Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on February 28, 2021


Just as I’m whipping two eggs in a bowl, there’s a scratching at my kitchen window. “Aha!” says Rockette, my wild raccoon friend. “Making cookies again, I hope!”

“Nope,” I say, “but it’s an omelette.” Rockette wrinkles her furry white snout. “Grr-rrr!” she snarls. “Eggs are perfectly good straight from the shell! You humans are always messing things up with your frying pans and nasty hot fires!” I don’t remind her about the hot ovens in which cookies are baked. Instead I explain that I’m attempting something new today. “It’s a Japanese omelette! I’m trying out something I saw in a TV series called Midnight Diner, on Netflix!”

I explain that both my sisters have fallen under the spell of this series. Each half-hour episode is set in a tiny diner, in Tokyo. The chef has a slight scar across his face. We know him only as “Mastah” and he makes all the food in the eatery. Its hours of service are from midnight to 7 am, hence the name. Each episode concerns a brief human-interest story involving the characters who regularly turn up at the restaurant — and, of course, the particular dish that is the focus of each story.

“Sounds boring,” says Rockette, looking around and sniffing loudly. She’s hoping to locate the cookies, except that there aren’t any. So she gives up and settles for dried cranberries instead. “What’s special about the omelette?” I tell her that I can’t know until I’ve eaten one! “Wow,” she says, sarcastically, “that must be a VERY special programme — to make you want to eat something you’ve not even tasted before!”

I try to explain that it’s not just about the food. “The stories are composed of very simple ingredients: Fresh young women complaining about their disappointing love lives for instance, or well-seasoned old men, with tasty personal histories. Everything is sizzled together in quick, hot strokes of the chef’s deft chopsticks. There are little flashes of spice too. For instance there’s one story about a male porn star and another one about a popular striptease artiste and her loyal admirers. Each tale is served up with a pinch of cheeky wit that makes it seem delicious.”

Rockette listens to all this attentively, then complains, “You’ve still not said anything about the famous omelette!” I grin. “Ah well... in the series, the chef pours the egg-mixture in a thin layer into a rectangular pan, rolls it up then rolls it a second time. It’s quite a knack!” Rockette frowns. “That’s NOT rectangular,” she says, pointing to my ordinary round pan.

“I know!” I say, as I pour the first layer. “I saw it being made on YouTube in a round pan, so that’s what I’m trying!” But the first layer refuses to roll up and soon turns into Ye Olde Scrambled Eggs. “You’re making a mess!” squeaks Rockette. “Give up and make cookies!” “Good idea,” I say. “Just as soon as I’ve eaten my breakfast.”

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

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Published on February 28, 2021
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