Hello there, average desi man. You look pretty happy, dude. I guess you can’t complain because your wife is an amazing cook. That’s awesome! And your mom was an amazing cook before her? Nice. But what if your wife goes home to visit and leaves you on your own? She leaves cooked food for you in advance? Or you go to your mom’s house? Or maybe it’s pizza time! Bucket of KFC? Haha, yeah I know, that shit is awesome. Being a guy is awesome.
Wake up, idiot. Your wife has left the house and your mommy isn’t there and you and your khansama are on icy terms since he inadvertently discovered your porn collection. You are now a man who cannot feed himself and you must rely on the greasy chutney smeared hands of the Red Apple kebab handlers to directly pump sustenance into your feeble belly.
Dude. You need to cook.
I never understood how cooking in our culture became the opposite of manliness. The number of times I’ve heard desi alpha males proudly boasting that they’ve never cooked a meal in their life is ridiculous. That strikes me celebrating your inadequacy. It’s one thing to be proud of your wife’s cooking. It’s another to be helpless in the face of an unpeeled potato.
I realized this much later in life, but cooking is a survival skill. Along with teaching boy scouts how to build a fire or tie knots, they need to tell them how much time it takes to cook raw chicken thoroughly so that you don’t shit yourself to death, or how to chop onions without crying. Never depend on anyone else to feed you. Sure you can pay someone to do it on occasion. But I promise you, nothing will be as deeply satisfying as the first time you cook yourself a tasty, edible meal.
Get over yourself. If women have a place in the kitchen, so do you. Real men cook. And I’m not just talking about the macho manning of the barbeque pit or grilling steaks. Any idiot with a timer can grill a piece of meat. I’m talking about taking raw food in its original form, using a knife to process and prepare it, and understanding the difference between sautéing and frying.
Don’t just save your cooking for fancy occasions either. Practice making food that’s simple, easy to prepare and easy to repeat. The way I see it, one day you’re going to have kids who are nothing but endless chow machines. You’re going to have to feed them and feed them fast. Yes I know you work and when you come home late at night, you just want a hot meal on the table because goddamit you work so hard! But cooking a meal is the ultimate zen process. It’ll help you unwind, you don’t have to think too much, just follow the instructions and the rewards are exponential. People will think you’re a god if you can simply feed them something that doesn’t taste like burnt ass. It’s that simple.
Now having said that, desi food is hard to cook, it’s sort of an advanced level. The cooking times are longer, the flavors are more complex and well, the margin of error is smaller. I find that I’m overly critical of desi food, especially what I eat out here in the States because no matter what, it just doesn’t taste like home. It’s an elusive quality and I’m still searching for it (maybe it’s chutney hands after all.) In the meantime, Italian food, Chinese, and simple continental dishes are easy to do and quick. Here’s all you need.
1: Big Ass Chef’s Knife.
This is literally the only knife you need to cook food. You don’t need a whole knife set, with knives ranging in width and length. Just one sturdy chef’s knife that’s got some weight in it. Keep it sharp on a sharpening steel or block and half your work in the kitchen is done, because a heavy knife needs barely any effort, its weight will help you cut through meat easily. Get a chopping board and then head over to to the internets to watch and learn how to chop anything, from a whole chicken, to tricky vegetables like onions, carrots, tomatoes and garlic.
2. Bottle of Olive Oil.
Taste’s so much better than corn oil or vegetable oil and it’s healthier. Put that shit in a fancy dispenser bottle and you’re already looking pro.
3. Coarse salt and pepper grinder.
Look, you can use ordinary table salt and pepper in most recipes but how bad ass does it look to sprinkle big chunky crystals of salt, either sea salt or kosher salt seasoning your meat? And freshly ground pepper is so much better too.
4. Fresh ingredients
This is pretty much the only thing that separates good food from AMAZING food. Make a trip to the grocery store. Cook meat and vegetables you bought the same day. It makes a huge difference when you use fresh ingredients even if its just a few of them. Try to make your own pasta sauce. Use fresh garlic instead of store bought paste. If you’re in Pakistan, go to the butcher and learn the words for different cuts of meat and how much a “pao” is as a measure of weight (about 233 grams ~ quarter of a kg). Are you going to tell me you’re a grown man and you’ve never learned how to buy your own meat and vegetables? Roast your own chicken instead of buying the rotisserie chicken with its day old congealed fat sitting under a supermarket heat lamp. Which reminds me…
Learn How to Roast A Chicken
The biggest fear most people have is of only knowing how to cook something that’s either laughably easy (like eggs) or attempting something difficult and failing. I’ve got you covered. Roasting a chicken not only looks really impressive, its really simple to do. Win-win. This is the basic starting point for a host of different meals and its the simplest way to cook an entire chicken. Plus you look like a total boss when you pull that bird out of the oven in all its golden, delicious glory.
There’s nothing too it. (Additionally you can check out this video tutorial from acclaimed chef Thomas Bouchon)
Get a whole chicken, preferably with the skin on. Rub it with olive oil all over.Make sure its internal organs are cleaned out, and then season it heavily with salt and pepper all over. Put it in a roasting pan or a heavy cast iron skillet and stick it in the oven at 400°F. (Oh by the way, learn how to operate your oven). Leave it in there for an hour and then take it out. Wow. Doesn’t that look amazing? It’s so good you can tear into it with your hands and just devour it. Or you could serve it in any of the following ways
a) You can serve it on its own with some vegetables or simple boiled potatoes.
b) You could shred the chicken into little pieces to put into your pasta with a little tomato sauce or even just butter and salt.
c) Stick ‘em between two tortillas with some cheese and chopped tomatoes and grill it on a frying pan, you’ve got a quesadilla.
d) Use it to make a chicken sandwich! Or put it in the middle of some pita bread with some lettuce and mayo.
e) Take those shredded pieces, throw them into a rice cooker with a cup of rice, fried onions, two cups of chicken stock and some cumin powder and you’ve just made some friggin PULAO.
Obviously it all takes practice, but it’s immensely satisfying and it’s totally easier than it sounds. You’re not going to be a gourmet chef. But you will be able to cook a meal without killing anyone or making them want to kill you. So get on it. Give your wife a break. And bask in the glory of your newfound manhood.
PS. There’s plenty of women out there who’ve never chopped a carrot in their life. No excuses. This article’s definitely for you too.