What Is Cooking?
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 16 Jul 2018
All living beings need water and food for survival. Animals like lions or leopards generally eat raw meat; goats and elephants, usually grass or leaves. Fruit is also eaten by many categories of living beings and one does not need to cook it. However other than fruits, human beings have to cook their food–be it meat or vegetables or wheat or rice.
Cooking is generally done by women — mothers, sisters, daughters and sometimes by grandmothers. Each has their special cuisines that make food nutritious and tasty — finger licking good, as they say. Ironically however, the better known chefs in hotels or fancy restaurants are generally male — wearing their toupees and cooking fine products and occasionally inventing new recipes which they subsequently publish in expensive cookbooks.
Although cooking is a basic need of people, it can also become a subject of study in Colleges that may subsequently lead to jobs in academic institutions or hotels etc.
For women in poor communities in many parts of the world, cooking not only is a necessity but can become drudgery. What with looking after children, doing countless household chores, and then getting criticised if the food doesn’t taste too well. They often complain that they never get appreciation for well cooked and tasty food, but all sorts of criticism and even threats if there is anything amiss, by their husbands or mothers-in-law.
But I have also seen bonding and harmony developing between a man and his wife while both of them share the process of cooking. The man may clean and cut vegetables or meat and the wife may do the actual cooking. While this goes on, they often talk and share their experiences of how they spent the day and so on. If they have a young child who comes into the kitchen, the wife may cuddle the child while the man takes on the process of preparation of dinner.
A friend of mine and his wife who would often invite me to their home, were an ideal couple in this regard — both cooking and gossiping in which I would also join. These were peaceful and enjoyable evenings that I remember. A few years later, I got the news that the wife had died. I really felt dismayed by this tragedy and wondered how my friend would be coping with his tragedy especially since their grown up daughters were married and living separately.
After the rituals were over, I went to my friend’s home to see how he was getting along. He was reasonably composed and again busy in the kitchen. Cooking was acting as a soothing agent. He said something that I still remember, “When I am in the kitchen, I don’t feel Usha (his wife) has died. She seems to be standing next to me and sharing her thoughts and problems”.
Talking on a personal note, I remember learning how to cook when I was only ten or eleven years old. My mother was busy teaching and working part time doing tuitions so as to make money for the household expenses. My father was living alone in another town. I not only learnt cooking — not on modern stoves but on really primitive type of stoves that were called angeethi, but actually cooking some things for me and my younger sister. I may also add that there were no refrigerators at that time.
This skill came to my rescue when I was a doctoral student in USA. I not only cooked dinner for myself in the room I was renting, but even would occasionally invite my American friends to have Indian food with me.
My son who lives in Toronto has also become adept at cooking. He invites his friends for dinner and when they in turn invite him, he helps in the process of making dinner by making rotis, which are an essential part of dinner.
Cooking for food, cooking for peace, cooking for friendship.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 16 Jul 2018.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: What Is Cooking?, is included. Thank you.
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