Persian cuisine, the emperors or the Berbers were not to be blamed for the chaotic condition my mind was in at that moment…
Somewhere in my mind Omar Khayyam was reciting verses that related to the age old ingredients of the middle-east, the Larousse that lay open on my bed was slashing my brains about the origins of some dishes, my laptop was flashing one slide after another of kebabs, steamed rice dishes and fragrances and the wretched Wikipedia on my iPod was vainly displaying some cited information. Worst, those twinkly eyes of her and the cute smile kept popping up in my head and procrastination had just decided to sneak in through my door provoking me to text her just to see if she was still in the gym (even though I knew she was).
…just when everything was about to reach its peak I got up, went down to the kitchen and put two slices of bread in the toaster…
Although ‘married’ for about ten years now, my ‘relationship’ was currently going through the usual complexities that every relationship supposedly undergoes. My love was not agreeing with few things I kept putting forth and there were clashes. If I passionately (and patriotically) ate the naan and said it was my favorite Indian bread, gastronomy would look at me with narrowed eyes and rudely say, “It is NOT Indian. It is originally Persian!” That was enough to set up a heated argument leading me to open various books and websites but eventually succumbing to gastronomy’s claims. That day had been one of those, I was too tired to argue and gastronomy was flooding my brains with overwhelming information. All the stories about origins of some particular dishes that my mother and grandmothers had told me to satisfy my curiosity were proving to be mere fables and myths, simple fantasy weaved to entice the twelve year old version of me into eating ‘that piece of broccoli’ or drink ‘that cup of milk’ without wrinkling my nose in disgust. But I love to keep those stories with me even though I know they are simply tales; it helps me give a personal touch, a garnish of memory every time I make that particular plate. Gastronomy has a problem with this and cannot not even in the wildest of fantasy imagine that once an angry potter somewhere in North-India, irritated with his wife’s nagging threw a bread dough along with a pot into the fire accidently making the naan or that Biryani was an invention by a cook of some king who had the urge of eating a spicy ‘cake’ instead of its sweet counterpart; I have no problem with this but I always feel there’s no harm in keeping those fantasy tales alive, and this leads to those arguments.
All in all that day was simply chaotic, with so many other thoughts creating a cyclone in my head the links of numerous ingredients, their real birthplaces, the silk routes, the religious fervors and the spiced blades of wars were just revealing me the fact that I already knew, that cuisine is vast, it is extensive and mysteriously interlinked to form a network of flavors and textures that has spread around the world since ages.
I, just for my amusement was counting the hours I may need to spend in one of the world’s largest culinary library or the years of experience I would need to seep in all that I wanted to know when the toaster popped…two perfectly toasted slices of bread…
I had kept some unsalted butter for softening and I applied it to the bread, feeling the warm crunch on my hand. Then I removed a tight pack of salt I keep in my drawer, the fleur de sel (flower of salt) and lightly sprinkled it on the toasts, seeing the rough grains slowly absorb the butter, silently dissolving them in; I took the first bite.
The confluence of the simple crumble of the toast, the warmth of the smooth butter and the sharp notes of the salt just made my mind go blank. The weight of the thoughts were lifted, it seemed as if all the cuisines were just blending in my mouth. The bread and the butter that seem to take different avatars in all the cultures and the salt that unites all the flavors gave me some kind of bliss, virtually linking all the wonderful aromas and fragrances.
My beeping cell-phone pulled me out my trance. It was her text; she had just finished her gym and was on her way to my place for some studies. I smiled, glancing at the buttered toast lying on the plate, wondering if the combination of these two food items that one can easily find in any grocery store around the world truly lives up to the myth of removing obstacles from any relationships; I was hopeful.
“Bread and butter**,” I said out aloud, just to keep the superstitious myth going, grabbed the second toast that was lying there and happily munched away.
**Just for fact – Bread and butter is a superstitious phrase used since long by couples to overcome obstacles in a relationship. Although many movies and books make a reference to this phrase the actual origin is not yet traced but is said to date back to around 1939. If couples while walking holding there hands, encounter an obstacle, they unclasp their hands, shout ‘bread and butter’ aloud, cross the obstacle and hold their hands again.