She got the head count for the party from her friend. - sambar for twenty people. "This should be fairly easy," she thought. Having routinely made sambar for ten people, she would just double the quantities and be done with it on the day of the picnic.
The day of the picnic dawned, bright and beautiful, after the heavy rains of the previous night. No more rain was in the forecast for the day.
The dal was simmering away in the pressure cooker and the vegetables being chopped with alacrity, when the pressure cooker decided to malfunction and release steam prematurely. She rushed to remove it from the heat and realign the gasket. Back to the stove, with fingers crossed this time that the dal would finish cooking in peace. Alas, that was not to be. It turned out partly cooked and needed an additional round of steaming in the dubious cooker.
Finally, a good half hour later than planned, the sambar for twenty was done, poured into a disposable roaster, wrapped up in plastic wrap and aluminum foil ample enough to hermetically seal it for a voyage to outer space. Time to head out to the picnic, which was being held in a shelter at a local park.
The shelter was surrounded by large puddles of water, the picnic tables covered with bird droppings, the remnants of last year's autumn wood fires in the chimney. A solitary chickadee hopped hopefully on the table, chirping as the people made their way gingerly past the puddles and slimy mud onto the concrete of the shelter. Time to get cracking on spreading plastic sheets and setting up the food for the picnic.
Two hours later, the dingy shelter looked transformed. People filled every nook and cranny, chairs were set up in the drying grass nearby, food aplenty on all the tables as everyone brought their offerings to the potluck. The sambar shared space with the onion chutney and idlis, and a few of the younger kids had already started digging into their share of the goodies.
She turned away from her chatting friends toward the food tables when she spied a commotion around the sambar pan and rushed to investigate. She saw a lady gingerly ladling out a scoop of it, and dashing it on the ground near the post. A black and red moth fluttered to the side, and one of the other ladies nearby took it into her head to attempt to stamp on the moth.
The hostess of the party rushed up. " I must discard the sambar!"she declared definitively and loudly. Sambar-lady looked up in horror. "Oh no, it was barely in the sambar for more than a couple of seconds. After all my effort...", she wailed.
"Oh, but everyone has seen it fall into the sambar! I know, I feel so bad about having to toss out the sambar... but..." pleaded the hostess.
"But what will the others do when they come to have the idlis. I don't think the chutney will be enough."
"The sambar is almost over anyway", said the hostess.
"No, it's only about a third done. That is a deep pan, so you will be tossing out two thirds of it. Any way, do what you wish", despaired Sambar-lady.
She turned away, not wishing to see what transpired with her precious sambar and walked off to talk with other friends. A few minutes later, the hostess confirmed, with much apologies that she did decide to toss out the sambar.
"Watch out for the rest of the dishes that are now sitting out in the open. There are bound to be other insects to fall into them, if we aren't careful." tossed Sambar-lady as a final quip.