Tag Archives: lala rukh

Follow Up to “Ooh Lala!”

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2841982We all know I’ve already written a piece on my embarrassing encounter with Lala Rukh… so, since I’ve already eaten that crow and offered that apology publicly, let’s talk about something not only more positive, but something that benefits Lala and her lovely book.

For a long time now I have been suffering a minor, let’s say, lack of interest in things. Primarily a lack of interest in anything that required a lot of work on my part for a big gamble on a little return. Nothing quite takes the fizz out of the joy of playing guitar like a few gigs in sports bars. Nothing quite takes the joy out of getting your work published like say… nobody bothering to buy or read it. In the aftermath of that joyless defizzing there came a burning desire to do nothing at all.

That got old.

I have been at a crossroads between bitterness and boredom. One thing I know about myself is that I am not happy unless I am learning, and for many years I learned to draw and learned to play, sing, and write songs. The desire to do those things has diminished, but my need to learn things and be productive had not. Combine this with my rather lackluster skills as a cook. I eat healthy, I cook the things I cook very well, but I never use recipes. I really don’t experiment beyond variations on dishes I already know, but I have always fantasized about learning to cook food from India or Pakistan. The problem with cooking that sort of food is… I was intimidated by the complexities of it all.

Now… mix all that together.

Essentially I needed something productive to do with my time, and since gigging in sports bars and creating ill-conceived esoteric erotic comics that were double-bagged but never read no longer holds any appeal for me… I was out of ideas, until Lala’s lovely book came into my hands. I can say without hyperbole that this book changed my life. Not only has it given me something worthwhile to do, it has finally gotten me over my fears of both cooking in general… AND cooking this favored ethnic cuisine! Her book made this food approachable. Yes, her book has literally been life changing! I LOVE food from this part of the world, and being able to fearlessly cook my own has been a blessing on so many levels… heck, being able to cook anything from a recipe has been a blessing… and ALL thanks to Lala!

I have cooked 4 dishes from her book, and have been as satisfied with those dishes as any song I ever wrote or any page I ever drew. Actually, more pleased, as NOTHING about the results of this food were disappointing… unlike the joy of performing in front of a group of people who would really prefer watching the Cleveland Cavs game on TV… cooking this food had only upsides. The biggest upside was that I got to eat every single bite of it. Yum! So much better than working my way to obscurity and poverty through “labors of love.”

She breaks the recipes down into things that are approachable and completely understandable! There is no guess work, no confusion, no unnecessary complications, nothing but delicious and perfectly spiced foods! Quite honestly, the food I have made myself from her book has been better than most of the food I’ve had in Indian restaurants… except perhaps for the restaurant “Chakra” (which actually served food from Pakistan) that I used to eat at in Korea, though I might actually attest that her recipes are every bit equal to the food served there.

Take, for example, my most recent meals, which consisted of potato ryata and chickpea curry. Not only were both recipes delicious and a breeze to make, they made so much food that I have been able to eat meals from what I made for 5 or 6 days! And all for so little work! Beyond that… there is quite literally nothing in the world I would rather eat than this ethnicity of food.

Dear Lala, well done! Really well, done, your book has not only enriched, but revolutionized, my diet and my life… and I’m not sure one could ask for much more from a cookbook.

Check out her book, “Ooh Lala,” as well as her website http://www.lalacookspunjabi.com

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Ever Have a Basil Fawlty Moment?

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2841982Oh yes… I too can be as oblivious, nervous, and socially inept as Basil Fawlty–whom John Cleese brought to life with brilliant clarity. Certainly I avoid that, don’t we all? But sometimes that aspect of self just vomits itself right out into the open. Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever goose-stepped around, wearing a finger-under-the-nose Hitler Mustache before a family of Germans, knowing full well you should not have mentioned “the war?” Well, I have!

OK, it wasn’t that bad, but the episode in question was just as absurd and embarrassing, at least in retrospect.

Last night I met Lala Rukh, the amazing Pakistani chef–you know, finalist in the MasterChef USA cook-off. She even stopped by my room (family in tow) last night during a party, as I was desperately interested in learning to cook “Indian food.”

Wait… did you catch that?

I hope you did, ’cause the whole story hinges upon your catching that. Sit back, I intend to fully expose my ignorance as this whole story unfolds…

Allow me to set the stage… it’s worth it. See, here’s the super stupid part about all of what I am about to confess. Knowing that I am personally obsessed with Hinduism and Indian culture, I was very happy to have seen a copy of her book prior to her visit. I was happy to have noted that she was Pakistani, NOT from India per se. I was so happy to know this, ’cause I didn’t want to meet her and rabbit on about Indian and Hindu this and Indian and Hindu that. I made a mental note, a BIG strong poster-board sized mental note/sign, that evidently had fallen down overnight, landed in a puddle, and had been trodden on until the magic marker bled and I could no longer read said sign. The thing is, I do know and understand something of the tensions between Pakistan and India, I do know something of the dramatic history–though not enough, and this is why I was so appalled after the fact. I knew what a gaff it was, I knew I had “mentioned the war.”

So, the very first thing I did when I met her at the party was forget entirely that I was so pleased to have known she was from Pakistan, so of course I enthused over how happy I was to be learning to cook “Indian food” Being a kind, gentle, and all-too patient woman, she simply stared at me sweetly, perhaps hoping I would get my shit together, no such luck, Lala.

She and her family (4 of them!) all stopped by my room to sell me (and sign) a copy of her book. I, of course, had seemingly entirely forgotten my revelation the other night about her being Pakistani, and proudly talked about my Indian wedding quilt and altar… and of course I enthusiastically repeated how thrilled I was at the opportunity to learn to cook “Indian food.” Any mistake worth its salt is worth repeating, right? OK, this wasn’t as bad as goose stepping about in Hitler guise before a horrified family of Germans, but it was no less as ridiculous. And I, just like sad old Basil Fawlty, had known full well, in advance of the whole visit, that I was not supposed to “mention the war.”

Oh, did I mention that I bowed to her and her family as they left? What the fuck was up with that? I mean, I bow to everyone, being a practicing Hindu and having spent a couple years in South Korea, bowing is just second nature, so it’s not that unusual for me; is rather matter-of-fact, actually. Being as good natured as she is, she simply bowed in return, and her and her family excised themselves from the room of this idiot (that idiot being me, in this–and most–cases).

Here’s the real rub… at least Basil Fawlty had an excuse… a head injury! My excuse? I’m working on that… but I’m afraid I just don’t have an excuse, beyond my nervous and chronic (if not terminal) inability to function socially. Actually, that’s a pretty good excuse, fair enough, but had I had a traumatic brain injury prior to meeting her I would feel a lot better about myself. I was tempted to return to her and the party with a bandage wrapped around my head, but all I could find in my bathroom were some Muppet Band-Aids… I don’t know, but somehow showing up with a head covered in a patchy arrangement of Muppet Band-Aids just didn’t seem like it was going to make anything better.

I sent an apology, which is all well and good, but what really kills me, what really really plagues me is knowing without a shadow of a doubt, that I will do shit like this again and again and again. And that is the part that’s really hard to live with… isn’t it?

Addendum: I would like to add that I just cooked my first meal from this cookbook (two dishes)… and they were flawless! I highly recommend her book, if you want Pakistani food made easy and approachable! I can’t wait to try some other recipes. You can find Lala’s book at lalacookspunjabi.com