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Kids in the kitchen: The unmentionable culinary delights of a father-son curry

Opinion

The secret to a good dinner is less worry and more creativity, even a dash of ‘wet underpant’, writes Michael Blucher.

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Father son curry night – it all started with a throw away line about “emotional labour”.

She Who Must Be Obeyed raises it regularly, the toll that just thinking about running the household takes, even before the duties or actions begin.

What shall we have for dinner? How are we going to get all the kids their fourth vaccination before we go away? Have the dogs had their worm tablets? Decisions, planning, fore thought, all while the rest of us bumble along in our blissful state of ignorance.

Hey look, everything fitted into place. We’re where we need to be, right on time. That worked well. No thought given to how it all happened.

I’m coming to understand that even when we – the patriarchs of the traditional nuclear family – think we’re helping, we’re not.

Take for instance, the well-intentioned question – “Do you want me to do dinner?” For the really conscientious keeper of the house, the offer is still triggering thought. What’s he going to cook? What’s in the cupboard? Do we have all the ingredients? Is he going to have time to get to the shops?

Over the years I’ve learned the ASSERTIVE STATEMENT is much less taxing than the polite inquiry. HONEY – WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY-FRIDAY – I’M DOING DINNER!

See, girls… we can be trained. It might have taken 15-20 years, but we get it eventually. You just need to be a little patient.

It needs to be pointed out that these days, any dinner-cooking master plan, involves utilising idle resources. Namely two teenage sons.

I’ve been encouraging them to experiment with cooking since they were both very small. Get in kitchen and have a go. Explore how the different flavours come together.

No ground breaking creations just yet, but a neighbouring parent, clearly smarter than I am, insists positive reinforcement is the key. “Wow – udon and corn – thanks mate – that looks terrific. What’s in it?”

“Oh -udon and corn. Well….let’s dig in!”

I don’t know how old mate across the road does it, but at our joint, the positive reinforcement needs to be supplemented with a little supervision.

Last week I took it a little further by scheduling our first official “father son curry night”, utilising some of the 45 spice packets that I purchased from a specialist Indian grocer last December, wrapped up (individually) and flung under the Christmas tree.

How all those flavours blended together, shaped as a mystery, but I figured we couldn’t finish up with anything worse than udon and corn. Even if we sprinkled in a tea spoon of “wet underpant” spice (we couldn’t read the label on the small plastic bottle, but that’s distinctly what it smelt like).

So aprons on, and off we went – cubed beef, crudely floured and sealed, onion, garlic, stock, tinned tomatoes, all tossed into the le creuset without care or caution before the real artistry began – the addition of the spices.

Cumin? Of course. Who doesn’t love cumin, Garam Masala – yep we’ve all heard of that. Fennel seeds – sure, no good curry is complete without a few fennel seeds. Mustard seeds – why not. The more seeds the better. Ground coriander – not the boys’ favourite, but She Who Must Be Obeyed likes it – so in it goes. And last but not least, a sprinkle of black salt powder, what ever that is.

“Let’s not forget the wet underpant,” the less cautious of the two reminded, when it was abundantly clear, there was no recipe involved in this exercise – it was a sub-continent fragrant free-for-all, as authentic as any father-son-curry could be.

“What if it’s no good?” the more cautious of the two murmured.

“We’ll give it to chooks and start again,” I assured him, in fearless fatherly fashion.

But there was no need for that. After seven hours of unmonitored low heat, our masterpiece was removed from the oven, the aroma immediately transforming the dining room into a Bengal curry house.

Home made naan bread, a stack of papadums, the the family feast was complete. Without so much of a moment of emotional labour.

“We’ll make that again – on the off chance we can remember what went into it,” I said, raising a toast to a job well done.

Yes, get the kids the kitchen, get them experimenting, exploring the different flavours, understanding there’s a world of culinary complexity beyond simplicity of udon and corn.

For the benefit of the more structured Dad chefs – the key to the perfect AFSIC (Authentic Father Son Indian Curry) – one bottle of McLarenvale Shiraz, two willing assistants, seven months of planning, 45 packets of authentic Indian spices, and just a pinch of wet underpant powder.

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