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Dinner in Two Hours


Image by RealAKP from Pixabay
This week, it was my privilege to pick the topic for our blogging group, and I thought long and hard about the topic. So using a tried and trusted method, I put five books down in front of me. I picked one at random. I opened a random page and went to page 103. Then I looked at the third line from the bottom of the page. The immortal phrase 'dinner in two hours' leapt from the page and into my consciousness. No, sorry, I can't remember which book it was. 
I kept the selection process as random as possible and without prejudice. I have to admit that we had a food post on the blogging group recently but this is the phrase with which I ended up. The more I considered it, the more I noticed endless possibilities suggesting themselves. Phrases that are open to interpretation can be a lot of fun. On one hand, it suggests urgency. As in 'oh my God, look at the state of me? I'm going to dinner in two hours'. Or, it could suggest a relaxed approach. As in 'take your time. We're having dinner in two hours'. Or 'how can I prepare dinner in two hours?' It could be the name of a James Bond movie. Don't laugh. Look at the title 'Never Say Never Again?' That title took up hours of my time, trying to figure it out. My favourite track by Irish singer/songwriter David Kitt is 'You Know What I Want to Know'. The title can read several ways. I have a special liking for the musical work of David Kitt. His mother, Jacinta Kitt, was my teacher in primary school. Her wisdom influenced me in my formative years. So we're related on some level. Okay, 'dinner in two hours' may not reach those lofty heights. But still.....

Image by Ron Mitra from Pixabay 
The initial meaning that most people would take from this is: 'can you make dinner in two hours? The answer depends on one's eating habits. If you're a foodie who revels in haute cuisine, the answer is 'no'. But, in fairness, most working people leave the haute cuisine for special occasions. Most practise convenient cooking on an everyday basis.  Microwaves are a gift. Even the most 'haute' of haute cuisine types can manage dinner in way less than two hours with the freezer's help. Many a working man or woman prepares lasagnes and casseroles at the weekend. They cut them into convenient portions to defrost and serve during the week. This is true for many Indian city-dwellers too. 

Continuing on this train of thought. I'm currently writing a novel for the American National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I love all types of writing, blog posts, short stories and long stories. Long stories (novels) take a lot of extra effort. NaNoWriMo has a nice website to help authors plan their book. It encourages them to make a playlist and Pinterest board. It gives writing friends the opportunity to cheer each other on. I love that buzz, that excitement because writing can be lonely. Irish- woman-with-Indian connections that I am, I've set my novel in Ireland. Yet there are Indian characters in it. I have created an Irish-Indian girl called Angie Kapoor. She cooks dinner at home for her Irish friends one evening. I haven't dwelt too much on the food aspects, but she prepares chole, Punjabi chickpea curry. She does this having earlier soaked the chickpeas overnight and boiled them beforehand. She prepares the curry sauce when her friends start to arrive. She serves the dish with boiled rice, knowing her Irish friends won't insist on Indian bread. Rice is quite easy to cook if you know how to do it. Especially if you soak it in water for a few hours beforehand. Pre-soaking helps it to cook in a very short time. Lest I commit myself, I must mention that this principle applies to Indian rice. It might not apply to the rice of a different region.

Image by REBECA CRUZ GALVAN from Pixabay
As  I'm married into an Indian family and live in India, I usually cook Indian food. I would have different cooking habits if I lived in Ireland. But I know that preparation is everything. I usually prepare extra rice and dal (a dish made of pulses such as lentils) at lunchtime. We need to have these items for dinner at night too. So we have dal and rice already made. We prepare dough earlier for making our chapattis at night. So, preparing a vegetable dish to go with all that doesn't take long. Since my husband retired, he prepares our vegetable dish at night. No meat, as we're a vegetarian family. So he makes vegetable curry and I make the flatbreads. So, we make our dinner in far less time than two hours. Last year, I ran into a bit of a problem. Despite making extra rice and dal for lunch, there was never any left at night for our dinner. Making dinner at night was far more laborious than it should have been. There was a woman working in our house at that time as a carer for my mother-in-law. We'd told her that she could have lunch from our kitchen if she was hungry. She made herself very free indeed. I watched in surprise as she went back three times during lunch to consume all our dal and rice. In the end, I sat down with her and had a chat. I found that she thought that the leftover dal and rice from lunch was 'waste food'. She thought that we would throw to the street dogs afterwards. She was trying to preventing waste, she said. I explained to her that the fridge and the microwave were there to prevent wastage. The food would stay fresh for later in the fridge and the microwave could heat it in minutes. It was a relief to get that misunderstanding cleared up. 

That carer is not the only person to misunderstand the role of the fridge in preparing food. People
mage by Usman Yousaf from Pixabay - roti
who run restaurants often prepare and freeze food in advance. This means that dishes requiring long preparation can reach diners at the earliest. Indian and Chinese cuisines are popular in western countries nowadays. No-one wants to wait for several hours while the restaurant prepares their food. We see Indian and Chinese takeaways today. This is because people don't want to wait too long for their food. But that makes some people think Indian and Chinese food is 'fast food', like chips and burgers. 

I remember reading an article by well-known Irish broadcaster in 'Ireland's Own'. He was comparing
Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay
Irish cuisine to oriental food. He made the point that there could never be an "Irish takeaway" where you could order a carton of Irish stew. This, he explained, was because Irish stew takes time, skill and effort to prepare. Cooking the meat, vegetables and potatoes to perfection was a special skill and an art, he said. He relegated the ancient cuisines of India and China to the junk food category. While he may have excelled in broadcasting, his culinary ignorance was embarrassing.  I hope that someone set him right. He reminds me of the elderly Indians I met when I first came here. They thought that everyone in the west ate sandwiches and nothing else. But their cuisine was rich in culture and tradition. Yes, you can boil some potatoes and vegetables and grill a bit of lean meat if you need a quick dinner in the west. But there is haute cuisine and, well, everyday cuisine in every culture, east and west. Western people also prepare and eat traditional dishes. We have lasagne and shepherds pie and roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and so on. What we eat depends on our taste and culture. 
I remember an idea we had in Ireland long back about continental breakfasts. We thought mainland Europeans took only tea or coffee and bread and butter for breakfast. We pitied them. Irish breakfasts had eggs, cereal and much more. We now know better. Continental breakfast features fruit, juice, yoghurt, croissants and other healthy items. You learn a lot when you travel around.

Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay 
Let's look at the other possible meaning of the title topic. So, you're having dinner in two hours? Whether you have time for anything else in the meantime depends on whether you're the cook or not. If you're not cooking, you have time to get dressed up for dinner. People on the top levels of society still do that. A dignitary with a full social calendar, can attend an evening reception at six pm and still go to dinner at 8 pm. When you have the chauffeur to drive you, it's possible. If you're a chef and the dinner is a black-tie function, you may have done all your prepping two hours before. But you might spend that last two hours putting the finishing touches to your work. It's good to make sure that every item is perfect and that nothing goes wrong. In conclusion, we can say that dinner in two hours means different things. It depends on the people involved and the particular circumstances.

Many thanks to Pixabay for the imagery.

Please Visit the Other Blog Friday Group Members

The other seven bloggers who write on the same topic every Friday are  RamanaSanjanaPadmum,  RajuShackmanSrinivas and Conrad

Comments

  1. Initially I was disappointed with this topic butthen I thought about it. Nothing so elaborate as your process but I ended up hpopping in my car, took a drive, listened to the radio and revisited one of my favorite places with time fpr a coup[le of single malts and a great band - turned out much more fun than I initialy thought.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's just a writing prompt. It can be whatever you want it to be. I am sorry it was disappointing initially. I'll be visiting your blog soon on a catch up visit. Can't wait, Chuck.

      Delete
  2. My reaction is Wow! How you have taken a mundane topic and made it into a memorable one. The twists and turns are simply mind blowing. Great writing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In our group, we use topics rather than writing prompts. I'll choose a topic next time. Thank you for your kind words.

      Delete
  3. Engaging as usual, the prose just jogs along effortlessly.... even though you managed to say quaite a bit about breakfasts in a post about dinners.... Typing stone of blarney, aye?

    ReplyDelete

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