Vani Kaushal took part in Writing Date 37, visiting her favorite South Indian restaurant, which helped her focus on bringing an authenticity to the cuisine featured in her novel, ‘The Recession Groom’.
In this short extract, the novel’s protagonist, Parshuraman, is a recently redundant Indian software engineer who has just found part-time work in a bar. It is his first day, and his Manager, Snorty, a quirky American-Indian Sikh, is teaching him how to cook ‘Spicy crab’ for a customer. Parshuraman is a vegetarian and is obviously repulsed by the whole idea but since it is a part of his job, he has to learn it anyway.
Snorty led Parshuraman to a small kitchenette at the back of the bar and gave him a hand-me-down apron. ‘That’s yours,’ he said and glided towards a water tank to pull out two live blue crabs. ‘Look at that,’ he growled with a hungry look in his eyes. ‘These ones came in this morning. Here, take these.’
‘Whoa, whoa! I’m not holding that thing. I’m a vegetarian,’ said Parshuraman, shrinking away.
‘The crabs don’t care whether you’re a vegetarian or not,’ Snorty quipped. ‘And hey, it’s a part of the deal anyways. You’ll be cooking these yourself from tomorrow. In fact, let’s start from today itself.’
Parshuraman gulped and winced, before catching the crabs in his hands. He moved his fingers around the thick shell, twisted the crustacean around, saw its claws and felt the claw fingers, before Snorty took it back from him.
‘Fresh and juicy. Mouth-watering, isn’t it?’ he said to Parshuraman. ‘Okay, all you have to do is to clean the crab, put it in hot boiling water for a few minutes until it turns red. Get the seasoning sauces ready in a deep skillet, blend those in with the crab meat and it’s done. Get it?’
Parshuraman scowled. ‘Listen – you shouldn’t be putting a living creature in hot boiling water. It’s bad karma.’
Snorty pummeled the shell of the crab, ripped it apart from the body with a sharp knife, removed the claws, cleaned the gills, jiggled the meat in his hand and looked at Parshuraman. ‘Voilà, it’s not alive anymore. Any problems now?’ A few swift movements, a dash of seasoning and the dish was done.