Category Archives: Guest Author

Guest Post: Cooking Abroad

Madhuri Vijay went to college with Paul and I. She was my roommate for several years and is currently traveling the world on a Watson Fellowship. She maintains her own blog at Veer Bhogya Vasundhara. Enjoy the following guest post to Cramped Kitchen courtesy of Mads.

As a bosom friend of the authors of this fine blog, I have naturally been closely following Jess’ and Paul’s culinary adventures with a mixture of awe and childishly unbridled joy. Some of you may know who I am; I shot to fame for my role as the “authentic Indian studying the Indian diaspora” in the recent blog post titled “Curry Fever,” which immediately inspired to me to appear as a guest blogger writing about my own cooking experiences.

I am traveling to various foreign countries over the course of this year, and I knew, right from the start, that it would be an opportunity like no other to sample different cuisines, to taste strange and exotic flavors, to become familiar with alien eating practices. And I was right. I’d love share with you, if I may, my biggest food-related success: the night I ate two dinners.

Here’s are a couple things you should know before I begin:

1. I am living with a host couple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but they’re out of town at the moment, which means I have to make my own arrangements for food.

2. I don’t know how to turn on the stove in their kitchen. I think it requires some kind of advanced biometric information in order to turn on, like a voice match and retinal scan. Or I have perform a sacrificial ritual at midnight during the full moon to appease the stove gods. Not sure yet.

Anyway, let’s begin.

It was typical Tuesday night. I was at home, alone naturally, alternating between checking Facebook and doing some writing on my laptop. My rumbling stomach made me glance at the clock. 9:30 p.m. already! Far too late to go out to a restaurant, since I live in a not-so-safe neighborhood, and I tend not to venture out after a certain point in the evening. Well, a home cooked meal it would have to be then.

I opened the refrigerator to survey my options. The first thing I spotted was a white paper bag from Domino’s containing the free garlic twisty bread I’d received with my last pizza order. A perfect appetizer. Clutching the bag, I wandered into the kitchen. It would need some preparation, I thought, to soften it and really bring out the subtle flavor of two day-old garlic and salt. Perhaps I could heat it up in the microwave. Then I remembered my host telling me before she left that the microwave was broken. She’d meant to get someone to fix it, but hadn’t had the time.

So I took the more circuitous, but less processed route to soften my twisty garlic bread. As Jess will tell you, four years of knowing her has made me appreciate the natural, organic method of food collection and preparation. I set the twisty bread on my desk, still in the paper bag and stared at it. Intensely. Waiting for the atmospheric humidity and my own infrared gaze to work their magic. After about thirty seconds of this, I abandoned the idea of less-than-rock-solid-twisty-garlic-bread (let’s be honest, it was free so how could I complain if it was a tiny bit hard?) and began munching on it until the bag was empty.

Then the specter of the main course raised its ugly head, so I trotted back to the refrigerator. I like my meals to be varied and balanced (my mother is a nutritionist, so it’s only natural), so I decided I needed some dairy. I grabbed an opened packet of cheese singles – not Kraft, but equally healthy, I’m sure – and retreated to the safety of my room to enjoy them. I am very particular about my cheese, so I made sure to tear them into bite-sized bits, which allowed the flavor to really break apart and engulf my taste buds. Four of these cheese singles proved to be a hearty and satisfying meal, and I longed for something to wash it all down.

I remembered, on one of my last trips to the refrigerator, seeing a bottle of Coke lying on its side. I investigated and found my powers of observation had not failed me. Granted, there was only enough to fill half a cup, and it was flatter than a ten-year-old girl, but I thought it was the perfect end to the perfect meal.

Shortly after this, I fell asleep at my computer while reading about the Bangladeshi Liberation War of 1971, as I tend to do when reading about liberation wars of any kind. When I woke up, forty minutes later, I was dismayed to find that my stomach was rumbling again! This was unfathomable. I looked dazedly at the computer screen, the words miraculously transforming into all manners of delicious foods. I thought about the refrigerator, about all the possibilities contained within. I began compiling a mental list of ingredients. An apple I should probably throw away. Some raw vegetables. A bottle of jam. A mysterious covered dish I didn’t have the courage to open.

I put my head down on my keyboard, causing a series of angry beeps. Time, I think, stood still for a moment. Then inspiration hit.

Forty-five minutes later, I was eating a Spicy McChicken Burger and sipping on yet another Coke, feeling like my cultural indoctrination was complete. McDonald’s had never tasted so good, or so Malaysian. And the best part? I put some of the leftover fries in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s dinner.

Oh, one other thing. Please don’t tell my mother I live like this.