For the next three days, like rabbits, we can expect to be served lettuce for breakfast, packed lunch and dinner, in sandwiches and in salads, meal plans cleverly altered to include tacos with shredded lettuce and carrot, condiments placed within steamed lettuce rolls and served with a vaguely Vietnamese sauce as a concession to the palate. It’s a ritual we expect whenever my wife happens to pass INA Market; it results, as per an arrangement they have, in the driver sending an alert to my son, who then messages his mother to say he won’t be home for dinner. If he’s feeling kindly, he’ll warn his sister, who stops on the way home for a meal of street junk food and then feigns off dinner.
If she’s in Khan Market, we’re in for a deli treat, because that’s where she gets the cold cuts and frozen meats. It means sausages and ham and bacon for breakfast for as long as supplies last, never mind that you might prefer eggs one day, or plain toast and butter the next. The mince that went into the making of the tacos will then be doused in a Thai sauce for lunch the following day, any leftovers converted into an Indian curry that evening; the Kerala kokam masala prawns will likely resurface in a clear soup amidst other leftover meats till we hope to turn vegetarian again.
If, of course, this coincides with one of my wife’s diets, we turn fruitarian instead. Fruits – whole, or peeled and diced, pulped or squeezed – make up all meals, served raw, in pancakes, as dessert, till you don’t want to see another banana, grape or kiwi. On some days, the menu states only – ugh! – boiled foods, which is boring if you consider a plateful of beans, peas and carrots, mildly interesting if you add sweet potatoes with chaat masala, somewhat unnerving with stewed apples, and totally incomprehensible when you’d rather have your corn-on-the-cob roasted but the cook insists he’ll get into trouble if he doesn’t serve it boiled.
My wife loves fish, betraying her Bengali upbringing; the rest of the clan is iffier about something that was never meant to be eaten in, at least, Rajasthan. Allowing some concession for the convenience of batter-fried fish is one thing, finding it served as a package with skin and eyes intact quite another — the “surprise” my wife trips us with regularly at the start of what’s always fish week. Having had her way with the baleful eye, she might tandoor the leftover; one can be sure it’ll be poached in soya sauce one day, or served up as curry the next; since there’s only so much fish one can eat, a few days later, I’m looking forward to even her lettuce outing, especially after the stuffed parathas turn out to have – what else? – fish.
There was a time when she was baking bread at home, and meals seemed to consist entirely of various grain flours that had been pummeled, fattened on yeast and baked, but which – with butter, cheese, pate or jam – soon yielded to boredom. Having taken a course in making desserts, we were surfeit with puddings and cakes for a while till even my daughter – a sweet junkie – threw her hands up. Eggy caramel custard is tolerable as a snack on the run, but a meal of smelly tiramisu and collapsed cake can seriously jeopardise a marriage. Months away from those disastrous puddings, and getting over the current lettuce fix, I can hardly say I’m looking forward to her next experiment — three days of cooking, the cook informs me, with yoghurt.