Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Do you know what daal is?

My exposure to South Asian food before I become a Muslim was limited to occasional family dinners at the local Star of India Palace type place. I knew NOTHING about South Asian food. I learnt a lot about South Asian cooking after marriage. I think when you are female and in an intermarriage, you get a lot of pressure to learn the cooking of your husband's background. Luckily, my husband eats a lot of different stuff from all over. And luckily I happen to love Pakistani food. So we eat a good variety of international dishes at home. But I have non-Pakistani girl friends married to desi guys who will ONLY eat Pakistani food, even when they go out to restaurants. Anyway, I wanted to learn South Asian cooking because I liked all of the foods I tasted after I accepted Islam and met a lot of desi Muslims, and also after I married a South Asian origin Muslim guy. So I learned to cook desi. Is this a big shock?

Somehow, I seem to have the same conversation with Pakistani Auntie-types. Often the line of questions starts out with "Do you like Pakistani food," or more often "Can you eat spicy food?" "Yes," is my answer. "Can you cook any Pakistani dishes?" "Yes." "What dishes can you cook?" "Hmmm, a lot of them." "Can you make biriani?" "Yes." Actually, I make several types of biriani. Sometimes I get a test question: "How do you make X?" So I have to give a quick recipe for kofta or whatever. I guess I should be more understanding as to why Auntie-types might be incredulous about my cooking skills. I mean, gori cooks desi? Not so common, I guess. I am no star chef, but I am not bad either. Yet it is really hard for them to believe that a gori can cook desi.

Once I was at this dinner party and I had gone through this line of questioning with the hostess. I told her I could cook a lot of desi food. I was using food name terms in Urdu and all. Then, minutes later, she asked me if I knew what daal was. "Do you know what daal is?" She said. After I just told her that I could cook most Pakistani dishes. Sigh. "Jee nahin, daal kya hoti hai?" I mean, "Yes, I know what daal is." She proceeded to tell me that something was wrong with her paalak daal. I asked her what was wrong. "I just don't know, I think I put too much salt." I advised her to add in some lemon juice, and she could perhaps add in some potatoes to suck up the salt, and then remove them before serving the dish. She just thought I was nuts. Later, I tasted her daal. Guess what was wrong with it? She had obviously burned the bottom of the pot, the daal had a strong burnt flavor with an attempt to veil it with a heavy dose of lemon juice. Yuck. How could she not realize that this was the problem? If I were her, I wouldn't have even served that burnt dish. She had lots of other dishes set out anyhow. Anyway, I am no expert, but I just wish people would believe it when I say I can cook a fair bit of Pakistani stuff.

Is it really that hard to believe that a gori can cook desi?

1 comment:

Shadows of life said...

No, its not hard to cook desi food, by gori or by desi. I'm an Indian girl, I can make sushi, thai, mexican etc etc so you can and are allowed to choose wha you want to. To hell with those typo judgementals, enjoy desi lifen maja ni life :-)