The problem with surprising one`s wife at the age of 34 is that all the easy routes have been already taken – like leaving an ‘I love you` wallpaper on the desktop, sending home flowers when you are out of town or calling the old newspaper guy to dispose the newspaper off – and are well known to the wife. That`s why I had to take up the complex task of making a Grilled Vegetable Sandwich this Sunday morning.
If you rely on internet for your recipes, let me tell you that all grilled vegetable sandwich recipes on the internet have been written by rich folks, who don`t want poor people like us to make grilled vegetable sandwiches at home. I mean, how can anybody expect me to have Japanese Egg Plant, Zucchini, and Portobello Mushroom at home?
The smart thing about we Rajans is that when the going gets tough, we get going…and that`s why after spending an hour on the internet and not seeing even one recipe for which we had all the ingredients, I decided to make my own Grilled Vegetable Sandwich….with the ingredients available at home. As luck would have it, we couldn`t use all the things available at home while making it…our Treadmill & Book shelf for instance.
I call this the All-you-got-at-home Grilled Vegetable Sandwich. To tell you the truth, we had everything at home except the lettuce. Since making a vegetable sandwich without lettuce would have been blasphemy, I decided to leave home at 8.30 a.m. and hit the farms around Gurgaon in search of some lettuce.
As luck would have it, Gurgaon is apparently no longer an agrarian society….farmers have already sold their farms to IT & BPO companies and bought Honda CRVs with the money. One farmer assured me that I was only four years late in asking him for some fresh lettuce.
At 9.30 a.m., I finally manage to find a farm that grew lettuce. The farmer told me that if I was only two days late, he would have sold his land to an IT major. I would have called his bluff but when he refused to accept money for the lettuce saying he would be 10,000 times richer than me in two days time, I had to believe him.
The other three vegetables I needed for making All-you-got-at-home Grilled Vegetable Sandwich were at home, so I headed home.
At this stage, let me tell you that your sandwich will be tastier if the people who are going to eat it know that the preparation was elaborate. Delaying breakfast by 2-3 hours, makes the sandwich even more tastier, but we won`t dwell into it at this stage.
Once home, I washed the lettuce and put them in a shallow pan laced with olive oil and some vinegar. Next, I cut some tomatoes, onions and cucumber into thin slices and put them in the same shallow pan for some grilling.
Grilling a bunch of vegetables isn`t easy. I mean, it is easy for Kevin Costner or Amitabh Bachchan to wear the policeman`s uniform and grill a criminal….because sometime or the other criminal is bound to crack. But the vegetables in my shallow pan, just refused to crack.
I tried putting them under tremendous pressure, but it just didn`t work.
I stared at the vegetables, knit my eyebrows, and started grilling them: “So, where are you from?”
“What do you do?”
“How long have you all known each other?”
“How long have you guys been doing all this?”
I would have cracked them myself, but my wife entered the scene and asked me what I was doing. Being a man who keeps it straight, I told her that I was grilling the vegetables.
She looked at me for a few seconds, and then pulled me outside the kitchen. She said: “Why don`t we do one thing….why don`t we play good cop-bad cop?”
“What do you mean?” I was curious.
“Rajan, I will be the bad cop out to torture them and you be the good cop who is trying to save them….haven`t you seen all those English movies?”
“Not a bad idea. But will that work? I mean, I have grilled them for more than 30 minutes and they haven`t uttered a single word.” While I didn`t suspect my wife`s intelligence, I was sure about how stubborn these vegetables were.
“No problem. I will Pre-Heat our Microwave Oven to 300 degree Celsius, and put the vegetables inside the Microwave Oven for around ten minutes….that will soften them. You can then ask them all kinds of questions, and they will start talking. What say?”
Rekha is a very confident & convincing woman. So I agreed.
After ten minutes Rekha took out the vegetables from the Microwave Oven, placed them on the kitchen counter and told me: ‘Your turn.”
I promptly seated myself in front of the slightly brown vegetables in the shallow pan and started grilling them again.
“So, how did it feel inside our torture chamber, huh?”
“Listen, I can help you get out. You got to trust me….that is a crazy woman you are dealing with. Just help me help you.”
“That lady out there is quite dangerous. Do you want me to help you or not?”
In the other corner of the kitchen, Rekha was toasting slices of bread, applying mayonnaise, spreading Jalapeno pepper & Olives on the slices etc. Once she was done, she turned towards me and asked: “Any luck?”
“Nope. Not a single word.”
“Let us threaten that we will eat them if they don`t respond. I am sure when death stares at them …they would open their mouth.” This time too Rekha was confident.
“Do you realize that we can kill you and not a single soul will know?” I asked again.
“Do you realize that, you might never see the sun?”
I think Rekha was losing her patience with these vegetables, for she intervened even before I could ask the third question. “Any luck?”
“No Rekha. Stoic as ever. I wonder how others grill them.”
Rekha didn`t answer. Our clock struck 11 times to tell us that it was 11 a.m. already.
After the clock stopped, Rekha spoke up. “Why don`t we place these vegetables inside slices of bread and threaten that we will eat them if they don`t open their mouth?”
I loved the idea. This would definitely crack them up.
In the next five minutes Rekha spread all the slightly cooked, brownish vegetables in between the slices of bread and passed them around on plates. With a glass of Real Litchie juice. WOW….my wife was making it seem so real. The vegetables had to fall for this one & crack.
Rekha, Rhea and I settled down at the dinning table. Rekha spoke first…with a mouthful of food inside her mouth : “Oops! I killed my vegetables.”
Rhea repeated the same words after taking a bite.
But as luck would have it, the even then the vegetables in my sandwich didn`t open their mouth. I tried to postpone their death for as long as possible…but in the end had to eat my sandwich too.
Though I have had my sandwich, the question remains….did I end up eating a grilled vegetable sandwich or a simple vegetable sandwich. Is a one-way asking of questions considered grilling enough?
As I was picking up my plate and heading towards the kitchen, my 3-year old daughter asked me: ‘Appa, what were you trying to make?”
I didn`t have the heart to tell her that I was trying to make a Grilled Vegetable Sandwich but had failed….so just told her that I was trying to make this Sunday special.