Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Too many cooks—or too few?

If you happened to read my 14 November column (“Dinner is served, and it’s not the best keema"), you know that I have resolved to be UBK (undefeated by keema). So, in the interests of doing my fair share and also reclaiming the kitchen, I decided to make peanut noodles with the helpful teenager. Tom, the husband, who will get a turn to speak later in this column, camped out on the sofa, where he could see what we were up to, but officially to listen to music and read the news. Okay. Off we go. Here is my version of events.

The child and I went shopping and got all the ingredients. We measured, scooped, poured, peeled, chopped, grated and made a happy mess. She filled the pot with water and turned on the stove. I stood by on high alert with the egg noodles. When you’re out of practice, it’s all very fraught, and, as you read if you were paying attention a month ago, I have a bad habit of getting distracted by the glorious world outside the window, to the detriment of whatever’s on the stove. So that will not happen this time.

The noodles go in, and there we are, daughter and me, in the kitchen, side by side, over the blender. Yeah, baby. I plug it in. It seems a little loose on the stand—hmm. I glance over at Tom. He looks so busy reading and I did say we would do this on our own. It seems stupid to ask him if the blender is in correctly. I whack it a bit and look confident. I straighten my back in an assured manner and harass the child to straighten hers (parents are sooo annoying). We pour in the peanut butter, soy sauce, scallions, etc., etc., and I push the button. Hmm again. It sounds a little funny, but it’s working. I steal another glance at Tom. He looks strangely rigid but still engrossed. I just happen to look out of the window. Oh, what an interesting baby-blue tugboat—is that a garbage barge it’s pulling? But back to the blender. Oh no! There’s soy sauce and peanut goo and general unidentifiable sludge all over the counter. How did this happen? It’s leaking; it’s going crazy.

“Tom!" I yelp. “The blender is exploding or something." Tom shoots up like a rocket off the sofa. The child streaks out of the kitchen like a rabbit chased by a condor.

“It’s not screwed in," Tom announces. The blender is not screwed in. I am screwed. I feel an insane urge, as the pool of horror spreads over the counter, to shriek with laughter. But Tom looks so uncompromisingly grim as he sets about cleaning out the blender mechanism that I don’t dare. I suppress the giggle and keep a straight face as I clean the counter. We both work in silence. The child has vanished. This could be a fun family adventure, but instead you can almost hear the tension crackle. This is exactly how it felt in Loreto Convent (school) when we knew we shouldn’t laugh but the more the nuns glared at us, the more we wanted to crack up.

Eventually the mess is tossed, the blender is back in business, I start from scratch again, and this time the peanut noodles are perfect. We all have seconds. It is a merry meal.

Later that night, I see Tom smiling as he does the dishes. Immediately suspicious, I make enquiries. What he says is so startling that I invite him into my column to present you, ladies and gentle (I hope) men, with his blow-by-blow experience of the evening:

“It’s true, what she says. It does take practice to be comfortable in the kitchen. So, I resist my nature to be tense while the out-of-practice and sous-chef enter the kitchen. I struggle to pay attention and catch up on the day’s news, but out of the corner of my eye, from 10m away, I can see that the glass top of the bender is seated at a 45-degree angle. I want to speak. I sternly hold myself in check—No, no, you–must–not–speak. I hold back, giving the culinary experience time to unfold.

“I hear the sound of metal grinding against glass. I bite my lip harder. Must. Not. Offer. Unsolicited. Advice.

“Then, the call comes, and, indeed, I must get up. I can see soy sauce pooling under the blender base and running down the counter. Calm…do not show emotion or say a word! I proceed with removing the glass top from the base while the gooey peanut butter, soy and garlic mixture oozes into the electrical mechanism. I calmly unplug the unit and continue to dismantle the blender. I can now see that yes, metal has combined with glass, and shards of metal have entered the gooey protein shake.

“At this point I would never say, ‘I knew this would happen.’ But I do have a most powerful urge to laugh. I resist with every fibre in me and concentrate on the glop covering both the blender and me. I am certain that a grin is creeping into the right corner of my mouth, but I must resist, for if it wins I will be an unsupportive husband and father. Instead I finish the task of reassembling the cleaned blender for another attempt."

Well! What do you know? Turns out the Tension Party was all a misunderstanding.

And so the cooking columns are ending—for now. Besides peanut noodles, here’s something to chew on: whether in the kitchen or anywhere else with your partner, if it seems funny, it probably is. If you want to laugh—do.

Sohaila Abdulali is a New York-based writer. She writes a fortnightly column on women in the 21st century

Read Sohaila’s previous Lounge columns here.

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