Wednesday, January 19, 2011

10 Glorious days....Part 3

Day 4 was the day when Vipassana instructions were given to was also the day I made cabbage curry for lunch and also over slept in the afternoon.

Our day used to begin at 5 am in the kitchen. I would wake up around 4 am, and have my bath and a quick oat meal for breakfast before I began kitchen work. We would get the fruits out to wash, peel and cut; get the food for breakfast started--usually meehoon (noodles). Preparations for lunch would start right after the breakfast was sent to the dining hall. Breakfast was at 6.30 am.

Axel, Belinda and Toh Teck helped me cut 12kgs of cabbage and I got the ingredients ready to start cooking. Under my instruction Tan Abba stirred the cabbage in the huge wok. I had to do the cabbage in two batches. While we were at it, it suddenly struck me why men are considered to be good chefs the world over. Stirring food in a huge wok required lots of physical strength, and I had to rely on Tan Abba to do that for me.

Our afternoon break was between 1 to 2 with the second group sitting soon after (2--3pm). I overslept and the course manager came to wake me up and bring me to the hall!
In the evening I planned out my ingredients for the Kurma curry the next day...I peeled 10 kgs of potatoes.

Day 5, I made Veggie Kurma curry. This was with potatoes and cauliflower cooked in coconut milk and spices. It turned out great though I used the coconut milk from a carton when fresh coconut milk was available. To use up the fresh coconut milk which could turn bad with time, Richard advised that I cook the Kurma curry again on Day 7 and push the Dal scheduled for Day 7 to Day 9 ( when I had to cook Kurma again).

So when Day 7 dawned, I had my potatoes (8kgs)and cauliflower (4 kgs)steamed and ready for cooking. Suddenly at around 9 am, Richard said he was sorry but Kurma curry did not go with the other items on the menu for that day and so I should be cooking Dal instead. I hurriedly soaked 1 kg of Tuvar dal ( the only dal available in the store-room) and began preparations for cooking it.

Meanwhile, I had to find a way of consuming the potatoes and cauliflower that I had already steamed. I boiled the potatoes, till they were nice and soft, drained them and quickly gave instructions to Hue to add 1 tablespoon of salt and one tablespoon of evaporated milk powder, a dash of parsley and bingo! I had mashed potatoes in a jiffy! The steamed cauliflower were merged with broccoli with seasoning. This was really thinking on my toes ...(or should I say cooking on my toes?)

I also managed to cook the dal in time for serving....One of the Indian male students I met on the last day thanked me and said.."Jab mein ne dal ko dekha, jaan me jaan aa gaya...sochcha -chalo kam se kam aaj jee bar ke kha sakoon!" (When I saw dal, I got a life and thought atleast today I can eat well)

That afternoon was also the time I did a trial run of "kheer", Indian milk pudding. Earlier, Richard asked me if I could make that as Jayeshji asked him in the previous course why they did not have Kheer in the menu for Day 10. Kheer figures in a story narrated by Goenkaji on the last day of the course and all centers make this dish on Day 10 for lunch. I got the recipe to serve 4 people from the internet ( it wasn't in the center's recipe book)and then multiplied it to serve 20 people ( dhamma servers). This was a trial run before cooking for 100 people on Day 10.

Alice gave me a good feedback and suggested that I grind the soaked rice before adding it to milk---I did that on Day 10 and it turned out really really great!

Meanwhile there were huge human relations issues that had to be tackled. Anna was really upset on Day 6 and no matter what I did, it didn't help change her so I had to speak to the teacher (Jennifer) at night. She asked Richard to take over as Kitchen Manager with me assisting him.

Things changed quite a bit after that and I learned what it takes to be a good leader in this situation. Richard knew the kitchen inside out, he knew how to delegate, how to manage time and in short, organize the whole team. Spot on! Good learning experience for me. By the evening of Day 7 all of us could get to attend the Goenkaji's discourse.

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