Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner - an impactful, impressive cinematic effort

movie review

Beatriz at Dinner

Starring: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, Chloë Sevigny, David Warshofsky
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
Taglines: She was invited, but she's not welcome.

It’s a clash of personalities and perspectives as two very different people end up at the same gathering in Beatriz at Dinner, an odd but touching drama with an impressive cast and a terrific performance by its lead actress.

The protagonist is Beatriz (portrayed by Salma Hayek), a massage therapist and spiritual healer who works mainly with cancer patients at an alternative clinic. One of her private clients is the wealthy Kathy (Connie Britton), the mother of a Hodgkin’s survivor, Tara, who Beatriz helped during her cancer treatment and recovery.

After a session at Kathy’s posh residence, the masseuse heads back to her car, hoping to drive home where her beloved dogs and goat await her, only to realize that her run-down VW won’t start. Sympathetic to her predicament, her client invites her to stay over for dinner and attend a party that Kathy and her husband (David Warshofsky) are throwing for some of their business associates.

The working class immigrant soon finds herself in the company of the mega-rich. Among the dinner guests is Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a real estate mogul who likes to hunt animals in Africa for sport.

Things get awkward as the classism manifests itself and the ideals begin to clash. It’s an intriguing premise and a compelling piece akin to watching a stage play. Clearly a lot of love has gone into the making of this film, and director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Mike White deserve props for bringing this offbeat project to life. But the filmmakers haven’t quite been able to make the most of Beatriz at Dinner’s promising plot and setting. Its humour is understated and subtle, but the politics are so in-your-face that the movie often ends up sermonizing instead of offering a sharp or incisive satire. And the characters sometimes seem more like caricatures than well-crafted individuals – there aren’t enough shades of grey at work here to make the film as forceful as it should be.

But even when the tension is lacking or the movie seems a little lost in itself, the cast always elevates the material. Britton is sublime as the privileged Kathy and Lithgow masterfully embodies the despicable Doug. But the MVP here is Salma Hayek, who delivers a riveting performance, perhaps the best of her career. Her gentle portrayal of the sensitive and sincere but a tad unhinged Beatriz is absolutely outstanding. As it starts to become clear that the protagonist is going through some sort of a breakdown, Hayek handles the role deftly. The actress expresses her character’s emotions so well that it becomes impossible not to be affected by what Beatriz is feeling and going through.

It’s a piece more sombre than comedic, more dark than humorous. And while one may wish that the filmmakers had made the setting more claustrophobic and the ending more satisfying, Beatriz at Dinner is still a very impressive cinematic effort that – thanks in large part to Hayek’s acting – makes a powerful impact on viewers and leaves you with something to think about.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 17th October, 2017 *

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Logan Lucky - a slick, fun heist comedy

movie review
Logan Lucky 

Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, and Daniel Craig
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Tagline: See how the other half steals.

Steven Soderbergh makes a triumphant comeback with Logan Lucky, a heist comedy that sees the acclaimed director return to filmmaking after a four year hiatus from big screen ventures. The movie – his first directorial effort since 2013 – follows the adventure of three siblings who are attempting to pull off a daring, elaborate robbery.

Things aren’t going too well for the down-on-their-luck Logan family as the film commences. Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) – a Southern, blue collar construction worker who once had a promising football career that was derailed by a knee injury – is let go from his job “for liability reasons involving insurance”. His brother, Clyde (Adam Driver) – a war veteran who lost his left forearm in Iraq – runs a bar, while their sister, Mellie (Riley Keough) – the only one of the siblings who seems to have escaped the Logan curse – works as a hairdresser.

Struggling with financial and family issues (which are exacerbated by his ex-wife Bobbie’s (Katie Holmes) decision to move with their daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) to another city), Jimmy hatches the plan to carry out a robbery during a NASCAR race by exploiting the pneumatic tube system that the race track uses for moving money. After his siblings are on board with the scheme, Jimmy has to recruit the convicted Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help them get into the vault; the latter insists that his dim-witted brothers (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid) must also be brought in on the plan.

This motley crew of felons and would-be criminals must work together to pull off everything from a prison break to a vault breach (that uses a combination of bleach, gummy bears, and a salt substitute as an explosive) to make off with their loot and evade the FBI.

Will things go according to plan? And will the Logans finally be able to turn their luck around? The film takes you on a suspenseful and often amusing ride that delivers a few twists and turns along the way before you finally get the answers to those questions.

You can easily tell the same hand that was behind the Ocean’s Trilogy is at the helm of this project as well. Logan Lucky may be low-key and stripped of the glamour of the director’s Clooney-starring heist capers, but the execution is just as slick here.

Despite the overall impressive filmmaking though, there are a few subplots that aren’t handled quite as smoothly as the main arc. The rift between a snooty businessman (Seth MacFarlane) and his sponsored driver (Sebastian Stan) doesn’t really add much to the proceedings. Plus the FBI investigation towards the end – featuring a lacklustre performance by Hilary Swank as an agent assigned to the heist case – could have been more interesting instead of just seeming like a drag.

As for the cast, Tatum and Driver embrace their Southern characters as well as the film’s deadpan tone and are very well-cast in their roles. Keough also has an impressive screen presence. And Craig easily steals the show whenever he’s on screen.

All in all, this caper comedy may not bring anything particularly new to its well-worn genre but it still offers an enjoyable adventure populated with well-crafted characters. Logan Lucky probably won’t be the most memorable film you watch this year, but it will still take you on a fun, entertaining 2-hour-long ride.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 14th October, 2017 *

Friday, October 13, 2017

Vet to the rescue

cover story: interview

Any animal lover will readily tell you that having an animal friend in your life can be very rewarding. But just like us, our little companions too can suffer from the occasional malady. It’s a good thing then that veterinary doctors are on hand to provide both preventive and curative treatment to our furry, feathered, and scaled buddies.

Dr. Faheem Ahmad is one such vet, dedicated to helping the animals – both pets and strays – that are brought to his clinic. In a conversation with Us, the veterinary surgeon tells us about the experience of both studying and working in his field of expertise …

Us: Please tell Us a bit about yourself.
Dr. Faheem Ahmad: I’m a veterinary surgeon. I’m the eldest child in the family – I have two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. I recently got married, so now I feel I have more liabilities, fulfilling not just the responsibilities of a son and brother but a husband too. I completed my D.V.M. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) degree in 2015 from University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) Lahore and recently completed my postgraduate (M.Phil.) degree in veterinary surgery from the same university. Professionally I am running my father’s private clinic, Saleem Veterinary Clinic and Pet Shop, in Lahore.

Us: What prompted you to become a veterinarian?
Dr. Faheem: Since I opened my eyes, I was involved with animals as my father is a vet. Growing up, I became more interested in them. My father used to take me along with him when he used to go for visits, and gradually I started indulging in his clinical activities. I simply loved watching him and sometime even assisted him in handling the animals. I was very intrigued. It was then that I decided I would become a veterinary surgeon and Alhamdulillah (by the grace of God) I am one now.

Us: How has your experience of studying at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences Lahore been? And how do you feel about the standard of veterinary schools in Pakistan as compared to their international counterparts?
Dr. Faheem: It was a different type of experience, as university is a unique part of life where one has to prepare oneself to get into a practical field. I learnt a lot at university; I was one of the most active students and was the university proctor (representative) throughout my university life. I was a member and held key posts in different student veterinary clubs. Under the banner of those societies, I organized many free deworming, vaccination, and medical treatment camps at different villages, especially before Bakra Eid festivals. I also managed to take part as a veterinary officer in a carpet vaccination program organized by the Livestock Department. We went to flood affected areas of Pakistan to provide free veterinary services. So it was a very active, practical experience.
University provided me with a platform to sharpen my skills. UVAS is always thriving hard to get advanced equipment and impart the latest knowledge so that we can easily compete with the world.

Us: What are some of the salient features of the veterinary science curriculum?
Dr. Faheem: It is a very diverse field. From learning the basic anatomy of large and small domestic animals to getting familiarized with the physiology, understanding the basic pathological pathways, genetics, bioinformatics, drugs and clinical medicine, along with surgery. It also involves the knowledge of animal products, like milk, meat, wool, etcetera.

Us: Can you please tell Us about your work experience so far?
Dr. Faheem: I did internships at Lahore Zoo, Bahawalpur Zoo, and with Houbara Foundation Pakistan. I was also nominated for training by International Fund for Houbara to U.A.E. for the duration of 45 days. I received training at Falcon Hospital Abu Dhabi, Al Ain Zoo, and National Avian Research Centre, Sweihan, U.A.E. I just returned from China after attending a training program on traditional Chinese veterinary medicine and acupuncture techniques in animals. Adding to that, I have also attended many other international and national trainings and workshops. I am also serving as a consultant at an equine farm. I have not given up on voluntary work, most importantly stray animals on the streets. I provide free check-ups for the stray injured animals at the clinic. I ran a pilot project of shelter for small, stray animals with the collaboration of USAID back in 2013. Currently I am working on a proposal for the welfare of stray animals.

Us: How is the experience of working as a veterinarian in Pakistan? Have you felt a significant difference between working in Pakistan and abroad?
Dr. Faheem: It’s very challenging to work here, as for most owners their pets are not their priority. There is bare concept of regular health check-up and no proper vaccination or proper care is given to pets. So far, I have experienced that the majority of people bring their pets to the clinic in very poor condition after trying home remedies which makes it very difficult for us to treat them. In my opinion, this lack of attention to pets is due to the care free attitude of most of the owners who complain of their busy schedules, although getting an appointment from a vet is easier and the cost that is incurred is a lot cheaper than in the west.  

Us: You have treated many different animals so far. Which animal is the easiest to deal with? And which is the most challenging?
Dr. Faheem: In my opinion, no animal is difficult to treat if it is being regularly checked up and brought to the clinic for early diagnosis. On the other hand, every animal becomes challenging when brought at a critical stage specially when the initial stages were ignored or the animal wasn’t given proper care.

Us: You must come across animals that you can’t save. How do you cope with that?
Dr. Faheem: I believe every patient brought to my clinic, or those I treat elsewhere, is my responsibility. Being a surgeon and physician, I always try my best to save their life. Despite the fact that God is in charge of both life and death and one can only try, let me tell you honestly, seeing them go away or putting them down when there is no solution has never been easy for me. 

Us: Along with the animals, you also have to deal with their owners. Is there anything you wish pet owners would do differently?
Dr. Faheem: Yes indeed! I have many times faced great problems as we don't only have to treat the animals but also deal with the owners. We should only keep a pet if we can take care of it like our own children. There are many owners who keep a pet just to boast about – it’s more of a status symbol. They don’t bother to take proper care, like general check-up, vaccination, grooming, etcetera and it is only when their pet is in critical condition that they feel the need of seeking medical help and rush to us, the vets. Secondly, they should trust their vet. Most importantly, animals are very sensitive to care and love in terms of not only getting proper healthy nutrition but also time and attention; otherwise animals go into stress.

Us: What advice do you have for animal lovers who can’t afford veterinary care?
Dr. Faheem: Call a veterinary clinic that provides free consultation for those who can't afford treatment, like our clinic – we give subsidized rates to people who can’t afford it. But do get them checked in time.

Us: Human medicines seem to generally be prescribed to animals in Pakistan. Why are veterinary medicines not (easily) available here? Is there anything that can be done about this issue?
Dr. Faheem: Yes, unfortunately we have no option other than prescribing human medicines due to the lack of proper finances and attention to veterinary pharmaceuticals as far as small animals are concerned. 

Us: You did internships at the Lahore and Bahawalpur Zoo. How was the experience? How do you feel about the state of zoos in Pakistan? And how do you feel about zoos in general?
Dr. Faheem: It has always been an amazing experience working in zoos. We have huge potential and it needs further assistance by government and non-government bodies.   

Us: You are passionate about helping stray animals. What can the rest of us do to help?
Dr. Faheem: The most important thing is, if you see an injured or sick animal, give them first aid only if you have the knowledge about it; otherwise bring it immediately to the nearest veterinary clinic for proper treatment.

Us: Do you have any advice for students who are considering adopting a career in veterinary medicine?
Dr. Faheem: It's simply the best and most satisfying career, especially seeing an animal recover. It is a vast and diverse field; after D.V.M., one can join several areas, like dairy, meat, poultry, wildlife, etcetera. If you have passion for animals and you know that you can handle it, then you should go for it. Good luck.

- Sameen Amer

Have any questions for Dr. Faheem about animal care or want to know more about the veterinary field? Then send Us your queries at sameenamer [at] hotmail [dot] com, and we’ll print his replies to your questions in an upcoming issue.

Us Magazine, The News - 13th October, 2017 *

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The family friendly fluff of Fuller House

series review

Fuller House
Season 3 (part 1)

Starring: Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber, Michael Campion, Elias Harger, Soni Nicole Bringas, Dashiell and Fox Messitt, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Scott Weinger, John Brotherton, and Adam Hagenbuch
Created by: Jeff Franklin

It may not have impressed critics, but – just like its predecessor – Fuller House sure seems to have struck a chord with the viewers. The sequel to the popular sitcom Full House – which ran from 1987 to 1995 on ABC – arrived on Netflix last year when the streaming service brought the cast back together for this spinoff revival, which focuses mainly on the recently widowed D.J. Tanner-Fuller (Candace Cameron Bure) raising her three sons with the help of her sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and best friend Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber).

Thanks to the massive nostalgia-driven popularity of the first outing, the show was quickly renewed for a second season, which arrived later in the same year, and was soon followed by the news that the sitcom had been given the thumbs up for an 18-episode third season which was to be split into two parts. The first of these instalments was recently unveiled by Netflix on the 22nd of September, which marks the 30th anniversary of the premiere of its parent series.

Despite being released on the first day of fall, this 9 episode set takes place during summer break.

The adults are navigating the same kind of familial and romantic issues that you’d expect from the sitcom. D.J. continues to be torn between her feelings for her boyfriend and colleague, Matt (John Brotherton), and her high school sweetheart, Steve (Scott Weinger), who is now engaged to C.J. (Virginia Williams) and planning their wedding which is set to take place in Japan. Stephanie, who has a broken ankle (to accommodate Sweetin’s broken leg), and Kimmy’s brother, Jimmy (Adam Hagenbuch), are still an item, and the middle Tanner daughter is also struggling with the fact that she can’t have children. Kimmy is still being wooed by Fernando (Juan Pablo Di Pace) who has bought and renovated the old Gibbler house.

The kids are off from school, all except Jackson (Michael Campion) who is forced to take summer classes to improve his grades. Max (Elias Harger) is very excited about the holidays and dreams of having the “best summer ever”. And Ramona’s (Soni Nicole Bringas) relationship with Popko (Isaak Presley) has been going steady but is about to hit a snag.

Clearly its themes aren’t very clever or cerebral, but it wouldn’t be wise to expect that from Fuller House in the first place. These are your basic sitcom storylines, centred on a love triangle/will-they-won’t-they relationship that would be tiresome had viewers not already been invested in it, although the fact that episode 9 ends on a cliff-hanger and gives us no resolution to this romantic entanglement just becomes a test of patience.

As for the cast, while they will probably not be showered with Emmys anytime soon, they do perform their comedic duties with fervour. The young actors seem more comfortable in their roles, and have honed in some of their more grating tendencies. And the grownups – especially the members of the “She-Wolf Pack” – appear to be having fun making the show, and their joy can be somewhat contagious.

As for the rest of the original Full House regulars who have recurring responsibilities in this spin-off, they only make sporadic appearances in this set of episodes. There are no big family reunions in the first half of season three. John Stamos, Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, and Lori Loughlin appear in one episode each; Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are still a no-show. As a result, this season is relatively light on throwback moments so far and makes you hope that this will be rectified in the second half. While the series may be trying to establish itself in its own right, the writers and showrunner would be wise to remember that this show exists solely because of the powers of nostalgia. (Also, if Jeff Franklin and co. are so enamoured with doing songs and musical performances, then they could at least make them seem less shoehorned and more natural.)

Ultimately, just like Full House, Fuller House, too, specializes in family friendly fluff – everything is always drenched in saccharine sentimentality, and there are scenes featuring cute animals and babies sprinkled throughout each episode so that the audience can go “aww” every few minutes. It all ranges from cheesy to corny, and whether you’ll find it heart-warming or cringe-worthy simply comes down to preference. If you want something intelligent, then this clearly isn’t the best option for you, and obviously there are plenty of other shows that you can watch instead. This is Netflix after all; if you want something dark or edgy, then House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are just a click away. But if you’re a fan of traditional sitcoms and in the mood for some silly fun, then this 9-episode arc of Fuller House will keep you entertained for a four hour long binge watching session.

Rating: 3 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 8th October, 2017

Friday, October 06, 2017

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie - delightfully zany

movie review 

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie 

Starring: Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Thomas Middleditch, Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele, and Kristen Schaal
Directed by: David Soren
Tagline: You've seen Britain, you've seen France ... but you've never seen anyone like this guy.

Its title may not make the film sound very promising, but Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a delightful animated romp that is very likely to entertain its viewers.

To be fair, the animated feature’s style is rooted in the silly, juvenile humour that its name suggests, but writer Dav Pilkey’s offbeat premise – the film is based on his popular children’s novel series – and the creativity and energy with which director David Soren and screenwriter Nicholas Stoller have approached the material make the project surprisingly fun.

The story revolves around best friends George (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch), two imaginative elementary school pranksters whose favourite hobbies include making comic books and antagonizing their mean-spirited principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms). Tired of their mischief, Krupp decides to annihilate the boys’ friendship by putting them in separate classes. To prevent this from happening, George and Harold use a hypno-ring – a cereal box prize – to transform Krupp into one of their comic book creations: Captain Underpants, a superhero who fights crime while wearing only underwear and a cape, and whose primary superpowers appear to be extreme delusion and complete stupidity. Little do they know that they will soon need their hapless superhero’s help when supervillian Professor P. (Nick Kroll) arrives at their school with a nefarious plan of ridding the world of laughter.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is significantly more enjoyable than something called “Captain Underpants” has any right to be. Sure there is a lot of juvenile humor, but there is so much more to the film than that. It’s a story about friendship, and the magic of boundless imagination unbridled by logic or propriety. There are amusing references to other superheroes as the film deftly skewers the genre. And there are visual sequences that are creative and entertaining.

The voice cast, overall, is also solid. Hart and Middleditch make amicable, likable protagonists. Helms and Kroll, too, give good performances as the superhero and supervillain respectively. (Kristen Schaal’s voice is a tad grating but that’s a minor complaint as her character – a shy school lunch lady who has a thing for Mr. Krupp – plays a very small role in the film.)

Soren has done a terrific job transforming Pilkey’s work and taking it from page to screen. It may not have the gravitas of a Pixar outing, but that’s because this simply isn’t one of its goals. The film is unabashedly silly and full of creatively and laugh out loud wit. Captain Underpants feels like intelligently done lowbrow comedy. It is very likely to win you over even if you aren’t a fan of such humour, and leave you hoping that the project will spawn a sequel. If you are in the mood for something zany, offbeat, and a lot of fun, then give this movie a chance. The film is highly recommended to younger viewers as well as older viewers who are still young at heart.

Rating: 4 out of 5

- S.A. 

Us Magazine, The News - 6th October, 2017 *

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Unfiltered - Lily Collins turns to writing

book review

Book: Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me 
Author: Lily Collins

Not all celebrity memoirs are created equal. The most impressive ones are written by artists who have interesting, intriguing stories and experiences to share, and are willing to candidly discuss tales from their unusual lives. The least impressive ones come from celebrities who don’t have much to say and just seem to be cashing in on their fame by putting together a dull volume.

Lily Collins’ book, unfortunately, falls in the latter category.

The 28-year-old daughter of English musician Phil Collins published her first book, Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me, earlier this year. Part memoir, part self-help manual, the slim volume sees the British-American actress coming up with a collection of lacklustre, trite essays that try to give the illusion of being deep but in reality barely scratch the surface of the subjects they examine.

Collins’ romantic struggles, family issues, and insecurities are briefly mentioned in the book, none in a way that would give you a complete or clear look at any of these facets of her life. She writes about initially being insecure about her eyebrows, dating an addict, being ghosted by her boyfriends, her close relationship with her mother, and her father’s battle with alcoholism, but does not discuss these topics in a satisfying way.

The one issue she does open up about is her battle with eating disorders. The actress struggled with anorexia and bulimia in her teens, and was overly focused on losing weight, restricting what and how much she ate, binging and purging, and even becoming addicted to diet pills and laxatives during an emotionally unstable time in her life. She has since overcome her eating issues, in part by delving into cooking and baking, and says that she makes “progress with [her] disorders” with “every passing day”.

While sharing snippets from her life, the actress also tries to inspire her readers to love and value themselves, encouraging them to “embrace [their] differences as things that make you unique and special”, speak up and be more assertive, be more open and communicative, and turn their shortfalls into triumphs.

But none of her inspirational words ever rises above generic clichés. It’s a relentless onslaught of platitudes and hackneyed, worn out ideas delivered with absolutely no originality or creativity. As a result, everything she says starts to sound like meaningless tripe that does not make an impact on the readers or help them better themselves in any significant way.

If there is any original thought in Lily Collins’ head then she hasn’t bothered to include it in this book. Everything she mentions has been written more eloquently and convincingly in countless books before, and the actress adds nothing new to the discussion. Nor does she give you a particularly candid, close look at her professional or personal life (aside from her battle with eating disorders). If you want a straightforward take on her life as a young woman trying to make it in Hollywood and the daughter of one of the world’s most famous musicians, then you’ll find the lack of details in this book very disappointing. If you want to find out more about her budding acting career, like her experiences from the sets of The Blind Side or Mirror Mirror or how she feels about the failure of The Mortal Instruments series, then this isn’t the book for you as none of that is discussed in Unfiltered. And if you want to read an inspirational tome that encourages you to love yourself, then you’d be wise to pick any of the countless other books that have been written on the topic, most of which are significantly better than this one.

It also doesn’t help that Collins just isn’t a good writer. She doesn’t know how to structure her thoughts or convey her ideas coherently. Even though she is 28 years old, her voice comes off as that of a teenager who is writing for tween readers. Only very young girls are likely to find any of the material in this book revelatory or inspirational, although even the majority of them might find some of the things she says unrelatable. For instance, she writes that when she was studying at school, her mother used to take her to the countries – from India to places in Africa – that she was learning about because “the best way to learn [about different places is] to immerse ourselves in the cultures and experience them as locals do”, and seems oblivious to how privileged her upbringing has been or how unpractical this idea is for the majority of us who simply do not have the means to do so.

Ultimately, all Unfiltered proves is that repeating corny clichés does not make for a compelling read. Only her diehard fans will appreciate this effort as it will give them a quick glimpse at her life and thoughts. Everyone else will be better off giving this volume a pass, as it lacks substance, details, originality, and just about everything that makes a book interesting.

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 1st October, 2017 *

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mastering the Art of Cooking

sam's kitchen

Not by Julia Child, clearly 

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for entertainment purposes only. The author and magazine will not be responsible for the mess you make if you try any of these recipes, which, the writer assures you, are 100 percent inaccurate and result in the preparation of food that is completely inedible.


* Puff pastry bites 

•    1 cup flour
•    1 stick butter
•    Chopped mixed vegetables
•    1 egg
•    1 pack mozzarella cheese
•    Salt
•    Pepper

 -    Turn on the oven. Notice that it isn’t working. Call the repairman. Wait for repairman to show up and fix the oven. Pay the repairman.
-    Turn on the tap. See that the kitchen sink is blocked. Call the plumber. Wait for plumber to show up and fix the drain. Pay the plumber.
-    Decide you’re tired and need a break. Turn on the computer. Discover that the computer isn’t working. Call tech support. Yes, it is plugged in. Yes, you tried restarting it. Yes, this isn’t an ID-Ten-T error. Wait for technician to show up and fix the computer. Pay the technician.
-    Spend the next three hours looking for a website that says appetizers aren’t trendy anymore. Decide you love that website, and skip straight to the main course.

* Quick nibbles 

•    1 pack biscuits
•    1 pack crisps
•    1 pack peanuts
•    1 pack avocado dip
•    Carrots

-    Go to the cupboard. Take out a packet of biscuits. Taste biscuit. Discover it’s stale. Throw out biscuits.
-    Go back to the cupboard. Take out a packet of crisps. Try one. Gag. Ask who the hell was stupid enough to buy the chilli and beetroot flavour. Throw out crisps.
-    Go to the drawer. Take out a packet of peanuts. Try one. Decide that they're too tasty to share and keep them for yourself.
-    Go to the fridge. Take out the avocado dip. Open lid. Gag from toxic fumes. Read label – NOT avocado dip; actually hummus ... mouldy hummus. Throw out dip.
-    Go back to the fridge. Take out the carrots. Decide that just because there’s no dip doesn't mean you can’t have dippers. Consider suggesting it’s an existential dip and all in the mind. Grin at smug, pretentious suggestion. Look at carrot. See that carrots aren't meant to be that floppy. Throw out carrots.
-    Remember reading on a website that appetizers aren’t trendy anymore. Recall that you loved that website, and skip straight to the main course. Eat another peanut.


* Curry 

•    1 cup lentils
•    1 medium onion chopped
•    1 sm … ah, screw it!

 -    Go to your nearest dhaba and just buy a plate of daal. Where’s the sense in spending your time and energy cooking something that is readily available? Be smarter than that!

* Meat pie 

•    3.14159 kg boneless meat
•    3.14159 cups flour
•    3.14159 sticks of butter
•    3.14159 eggs
•    3.14159 teaspoon spices
•    3.14159 teaspoon salt
•    3.14159 teaspoon pepper

 -    Take some veal. Stare at the veal. Think about where it came from. Realize this was once a baby cow. You can’t possibly eat a baby cow. Why did you even buy this in the first place? Put away the veal.
-    Take some beef. Stare at the beef. Could this have been the baby cow’s mom? Or dad, you don’t know the gender. You can’t eat someone’s mom or dad. Put away the beef.
-    Take some mutton. Stare at the mutton. Realize this was once a beautiful sheep or goat. Feel sad. Put away the mutton.
-    Take some chicken meat. Stare at the chicken meat. Think of how cute chickens are. Put away the chicken meat.
-    Feed the meats to the cat.
-    Become a vegetarian.

* Stir fried vegetables 

•    Vegetables
•    Seasoning

 -    Oh come on! The dish is called “stir fried vegetables”. You take vegetables and stir fry them. You need a recipe for that? Seriously?!


* Boiled rice

•    1 cup rice
•    1 cup water

-    Put some rice in a pan along with an equal amount of water.
-    Go back to your room and start doing something else.
-    When the smoke alarm goes off, you’ll know that the rice is done.
-    Just take the unburnt rice from the top and serve.

* Salad 

•    Lettuce
•    Tomato
•    Feta cheese
•    Capsicum
•    Cucumber
•    Avocado

-    Chop the cheese into small pieces. Eat a few pieces of the cheese to get a good sense of its flavour.
-    Now cut some cucumber. Try mixing it with some of the cheese you just chopped and see how you like the combination.
-    Cut the tomatoes and capsicum. Add these to the remaining cheese, and see how your pallet feels about it.
-    Cut the avocado. Eat.
-    Finish the remaining cucumber.
-    By now you’ll only be left with the lettuce. Chop the lettuce, put in a bowl, and serve.


* Cake

•    3 eggs
•    ½ cup sugar
•    1 cup self-rising flour
•    1 stick butter

-    Gather all your family members in the kitchen.
-    Find a nice, comfortable chair to sit on. Sit down. Make yourself comfortable.
-    Ask your mom to whip together the eggs until fluffy, mix the butter and sugar, and then fold in the flour.
-    Direct your little sister to grease a cake tin.
-    Tell your brother to preheat the oven.
-    Now pour the mixture your mom prepared into the pan your sister greased and stick it in the oven your brother preheated, and leave it to bake.
-    After 30 minutes, ask if your dad could please take the cake out of the oven and place it on a rack to cool.
-    Serve with buttercream along with a generous helping of self-compliments regarding your baking proficiencies.

* Fruit Surprise

•    Cherries
•    Pineapple
•    Peaches
•    Strawberries
•    Apples 

-    Open a can of cherries.
-    Open a can of pineapples.
-    Open a can of peaches.
-    Open a can of strawberries.
-    Open a can of apples.
-    Put all the fruit in a bowl. Now add a tin of peas for the surprise. Mix. Serve.


* Potato cutlets 

•    You know, cutlets and stuff

-    Decide that you want to eat potato cutlets.
-    Realize that you don’t have any cutlets. Run to the shop to get some frozen cutlets. Return.
-    Realize that you don’t have any bread. Run to the shop to get some bread. Return.
-    Realize that you don’t have any ketchup. Run to the shop to get some ketchup. Return.
-    Realize that you don’t have any mayonnaise. Run to the shop to get some mayonnaise. Return.
-    Heat the cutlets, put each between two slices of bread with some ketchup and mayonnaise. Realize that you don’t have any soda…and one can’t possibly eat cutlets without soda. Run to the shop to get some soda. Return.
-    Realize you’re super tired from all the running, and take a nap. Wake up. Decide the cutlets are now cold and you don’t feel like eating them anymore. Throw them out.

* Macaroni and cheese 

•    1 box mac and cheese

-    Buy a box of macaroni and cheese.
-    Follow the instructions on the box. You’re smart enough for that, aren’t you? Good.
-    Serve.

* Pizza 

 •    Flour
•    Yeast
•    Olive Oil
•    Water
•    Cheese and toppings
•    Salt

-    Mix flour and yeast in a bowl with a pinch of salt, and then add oil and water.
-    Knead the dough. Then put it back in the bowl and leave in a warm place for an hour.
-    Roll out the dough, put in a pizza pan, add desired toppings, and place in preheated oven.
-    Take out of the oven after about 20 minutes. The base will have become like wood and the toppings will have taken on the texture of rubber.
-    Now get a hammer and chisel, and try to force the pizza out of the pan.
-    When that fails, call the nearest pizza place and order a large pizza, preferably with extra cheese. Enjoy.

- By Sameen Amer 

Us Magazine, The News - 22nd September, 2017 *