A while ago, fter a bout of severe illness due to an unfortunate encounter with some Chinese food, I had sworn that I would limit my intake of food from outside to once a year. However, the fact that we cannot cook non-veg food in the house (out of respect for the Brahmin side of the family) means that it has to be ordered and consumed rather discreetly, and given how much the kids enjoy their chicken, we have been ordering or eating out about once a week.
My sister, of course, has turned suddenly into an outstanding cook. The other day she brought over some special chicken she had experimented with - she told me that she had brought just about enough for me, and that I should probably not give it to the kids as it contained a lot of spice. Fair enough, I thought, and after the kids had eaten dinner and had been put to bed, I decided to heat up the chicken and have my own dinner.
I stood at the microwave and pressed the switch. Within about three seconds, there was a little voice at my elbow saying 'Mama, I kin smell chikin.' Goodness. I looked down at Pickle. The lad had quite a nose. Considering that my sister had actually brought over a fair bit, as I had discovered when I opened the box, I thought I might as well let him try a little - even though it was probably too spicy for him.
His brother and sister, intrigued by Pickle's absence, soon appeared at the dining table and we shared the chicken - or rather, the children devoured it while I looked on in amazement. These are kids who run panting for their glasses of water screaming ''Mirchi'' even if there is a hint of spice in their food. But clearly, the rules are different when it comes to non-veg food for some reason. Such as the fact that they had just eaten their dinner but were clearly undaunted by the prospect of eating some more now.
Pickle sat back and pronounced with some relish that 'Masi's chikin was mosht tasty.' Peanut was also very impressed, even asking me what Masi had put in this? I took a bite and was still trying to figure out what the ingredients would be, when Peanut lost interest in the original question and went on to pose a far more exciting one.
''Mama...Did she kill the hen herself for it?''
Now, my child has a certain morbid side to her and matters of life and death are of great interest to her. But somehow, the thought of my sister having murdered a chicken with her own bare hands made me feel a little nauseous. Peanut didn't seem too bothered by the thought at all, judging by how she was now licking her fingers while waiting for me to respond. Somehow I lost my appetite.
Vijay would much prefer for the children to be vegetarian, and there's a part of me that wants to turn vegetarian too. However, considering how no other food tastes that good...(Why is that, by the way? Why can't we actually have fake-chicken-veg preparations in this day and age of science and engineering and fiddling with all the good stuff?) ...it seems as if the non-veg will continue to be a part of our lives on a weekly and rather covert basis. There are times when I've seen Vijay (nose slightly wrinkled) also feed the twins with chicken morsels, when all other forms of food are being shunned, and that's something.
This week, I decided it was time for some non-veg, given that several days had elapsed since the last round. Increasingly becoming a bit of a junkie for ordering things online, I tried a website someone told me about called Foodpanda.in - and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was able to narrow down on restaurants in my locality. I selected from the menu of a restaurant called Spices of India - one Hyderabadi Biryani and some good ol' Butter Chicken - there, that would be something new for the children. I finished placing the order fairly smoothly, despite having to create an account and verify it - I was actually very pleased at not having had to pick up the phone and talk to someone about my order- especially since the children, who were hovering around me, always go beserk when they hear me ordering their favourite meal, and go jumping around the house, screaming 'Chikin is coming' and subsequently demanding loudly, at intervals of two seconds, whether the Chikin is here yet, much to my annoyance (and that of poor Vijay, who is always mortally afraid that Papaji will hear them. I think he does, of course, but pretends not to. )
The food arrived and it was pretty delicious. Pickle took his first bite of Butter Chicken and exclaimed 'Isme Ice-cream daala hai...' Close enough, I told him - it is kind of creamy. I watched my children polish off the chicken, the rice pretty much untouched. This time, I figured, I would eat with them and not wait till the end. I served myself a plateful and was just about to dig in, when Peanut, busy chewing upon a bone posed her very thoughtful question to me -
''Mama... is the gravy the blood of the chicken?''
I froze and then put my spoon down gently. I swallowed, feeling slightly sick in the stomach region. I informed my daughter that the gravy was composed of matter other than the actual blood of the unfortunate deceased. I could barely eat a piece after this, and certainly didn't enjoy what I ate. Peanut, of course, helped herself to more and generously offered to eat my portion as well.
Vegetarianism may not be such a bad idea after all, I say. Shall try it again. Someday.