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Culinary cuckoo

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on April 29, 2016

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This week, I’ve been too busy cooking to read anything! It all began with a promotion I read online for something called Blue Apron. “Look,” I say to Bins, “there’s a company that will deliver packages of fresh food to our doorstep, with instructions for transforming it into delicious meals.” He gives me one of his I-cannot-believe-this-nonsense expressions. So I read the article, think about it a bit, read all the reviews and soon decide to subscribe to the service.

It seems surprisingly affordable: at around $10 per serving, members can choose to get weekly deliveries of three meals of two servings each for the two-person plan. The veggies are locally sourced ingredients and all the ingredients are weighed and measured to suit the recipes. There are copious notes and online videos to help would-be chefs overcome their natural incompetence. I choose the “omnivore” option, agree to accept delivery on a Friday, make my initial payment and then there’s nothing for me to do but wait impatiently for the initial 10-day period to pass!

By Friday morning, I am pacing the floors and checking the driveway every half hour for signs of the delivery van. Bins taps the side of his head and says, “This Blue Diaper Hocus-pocus is CRAZY. It’s not possible to learn cooking from opening little boxes and reading instructions!” I plug my ears and continue staring out the kitchen window. At 5.30, I hear a knock on the front door and there it is! A small neat carton with the Blue Apron logo printed on it. Inside, just as described, the contents are labelled and packed as if for a child’s construction kit, with the meats between freezer-paks and the veggies clearly identified in see-through cellophane.

I immediately unpack the first meal on the list. It’s called Korean Bao Sliders. “Looks like a giant idli-burger,” says Bins, with a disapproving sneer. I pay no attention to him, as I slice scallions, mix a spicy sauce from dinky containers of mayonnaise and Korean Gochujang paste, then prepare the Sweet Potato Tempura for deep frying. This involves a thin batter into which I must dip the bright orange slices of sweet potato. According to the recipe, I should be able to prep the meat patties (also known as ‘sliders’) during the deep frying, but of course the moment the oil’s hot, the fire-alarm goes off. Bins is busy rolling on the floor with laughter, so I have to run about opening windows and fanning the alarm until it shuts down.

I refuse to get flustered. The final moves involve steaming the soft white ‘Bao’ buns. When they’ve puffed up nicely, I smear their interiors with the spicy mayonnaise sauce and insert the patties. I complete the garnishes and make up two plates, two burgers each, and two more in reserve. Ta-daa! “Dinner’s served!” I yodel. Bins is already sitting down with his napkin tucked into the neck of his t-shirt. “Smells good,” he says. Picks up a Bao burger and takes a bite.

“Not bad,” he concedes. In five minutes he’s polished off his portion plus the reserves. “Not enough!” he finishes, burping thunderously.

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 April 29, 2016
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