Gadgets & People
Part II: Culinary Exchanges
When the three of us came back into the house we quickly noticed that unlike most days, Caroline hadn’t prepared food, the kitchen uncharacteristically empty.
“Caroline’s not cooking tonight?” I asked Allen who was just hanging around with his tablet.
“She had to go see the mechanic for her leg.” Allen said.
“Ah.” I looked around and saw most of the others were just pigging out on junk food. “I better get cooking then.” I said, going behind the counter and inspecting the fridge and pantry and quickly making a simple menu.
“You can cook too?”
“A bit. I sometimes babysit my three years old sister Vani so I made sure she would eat alright.” I said. “Picked up most of what I know from my other sister, Sana.”
“Are you all vegetarians?”
“All except Vani. My step mum, my dad and I for religious reasons. Sana’s not very religious but her clique is made of vegan granola girl types.”
“They let Vani go against your faith?”
“Of course… My father and step-mum didn’t force anything on us. They introduced us to their faith but they never made us go to temple or pray if we didn’t want to. Vani might only be three years old but we respect her love for fish.”
By Allen’s silent reaction, I had a feeling it hadn’t been the same for him.
“If you don’t eat fish how did she come to like it?”
“Her best friend at daycare is a little Itharii named Uta. They have lots of playdates together.”
The All-Worlds daycare center was specialized in alien juvenile care but they still accepted some humans. My step-mum had fought tooth and nail to make sure Vani could attend, believing a diverse environment was best for the little terror. Of course she wasn’t a terror there, only at home. Outside our house she was an angel according to her educators.
“So, want to lend a hand? I heard you were Caroline’s right hand.”
“Yeah sure. Although I don’t know much about Indian food.” He said. “I mean I assume you’re making that since you’re Indian and all.”
“You assumed right about the food, although I’m British with Tamil ancestry. Not Indian.” I corrected him.
“Indian’s a nationality, not an ethnicity. And India’s really big, saying ‘Indian is about as accurate as saying someone’s European or north american. My grandparents were from the Tamil Nadu province and from the Tamil ethnic group.” He just nodded quietly, probably afraid to put his foot up his mouth any further.
Rather than make a big deal out of it, I just jumped on the stove, teaching him how to make chole masala and biryani. He went along with my instructions and knew how to handle ingredients well.
Thankfully he didn’t do the ‘but what about bacon’ spiel some people would make when they learned I was vegetarian, ignoring the fact I had actually eaten meat in the past. I knew what I was ‘missing’ and didn’t really care. Instead Allen opted to fill the silence talking about food, even mentioning vegetarian dishes such as an eggplant lasagna recipe his mother would make or chipotle barbecue corn that did sound appetizing. Dinner was almost ready when Caroline showed up, holding hands with Charlie, the two of whom had become a thing.
“Oooh, what’s this?” Caroline said, looking at the stove.
“Hey Caroline. Dinner should be ready in about four or five minutes.”
“You made dinner? Gosh darn it.” She said crossing her arms.
“Yes… what’s wrong?” I asked with a frown.
“I totally would’ve loved to cook with you and learn your recipes. But I missed the chance!” She said purposefully layering the melodrama thick, making me smirk. “How will I ever live with myself now?” By the end of it, she couldn’t stop herself from grinning.
“I can teach you another time.”
“That’d be great.” She said, clearly excited. She went over to the stove and inspected the content. “Looks and smell amazing.”
“Thanks, it’s a family recipe.” I did a last check up on the rice and found it just right, meaning everything was ready. I rang the little bell Caroline kept on the counter to announce meal times. Everyone who was there —Annabelle and Amber having left the island for the former’s medical treatment— seemed grateful enough, Ahti maybe a little too happy, until it came Charlie’s turn to be served. I scooped a portion onto a plate for her only for her to stare at it weirdly.
“What’s that?” She asked looking at me like I’d given her some unidentifiable slop fit for pigs.
“Chole Masala and biryani; it’s a type of chickpea curry and a vegetable pilaf-like rice.”
“I think you got me mistaken. Nibbles is the rabbit, this is like rabbit food.”
I just glared at her.
“I’m a growing girl.” She said. “I need like actual food.”
“There’s only one person in the world I cook meat for and it’s a tiny mischievous Tamil girl who loves fish. While you might have got the tiny part right, you’re not her.” While I normally wouldn’t sink so low, Charlie’s attitude was rotten. So much for gratitude… “If you’re not happy then don’t eat it.”
“Damn it, not you too.” She grumbled.
“Oh my god…” Caroline sighed, putting the plate in Charlie’s hand before dragging her by the ear away to the kitchen table. “Be a big girl, just eat it and be thankful he did something.” As she dragged her away, she continued scolding her girlfriend. I couldn’t help but snicker at the gesture.
I served myself last, right after Allen whom I thanked again.
“Have you seen Jaeger? He didn’t get his meal.” I asked but he shrugged.
“He went out, said he needed some air after all that homework.” Yougen said with a shrug.
I dug into my dinner and once I was done, I started working on the dishes only for Caroline to come over.
“Sorry about Charlie.” She said. “She can be really bratty. I swear she eats nothing but meat, sweets, bread, pasta and rice. She ‘hates vegetables’ she says.” Caroline made sure to put Charlie’s words in air quotes.
“It’s fine.” I sighed.
“It’s really not. I’ll kick her butt if she does it again next time.”
“I’ll hold you to that promise.”
“I’ll do it. Cross my heart.” She said, making the cross sign. “Heck, we’re all going vegetarian for the next few days, until she change her mind, that’ll teach her to be a brat.”
“You’re a scary girl Caroline, I wouldn’t want to cross you.” I answered with a smirk. The Rook and now Charlie, she had a way of getting to people who annoyed her.