pressure has gotten to me. if only i could find a way to apply the same template to other south indian favorites. something tells me it wont work that way, the variables will change. so i'm stuck without an option unless.., unless the weight "accidentally" falls down from my window when i am doing a close visual inspection in daylight. something tells me its either going to be frozen parathas or sticky rice from lao sze chuan for dinner tonight.
lagniappe : madman has a restaurant..so he knows best. since my process is classified, i'm sure he wont mind if i direct you to his.