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This is How You Cook Beef

Anand Haridas

Five whistles. Six, at the most.

One more whistle,

And it will lose consistency.


You stand there, by the stove.

Waiting for the first whistle.

Wondering what could be

Happening inside the pressure cooker.


To start with,

You need to be sure that

The meat is cut from the softest region.

Rub salt to the cut pieces.

Nothing cleanses like pain.


Spices are added with precision.

There seems to be some unwritten measure

For every scoop added.

Chopped onion. Sautéed to the right shade of brown.

A slice of green chilli. Crushed ginger.

Unwritten rules of taste.


It takes a long, very long time for the first whistle.

One has to wait patiently.

Once the first whistle happens, rest follows.

But the wait for the first one is long,

And special too.


That’s when you get a whiff of things to come.


First Whistle


A train of thoughts

Filled with dead bodies,

Some cut, some charred,

Always precedes the first whistle.

There is an unsettling silence before that.

In that silence, you try to forget

The fact that the train exists.

But it invariably comes.

From a long dark past

Stretching endlessly behind you,

It will come anyway.

Like that proverbial light in the tunnel

The whistle announces the train.

It comes from across the border of logic.

Driven by the desire for good taste.

Then, it starts.


Second Whistle


Once you have crossed the border

With the first whistle,

The distance to the second whistle is short.

You can measure it, brick by brick,

Spoon by spoon.

The dish is still half-cooked, yet

The smell is so tempting.

It will drive you up domes of fantasy

And put your flags up there.

You start getting visuals, smell and

Feel the touch of soft, cooked meat.

You refer back to cookbooks at this point.

Just to make sure, spices were added

In right measures.

From those pages, letters come out in hordes,

Marching along with chants,

With malice and hatred,

Determined to cook the raw cuts.

That’s when you realise

That the secret of a good recipe

Is in the unwritten measures of ingredients.


Third Whistle


There will be a reluctance in letting go

The third whistle.

A slight hesitance.

As if giving a second thought on

Whether you really wanted to cook this meat.

Is this the dish that you look forward to?

You cannot take it out now,

You cannot have it as it is now.

You are neither there, nor anywhere.

The third whistle will then sound like

‘Where were you, when the first one went off?’

‘What did you do when the second whistle was on?’

‘Why are you now thinking about this?’

‘Who are you?’

The third whistle is when the meat

Starts to get the heat.

From all sides.


Fourth Whistle


By now, the aroma of the meat

Is swirling around you.

You are drooling.

You lie to yourself

That this meal is good for you.

You list out the good qualities

Of this freshly cut meat

Cooked in the perfect manner.

You keep repeating the same lies

Again, and again.

You are desperate to taste it now.

You recall all the best moments

You have had before this.

And assure yourself that

This one is going to be special.

Better than anything that happened

Till now.

The pressure of repeated lies adds that

Extra flavour to the meat being cooked.


Fifth Whistle


You close your eyes.

You have almost lost count.

All you see now is the meat

Well-settled to its edible best

Bubbling within the cooker.

You can see those brown bulbs

Popping up on the top of gravy,

Almost musically,

And then vanishing.

The symphony of a spicy meal.


Half A Whistle More


Just when you are about to

Turn the stove off,

You hear half a whistle.

You stop.

It is not the sixth one.

Neither is it the fifth.

Something happened after that.

Or was it before that?

You wonder, did you really hear it?


But then,

It does not matter now.


The cut pieces have been cooked.

To the best of culinary standards.

They are no longer wounds that bled once.

Spices added in specific measures

Have done their magic.

Those pieces are meant to be eaten.

They await garnishing now.


You switch off the stove.

Anand Haridas is a Kochi-based media professional. He has worked with different news dailies including Kaumudi Online and The Hindu. He has also translated Kaali Natakam, a play by Sajitha Madathil. He is currently writing scripts for different web-series and mainstream film industry.

Kedar Namdas is a visual artist based in Pune. He has completed BFA (Painting) from Sir J. J. School of Arts, Mumbai and MVA (Printmaking) from M.S. University, Baroda.