Well, we rewind back to the beginning now – this is a continuation from part 2 (the day we arrived at our apartment) in case you haven’t been following this blog.
The place seemed perfect; carpet everywhere except the kitchen and bathroom; not too spacious but not small either. A fridge, oven, cooker, some stainless steel vessels, an electric stove with four burners and a grill, iron box and board, dining table, writing table, tv with a few cable channels, internet connection and a couple of sofas. There was a little gift box as well which contained coca cola, some straw shaped jellies and M&Ms chocolate pack (like smarties and gems). It seemed just about perfect. A nice cozy place to stay.
I didn’t feel that tired from the travel – I think the little nap I had before starting from home really helped. We headed late in the evening to a supermarket that was nearby – Market Basket. We picked some milk, bread, cornflakes, noodles, onion, potato and carrots. This was a pretty large supermarket with plenty of variety. There was one full section (with plenty of shelves) for bread. Similarly there was plenty of choice in cornflakes - with hyper markets cropping up in India we were also slowly starting to see multiple varieties in many items back home, but we still have some way to go. Carrying the bags from the shop was a challenge because we didn’t have any gloves – so within a few seconds our hands would get chill and then we’d have to alternate the bags in our hands while we kept the other hand in our pocket. My friend didn't have a jacket yet and was managing with the extra sweater I had. Even the jacket didn't seem sufficient because the breeze would go through your loose trousers and make you shiver - it's the breeze that makes low temperatures uncomfortable.
Shopping in the US
We even had a little TV in the bedroom – that kind of felt like a luxury item! It was noodles for the night; just plain with whatever masala packet was there in the cover – we didn’t add anything else; I would have liked to have put ketchup and veggies but my friend wanted it plain. He was a fan of noodles and he wanted to give a Nobel Prize to whoever created noodles.
I slept well; my friend overslept – he had the strawberry jelly and that upset his stomach. There was another person from our office staying in the same apartment complex (the complex was divided into blocks - each block had a set of apartments); we caught up with him in his place and he gave us a big bag of items; that was the surplus indian spices that he had accumulated over the past few months – he was leaving in a week and gave us everything he had; so we had rice, a couple of dals (lentils), some masalas, lot of turmeric packets, mustard seeds and slabs of tamarind. The apartment had a nice system for visitors - right at the entrace to each block, you had a little mail boxes for each apartment along with a button. You push the button and a buzzer rings in the respective home. The tenant could either press a button to open the door to the block or could press a button to talk to the visitor - just to make sure you know who you are opening the door to. Only when the door to the block opens can a vistor come up to the individual apartment.
He took us in his car in the evening to a wholesale shop called BJs. Only members could buy stuff from here – it was like a supermarket except that everything here was extra large; cornflakes packets were double the usual size; noodles was available in a box of 36 packets; in fact everything was available as boxes – not as single items. Ideal for families - you could save a few dollars. We just picked a cornflakes box and a noodles box – my friend was trying to be a veggie but they didn’t have any veg flavor in noodles. Being the fan he was, he was fine with picking the chicken flavor; a true fan indeed!
We headed to a clothing store where my friend picked up a jacket and we went to another supermarket called Shaw’s where we bought a few more items like eggs and a big packet of onions - yellow onions.
Cooking and Crying!
I hadn’t done much cooking before except helping mom in the kitchen; moms are great – they don’t let their sons cook; but in the case of a daughter it is different – they’d say, “You have to cook in your in-laws place; when will you learn?” My friend was no better than me – he could cook noodles! I spent some time figuring out how to use the electric cooker – was the water quantity any different? Apprently not – 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water. A simple switch to flick it to the “cook” mode. No whistles like our usual pressure cooker we use at home. That was the rice. Since we forgot to buy salt, I borrowed some from our colleague’s home.
I thought I'd try my hand at cooking something simple. I peeled the carrots (they had even kept a peeler in the drawer – seemed like they had thought of everything!) and then chopped half an onion. I had hardly cut a couple of slices when I started to cry – the onion was pretty strong here. I continued chopping and then headed to the bathroom to pass some cool water on my eyes and take a break! Electric stoves were a little different from the gas stoves. When unsure of something, Google it – I checked online for what people said about electric stoves; “it takes time to heat, but once it does then it stays. Even if you lower the knob the heat won’t go down immediately because the heat lingers on the metal rings of the burner.” Another thing was that all the vessels we had were flat bottom – not curved ones. I placed a vessel and turned the knob. Then went the oil, waited for a while and put the mustard seeds and a few lentils. I struggled to get the lentils brown in the flat-bottomed vessel (browning it is something that should be done before the onions go in). The onions went next, then the carrots and then the lid to cover it. I kept checking frequently – I’d stir it a little and for fear that it might not get cooked properly I added a little water; maybe I should have put more oil to start with. Everytime I lifted the lid I’d pick a carrot piece and try to cut it to see if it was cooked - it should become soft. I finally dumped some masala and turmeric on it along with salt. I’m used to having very little salt at home and I put just a pinch of it. My first dish was ready! My friend would surely find it short on salt but that’s okay – carrots had a natural taste!
So we had rice, buttermilk made using American yogurt and carrots – curd rice was after all was one of my favourite dishes; not bad for a start.