Kitchen Wallah


Gorge-ous Fine Food

By Alex Gough a guest of the Urban Rajah

The season of Lent has just begun and I’m up to my elbows in spicy mince, luscious prawns, and rich sticky halwa.  It’s not the traditional way to engage with the Lenten spirit of self-denial and restraint, but then tonight is a Cash n Curry Supper Club and I’m kitchen wallah for the Urban Rajah.

There is food in abundance.   I’m set to work packing a mix of damp herbs into glossy aubergines so they’re ready to be baked and then onto dicing piles of cucumber and tomatoes to make the tiny jewels to stud the raita.  Tonight is a Thali (literally meaning ‘plate’), it involves each person having a metal tray with several small bowls filled with different curries, rice and pickles all to be eaten with roti (of course).  I count out over 75 steel bowls knowing they are all going to need to be washed up at the end of the night.  Whose crazy idea was this again? 

Empty thali dishes

The table is set for ten with paper napkins folded into spring green lotus flowers.  The traditional symbol of spiritual purity gained through denial of worldly pleasures is a knowing nod to the season rather than the menu.  Days of preparation, marinating and market shopping have gone into tonight.  Guests come to feast on bitter vegetables, hot sweet sauces, silky rice and good company.  The meal costs them nothing but at the end of the night they will pay what the evening was worth to them in order that another family might eat.

Lenten fasting has always been linked with alms giving; the fast is considered useless if it’s introspective and tight fisted.  If such is the case for times of abstinence, then an evening gorging on fine food with friends should be about the sort of generosity and hospitality that can rock the world.  Reaching out in love to others - whether they are close friends across the table or distant strangers in the slums of Chennai - is what makes the Supper Club a true feast.  Long live Cash n Curry!

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