City Food – Lockdown Chefs, Sector 30
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Is yellow dal channa, masoor or urad? What is dhuli dal?
Be honest. Don’t cheat on Google. It’s ok if you don’t know.
The thing that can be said about Abhimanyu Rao and Agastya Rao is that they know their dals.
“Dhuli moong dal has moong lentils without peels, and moong dal has the same lentils with peels,” says Abhimanyu. The twin brothers recently cooked a lunch of dhuli moong dal, gajar-matar ki subzi and boiled white rice for themselves, their lawyer parents and their long-time housekeeper.
They are 13. The prolonged lockdown has forced the two young men to stay cooped up within the house and “as part of our effort to use the (coronavirus-triggered) lockdown wisely, we decided to make this meal,” reports Agastya.
The brothers are talking on WhatsApp video from the isolation of their 8th floor apartment in Gurgaon’s Sector 30 in the Greater Delhi Region—the pictures are taken through the phone screen that connects them to The Delhi Walla.
It is a common assumption that people of this age are more concerned with enjoying the eating part of the food than actually getting into the hard sweaty part of cooking it out in the kitchen. And in less progressive households, the family’s male members would certainly not be encouraged to enter the kitchen at all.
Abhimanyu makes a response. “Cooking is something that everyone must know and it shouldn’t be considered a vocation for only boys, or only girls.” Agastya adds to the argument by explaining that “once you know how to cook simple things, you can get more creative and go on to make whatever you want.”
Students of 9th standard, it must be said that the boys have at least a couple of friends who too have taken to cooking as part of the many disciplines to be mastered for a wholesome life. Mihir makes flavoured ice-creams at home, Tara is excellent in cutlets, Sudha makes amazing pancakes, Zoya has superb “knife skills” (meaning she is great in chopping vegetables) and Vanya is deft in baking cakes.
For their life’s first meal “cooked from scratch”, the brothers wisely decided to keep the menu simple. “Dhuli moong is easy to cook,” explains Abhimanyu. “And we had lots of carrots and peas in the fridge to make a good amount of subzi,” says Agastya.
The entire preparation took about an hour with some help from “mamma”, who confessed to have exercised great self-restraint from saying, “Tum log hato, I’ll do it!” She of course lingered around to make sure the boys remained safe as they set on to work with knives and lighters.
As they washed the dal, tried figuring out the right quantity of vegetables to be peeled and sliced, and determined what spices ought to go with what dish, the brothers realised what they perhaps already knew. Here’s Agastya: “We discovered the effort that goes into the making of even a most simple meal, and this made us appreciate even more the people who cook for us.”
The family loved all the three dishes—even the grandmother in distant Palam Vihar gushed over the food pictures sent to her on WhatsApp.
Meanwhile, the lockdown has been lifted but their school will open only “virtually” on Monday. The boys are already figuring out their next project in the kitchen. It might be peanut butter cookies.
Mister Chefs at 13