photo by ellen reitman.

Friday, May 5, 2017

the teacher.

on youtube, baking penis-butter cookies looked so easy i decided to make some. i love penis-butter cookies, ok, ok, peanut-butter. ok? but i often feel there's not enough actual penis-butter in them, aahahaha, so i figgered it'd be great to try it myself.

my experienced baker friend gigi suggested i get the necessary ingredients from the 'bulk barn', only i couldn'th find the place. i pulled in at a 'qwicky mart' to qwickly enquire, but the lovely oriental lady there had no idea what i was asking. "bawk bahn? bok bawn?" and i ended up finding it purely by chance as i pulled into a shopping area soon after for a cup of coffee.

later that same day, i mixed all the ingredients exactly as the woman on youtube had, fired up my brand-spanking-new electric hand-mixer and proceeded to spray my entire kitchen with all sorts of stuff, mostly organic. that's when i decided to sit down and write about how i learned to make chapatis a hundred years ago.

during those early years in india, if you couldn't make chapatis you wouldn't have any chapatis. that's just the way it was. but i hadn't had much luck with that. one hot himalayan day, as i wandered through the village of mohal, i spotted a lamb tangled up in some fencing. i spent a while unwrapping the wires, while it kicked and cried, and while a couple of toothy kids laughed and clapped nearby. once the creature pulled its last leg free and jumped off into the field, one of the kids grabbed my hand and led me into the family kitchen, a smoke-filled stone room with no ceiling, only a rough roof made from old tin cans.

through the smoke, a smiling old lady crouched and squinted beside her 'chulha' fire making chapatis. her face was like a topographical map of the mountains. she wore the usual brightly coloured though faded woollen patoo, ornate brass earrings, rings on several fingers and even a few toes. there seemed to be a generation missing as the ancient woman barked something at the kids. matter-of-factly she handed me a chapati with some curried vegetable wrapped in it which i ate without hesitation and which was truly amazing. i thanked her and somehow, using my terrible hindi, asked if i could watch her make chapatis.

apparently appreciating having an audience she patiently showed me how to sift the flour, knead the dough and roll out each little ball of the stuff. she soon had a whole rhythm going again: rolling, throwing onto the tava pan, flipping, tossing into the fire where each chapati puffed perfectly before it was removed and another tossed in.

i spent the better part of that afternoon having a hands-on lesson, while the kids chattered and chuckled. by the end, that old lady had me sifting, kneading, rolling, flipping, tossing, and that was how i learned to make chapatis from scratch.

"there is no recipe to being a good teacher. that's what is so unique about them." robert sternberg.

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