Tales from the kitchen (a.k.a. the chicken wars)

My dad, baffled, a week ago: Yasminay, how can you be my daughter, and not know how to multi-task?
Me: I’m sorry, but I just think there’s just something wrong with the idea of cooking chicken and eating ice cream at the same time.

This was after he came home from the grocery store and gleefully presented me with a little pint of ice cream, my very own ice cream. I was washing dishes at the time, up to my elbows in soapsuds as the daddy-o shoved the carton of ice cream in my face and crowed, “Look what I brought for you!”

After I had laughed and explained that I was quite obviously washing dishes at the moment, and no, I did not want to eat my ice cream until after I had finished washing dishes, and no, I did not think it was possible to wash dishes and eat ice cream at the same time, the daddy-o shook his head sadly and carefully put the ice cream away in the fridge. “Ten minutes, Yasminay!” he warned me. “Eat it soon, or it’ll melt!” I glanced at the piles of dishes, sighed, and, true to fashion, soon forgot all about the ice cream. (Remembering to eat is not one of my strong suits, as you may recall.)

An hour later, the daddy-o wandered by again while I was cooking chicken for dinner, and after a few pointed questions and comments about my having not eaten the ice cream yet, the above conversation ensured.

Which reminds me, this post is supposed to be about chicken, not ice cream. Okay. Please pause this weblog entry while I scramble to recover my train of thought.

Umm. Chicken. I like chicken. A lot.

However, my sister and I were, just a couple days ago, accused of being “soo non-desi.” I’m assuming this is supposed to be an insult, regardless of the fact that we’ve never in our lives referred to ourselves by the term “desi” in the first place. And this coming from a guy who, a few minutes after he called us “non-desi,” laughingly admitted, “Well, they call me Halfghan.” Yes, so the “non-desi” comment stemmed from the fact that I had some issues differentiating between the chicken curry, chicken tikka masala, tandoori chicken, and karahi chicken menu items at Berkeley’s Naan ‘n’ Curry restaurant, and also because, unlike the abovementioned Afghan brother (one of the most desi non-desi people I’ve ever met), neither my sister nor I was all that impressed by the movie Devdas. The fact that he willingly sat down to watch the movie with his grandmother, and enjoyed it enough to rave about it to us and be personally affronted when we didn’t share his enthusiasm, was enough to make me laugh for several minutes though. Hecka cute.

Oh, yeah, chicken. Sorry, I keep getting sidetracked.

My point was, I like chicken. And I cook some pretty damn good chicken, if I do say so myself, even if I may not know a specific name for the type. It’s just chicken, for goodness sake. And it tastes awesome, alhamdulillah. So who cares what it’s called. Hey, even one of my aunts told me last week that she liked the chicken I had cooked that weekend. My jaw almost dropped, because I’m the rebel child of the family and, more often than not, my relatives are far more concerned with pointing out things I do or say that they consider wrong or strange than they are with actually patting me on the back. She even repeated the compliment when I saw her a few days ago. And asked me for the recipe. Whoa.

She laughed when I told her there’s no recipe, that it tastes different everytime. S’the truth, yo. She asked what I put in it. I hesitated. “Umm…everything?”

This weekend, I was one of several women in the kitchen, including my cousin and her three sisters-in-law. And this is the part I refer to as the “chicken wars,” because, dang, I nearly had to shove people out of my way in order to cook my chicken properly.

Let me explain this, in no uncertain terms: Any attempts on your part, no matter how apparently good-intentioned and helpful, to stir my chicken or add spices to my chicken or to otherwise even so much as breathe near my pot of simmering chicken will result in you getting perhaps even more hurt than you would if you were to call me “Jasmin.” And as you all should know by now, that is quite a lot of hurting, yo. Are we clear on this?

They rolled up their sleeves and got to work in the kitchen as soon as they arrived, one cooking ground beef, another, vegetables, yet another, rice, a fourth, making salad. “So,” they asked, peering curiously into my pot, empty but for onions and tomatoes and bell peppers and a little bit of olive oil, “What’s going to be cooked in this one?”

“This is where I’m going to cook my chicken,” I answered possessively, emphatically. I don’t know if they got the point, though, because for the next hour or two I had to maintain a constant watch over my chicken. Someone kept stirring it, even when no stirring was required. Someone else wanted to keep the lid on. Yet another one kept asking me what I had put in it, questioning my use of certain spices and ingredients, the cut of the chicken, the heat level of the stove. Once, I turned around from washing my hands at the sink just in time to catch one of the girls about to pour some water into my chicken. I lunged at the stove. “No, no, no!” I said, panicked. “No water!” She stared at me wide-eyed, whether because of my alarm or my forceful demand or because she finally realized she might be in serious danger of being attacked by me, I have no idea.

Don’t you dare touch my chicken, okay?
Thank you.

And you know what, I never did get to eat that ice cream. To be honest, I forgot all about it. And now I just went and checked both the fridge and the freezer, but it’s gone.

Someone ate my ice cream.
I can’t believe this.

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