Things not to do in the kitchen… especially when cooking with aunties who remember you were banned from lifting even a spoon when you were a child and are convinced you must still be that little girl even though 20 years have passed since you last tried to make everybody eat your “cooking” i.e. raw gooseberries in brine.
A short listicle:
- Fiddle with gas connection
- Turn on heat under empty vessel
- Wash knife
- Thinly slice
- Deep fry
- Transfer utensil from one burner to another
- Insist everybody wash hands with soap in between tasks
- Offer tips
- Explain flambe
I finally had to stop because she was clearly not enjoying the experience at all. When I offer to “help”, I don’t mean I’ll help some senior citizen to an early grave. Not her fault, though. The last time she saw me, I was busy manufacturing shampoo out of hibiscus leaves.
I was fascinated by housework as a child – a fascination that was immediately dispelled once I had to do any. Eventually, bugged by my constant pleas to chip in, one of the maids asked me if I knew I could make shampoo at home. My paternal grandmother, the child of an Ayurvedic doctor, used to mix up powders and potions all the time so this little chemistry experiment appealed enormously to me. It sounded like real grown up work.
My great aunt who ran the kitchen immediately whipped out a mixing bowl and sent me packing with a heartfelt squawk of relief. I gathered my retinue of essential staff (one of the houseboys, the oldest of the drivers, and the head gardener who was incidentally the henpecked husband of the maid who’d made the initial suggestion) and set off for the garden where I spent a pleasurable half hour discussing the merits of differently colored hibiscus plants. The boy held the bowl and offered to climb the gooseberry tree instead; the driver smoked and grinned; and the poor grandfatherly gardener nodded his head gravely when I informed him color was an important indication of cleansing strength.
Having established that red was the best choice, capable of cleaning even the dirtiest scalp, I proceeded to make my shampoo. This is how you do it:
- Pick leaves. The shinier, the prettier the better
- Pick flower. The more brilliantly red, the more you will enjoy it
- Remove stamen. It offends the eye and has gross crumbly pollen. Yuck
- Place in mixing bowl and pour water. From garden hose or whatever is convenient. As much or as little as you like but mixture made with less water is more satisfying in texture
- Put in your hand and squish, squish, squish
- Revel in sticky scented glory
- Display results to universal acclaim
- Abandon bowl because your job is done – you have prepared shampoo for whoever needs it
- Wash hands and forget about the whole thing until the next time you’re bored.
As an adult who continues to use store bought shampoo, I always thought they’d invented this whole hibiscus thing to keep me out of their hair same as when they convinced me people were just dying to eat my gooseberry “pickle” – just note how the jars mysteriously vanished from their shelf.
But turns out people actually do use hibiscus to wash their hair. Hibiscus and a whole bunch of other stuff including bananas and baking soda and God only knows what else. I don’t think they’re following my recipe though.