Photo by Kayla Padilla
Inspired by Natasha’s gorgeous food column, I decided to channel my inner creative and cook dinner Monday evening. Natasha’s commitment to her writing is admirable; every week we gather for dinner as she makes the exact recipe she’s provided to the reader, step by step. Consumed by her cooking, she talks to me as she stirs her pot or cuts serrano chiles. Twice in the past week, we’ve gotten so distracted by our conversation that we’ve set a napkin aflame. Sometimes I help, but mostly I just stand by and admire her effortless cooking.
Once the meal is ready, we sit together in her living room and watch a Bollywood film of Natasha’s choice. In case you’re curious, we love watching Shah Rukh Khan films because of the absolute clownery that he portrays. We both have a big crush on Arjun Rampal. And we can’t believe Preity Zinta got married to a boring old American in real life. In the span of two months, we’ve watched ten Bollywood films, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the way the art of cooking has brought us together.
But something doesn’t feel right. All I do is talk, eat and ask for seconds. Sure, I’ve bought a couple of ingredients for Natasha (because I felt bad eating all her food), but it seems I can’t ever sufficiently give back what she constantly gives me: love in the form of cooking. Seeking to change that, I was determined to be the one making dinner this time. Except there’s a tiny, tiny problem: I don’t have an oven or a stove. Confined to the limits of my dorm, all I have is my microwave, but dazed by my commitment to give back, I didn’t let that stop me. Welcome to Kayla’s Dorm Microwave: a one-time cooking column by yours truly. For starters, I settled on a meal I could screw up the least, but screw up nonetheless, in a microwave: bean tostadas with cheese and pico de gallo.
The best way to start cooking is by apologizing to your guest. I’m so sorry this, please don’t expect anything from me that; it’s a great way to boost your confidence and make your guest feel welcome. As I’m opening my ingredients, thus far, Natasha is unimpressed: she thinks this is all so informal, and I couldn’t agree more. The refried beans plop out of the can as Natasha tells me a story about one of her favorite Bollywood actresses, Sridevi. Maybe it isn’t obvious when I’m busily stuffing my face with her food, but I actually do listen to what Natasha tells me, and I can recite it too. There are a very few select Shah Rukh Khan films she likes. She strongly believes Shashi from English Vinglish should have ended up with that French man from her English-learning class. She thinks it’s hilarious that Akon’s music was in the film Ra.One. And god, we’re both so tired of the clowns who don’t know any better than to seek out people who want nothing to do with them.
As I’m putting together this mess of a meal, I start to feel awful. I know this column was supposed to be a spoof of her series, but it seems far less funny than I had planned. “What am I doing?” I think to myself. I walk regretfully to my microwave as I continue to hear about Sridevi. I open my microwave, as I have hundreds of times before. I take a deep breath and let it out. I am competent, I am capable, I know how to press buttons.
As the seconds tick away, I scurry to think of a conversation topic. The microwave is loud, but my regret louder, “I seriously hope you know this is not going to be good,” I say. Before I can express more regret, the beeping of the microwave notifies me that alas, Natasha’s doom is nearer than we thought. I bring out the food and set it before her. Everything beyond then is out of my control.
We each grabbed a tostada and took a bite of it together. It was disgusting! The beans were dry, the tostada too cold, and the diced tomatoes didn’t have the personal touch that pico de gallo would have. After trying these microwave tostadas, I felt so bad that I suggested we go back to her apartment and cook tostadas the right way. So we did. And then we watched another Bollywood film, our eleventh one to be exact.
Before I left for home that night, I gave Natasha what I had originally bought as an apology gift: vanilla conchas and a bar of Abuelita hot chocolate. It felt disingenuous knowing these items were made by someone else, not me. But my hopes were that the warmth of the hot chocolate and comfort of the concha would help provide a warmth that I, at the moment, cannot provide through my own cooking.
- Ajonjoli tostadas (they’re gluten-free too)
- La Costeña Refried Pinto Beans
- H-E-B diced tomatoes
- Two avocados
- GO VEGGIE Lactose-Free Cheddar Style Singles
1. Don’t use a microwave