The Serpent in the Garden

by Ashish

Of the many things that the good lord has provided us earthlings in his munificence, few gladden the heart as much as butter.

It is a versatile, multi-faceted gift that keeps giving in varied forms and multiple avatars.

Cast your mind’s eye back to the last time you took out an aloo parantha from the refrigerator, for example. Remember how you lovingly plopped it onto a frying pan and watched fondly as it gave out it’s first hesitant sizzle. Recall how you then dolloped a heart-attack-inducingly large dollop of butter onto it, and saw it truly come to life.

Or imagine how a little blob of butter can elevate a simple bowl of Maggi to heights hitherto thought unattainable. The complete transmogrification of a simple plate of scrambled eggs – ah, the possibilities are endless. Such a simple ingredient, but what powers of alchemy!

And in no other dish is this power more keenly felt than in the case of a slice of toast. Who among us has not experienced nirvana upon biting into a slice of buttered toast – and especially one on which butter has been slathered liberally?

I think it has something to do with the patience required to pull off that perfect slice of buttered toast. Say you’re lying in bed on a holiday, thinking of nothing in particular, and vegetating away rather pleasantly while watching an impossibly bad Hindi movie on SET MAX at around 4 in the afternoon. Suddenly, you experience a hankering for a slice, or maybe two, of warm buttered toast. You don’t immediately get up and start making toast, of course. You continue watching the impossibly bad movie, while you continue to think about those slices. Maybe you’ll have the last one with jam, you think, pleased as punch with the very thought. Or maybe you’ll sprinkle just a little bit of sugar on your second. And you will toast only one slice at a time, of course, because if you toast two at a go, the second one turns cold by the time you get around to applying butter  – which, of course, will just not do.

And so, after  a while, you get up, all ready to earn your bread and butter. Which is when you realize that the butter is in the fridge. And we all know the problem with butter in the fridge. It is hard, unyielding and cold. You are going for the opposite effect, naturally. You want your butter to be soft, pliant and warm. And so you decide to wait. You shall keep the butter out in the open and wait. And so you go back to your Govinda movie, and watch him prance about with Kimi Katkar.

When you can take no more of the prancing (for your mind is now fixated on a more noble cause), you head back into the kitchen, pop a slice of bread into the toaster, and wait, thinking pleasant thoughts about the world in general. And when the toast finally pops up, brown and crisp, and you are able to sink your knife into that golden slab of Amul’s best – well, that is what one earns money for, isn’t it?

Well, not quite. Because every now and then, there comes a time in every household’s life when it decides to try and eat healthy. It decides to stick to a largely vegetarian diet, mayhaps, or it decides to skip carbs after seven. Some decide to substitute sugar in their tea, while some switch from tea to, well, green tea.

My household had temporarily shifted to Butter Lite. Butter Lite is like Veg Kheema. The two words are not grammatically incorrect when placed next to each other, but there is something deeply, morally repugnant about the very concept. So is the case with Butter Lite. It looks like butter, and it feels like butter the first time the knife sinks into it, but I can assure you, my dear friends, it is most certainly not butter.

It is a pale poor imitation of the real thing, and no matter how many toasts you brown, no matter how much sugar you sprinkle, and no matter how much jam you suffocate it with, it will not give you the pleasure that the real thing does. And it is a cruel twist of fate indeed when a lazy afternoon must culminate sans real butter. As had mine been culminating these past few months, I’m sorry to report.

But the tide has finally turned. After repeated pleadings, the head of the household has relented, and there rests in the door of my refrigerator now a packet of Amul butter, resplendent in all it’s yellow packaging.

One of these days, I shall call in sick and vegetate at home. And at about four in the afternoon, I’ll stop watching a really bad movie.

I can hardly wait.