What’s Cooking

…or should I say, who’s cooking? 🙂

No, this is nothing to do with my cooking adventures. It has everything to do with that once-a-year event that starts with a gradual  build-up, much indecision, a sudden turning point, then full steam ahead, a slow realization that I have taken on more than I can chew(!), and finally, a sigh of relief that it’s all over!

Yes, I’m talking about Lil D’s birthday. And yes, I broke the promise I made last year — it was not a dance show after all.

Even as the new year dawned, her friends began to ask me what this year’s theme was! Talk about pressure 🙂

Wondering what would appeal to Lil D, I thought of Master Chef — Lil D’s favourite show. I browsed the internet for some ideas (to my surprise, it was one of the top themes for kids’ parties!), but didn’t really come up with anything I could use since most of them involved ovens and baking and stuff. I cast about for other themes, but kept returning to this one.

Finally, I decided that I would go with this and work within my limitations: the fact that there would be no heat involved in the shape of ovens or stoves or anything else (except the birthday candles :D), and the fact that there would be no access to knives or any other sharp implements, which ruled out cutting, grating, etc.

So here’s how the whole thing worked out.

First the invites. As I was working on the design, Lil D stunned me by declaring that she did not want any gifts! She wanted to do something for an NGO instead  (she got highly annoyed when I asked her repeatedly if she was sure about this). We decided to ask her friends to get some of their old clothes that we could donate to a known NGO.   Needless to say, we were thrilled with this decision of hers. Since the invites were e-mailed, I was able to personalize the invites as well as be eco-friendly 🙂invite

The Invitation

Then the aprons. I got very Master Chef-y blue and red aprons from Star Bazaar. I also made little badges by sticking the printout of the personalized badge on a piece of cardboard, and taping a safety pin at the back.

When the girls came in, they were given small notebooks made of handmade paper, which they could decorate with stickers as their own little recipe book. A few food-related Word-Searches completed the warm-up activities.

The girls drew straws to decide their teams — the Blue Team and the Red Team — and were handed their aprons.

The First round was one-on-one contests, with one  member from each team competing against the other.

It involved simple activities like peeling boiled eggs, shelling peanuts, mixing dough (for rotis), squeezing juice out of musambis, picking corn off the cob, and deseeding pomegranates. Urged on and advised by their team-mates, this itself took the fair share of an hour. The peanuts were a bit damp so they were rather hard to shell and all members of the teams were allowed to help. The corn off the cob didn’t work out so well either.

At the end of the first round, the Blue Team was leading.

The Second round actually consisted of two contests. The first was a Recipe Mix-Up, which had the steps of 2 rice recipes (one biryani, one pongal) all mixed up, but I scratched this one due to lack of time. The kids did this later just out of curiosity and managed to guess biryani correctly!

The other was a Taste test. I had thrown all sorts of ingredients into a soup, and they had to guess the ingredients. I was impressed that the teams got 12 and 10 ingredients out of a total 17. Pretty good, right? 🙂

At the end of the second round, the Red Team drew level with the Blue Team! Oh, what excitement! 😀

The grand finale was the most awaited round. The teams had to make a drink, a sandwich, and a dessert with cup-cakes.

I had to ensure that two sets of all the ingredients were available, right from different types of drinks (Tang, iced-tea mix, Tropicana mixes), sauces (tomato, hot and sweet, spicy, red chilli), cheese (spreads, slices, grated cheese), veggies (tomato -chopped/sliced, onion-chopped/sliced, cucumber slices, olives, grated carrot, coriander, mint), dessert toppings (chocolate/vanilla icing, chocolate/butterscotch/strawberry syrups, chocolate chips, cherries, tutti-fruity stuff, honey), and basics such as bread, cup-cakes, ice, yoghurt, salt, pepper, chaat masala, etc. Most of it was easily bought in small quantities, but I had a pretty busy morning processing the veggies! 🙂

The girls hugely enjoyed this last round. They were so creative, coming up with Leaning Tower of Pisa sandwiches (stacked mini sandwiches), plating the desserts as smileys, using honey in their drinks, and concocting the most amazing chocolate and strawberry sauce! Of course, the ingredients themselves were finger-lickin’ good, so plenty of tasting went on during preparation itself. All in all, it was a mixture of total chaos and fun.

Finally, on general consensus (some of the parents were involved in the “judging”), both teams tied and won the grand prize — a large box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates which they all shared.

accessories

The Badge, the label for the recipe book, and the little Thank you card.

Individual “trophies” (water bottles with chocolates inside, with a silver ribbon threaded through a little card that said Thank You) were distributed to everyone by the birthday girl. Newspaper bags (Lil D’s school had some enterpreneurship-related stalls and I made one of the teams extremely happy by buying out their entire stock of newspaper bags, which were really cute, complete with logo and all!) were available for hauling home all the goodies (which included the aprons as well).

DH wrapped up the party with the disclaimer — Don’t blame us if you are now asked to cook at home! 😀

I was really tired at the end of this because it involved a great deal of preparation “on the day”. Just as I sank into a chair at the end of the party, one of Lil D’s friends came up to me with a worried look on her face.

Aunty, she asked, are you going to celebrate Lil D’s birthday next year?

You could have knocked me down with a feather at that point! I suppressed my laughter and smiled — Let’ s just wrap up this year, then we’ll see, OK?

I should have known better.

What will the theme be, Aunty? The question popped up almost immediately.

Nach Baliye, I grinned.  🙂

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