walk a-musing

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ramble On Cooking

After reading the post on my weirdness, Bhargav wondered why cooking was not in the list of things I love to do in the 'woman’s domain'. Here is the reply.

The key word in that list was 'love'. I don't love cooking. I can't even say I like cooking.

I still clearly remember my mom's alarm when I declared this to her. In reality, I had never even tried cooking to know that I didn't like it. Since I was old enough to gather that in any household it was the woman who did most of the house work, I didn't want any of it. Consider this: Men and women could love reading, they could dislike gardening. They could both hate driving. Both could hate walking in the sun, and both were allowed to love teaching. But all women had to like cooking? Was there no choice at all for me with regard to liking or disliking cooking? Then I must hate it. As simple as that. And I did.

And then what changed everything was that, like most others in this world, I married. If you think i tried to impress my husband by cooking, no. I am not one of those who believes that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Since my husband had assured me that I had already entered his heart - by some mysterious route which I still haven't identified - I saw no reason to explore new ones. A second path could only be used for exit, specially if it involved my cooking. It is just that after getting married and setting up my own home, I discovered that the good, healthy, tasty food that I had taken for granted all my life was no longer available everyday. I loved my food and I liked it a certain way. It dawned on me rather slowly that if I wanted the kind of food I liked to eat, I better learn to cook it myself.

My husband can cook. With the hope that he won't read this, I confess that he can roll out the most perfectly round aloo parathas. The Andhra style vegetable fries he makes are some of the best I have eaten. (And I have been very careful not to learn to make them as well as him). But he had longer working hours and his workplace was further away from mine. Tell me, how do men manage to arrange this in most marriages? Anyway, if I wanted the kind of food my mother made, and anything else that I happened to eat somewhere and liked very much, I had to learn. And that is the reason I learnt cooking.

Once my son was born it was yet another story. I think it is George Mikes who says in the opening page of his autobiography that everyone's mother is the most beautiful in the world and everyone's mother is the best cook in the world. Except his. He thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world but certainly the worst cook. I didn’t want my son to write something like this in his autobiography. I couldn’t do anything about the beauty part, but being the best cook in the world for my son was perhaps in my hands. Also, once he grew up, and joined college he shouldn’t insist on staying in the hostel for the only reason that hostel food was better.

The net result of all this is that, I have turned out to be a pretty decent cook. My family is happy with home food, though we do eat out occasionally. I have even earned a name among friends and relatives for some of the tasty traditional food I make and a variety of other dishes new to us Indians, like the Italian pasta and risotto and the Mexican enchilada. But let me be clear, if anyone else is ready to make all this for me the way I want, when I want, I will have no hesitation to crown him/her 'super cook' and retire happily. That is the difference between the items on the list, and cooking. With the items on my list, the pleasure is in the doing, whereas in cooking, the pleasure is only and entirely in the result.

How many of you have come across men who point out smugly that though so many women cook, most of the best known chefs are men? There are umpteen reasons for that. But I have absolutely no doubt that by making cooking compulsory for women, the world has lost a few great and innovative chefs. Just consider how many novels you read as text books you still like.

One of my friends is expecting her second child. The other day when I met her she looked absolutely radiant. Her doctor had just told her that it was going to be a girl. She already had a son. She told me the reactions of the rest of the family. Her husband was very happy she said. He was already dreaming of the day when the little one would grow up and make his tea and serve it with love. I almost wished they had another son. I almost asked if the older son would make the pakoras. But I couldn't dampen my friend's happiness. I congratulated her and moved on. In all probability, this man will be a doting father to both his children and will do everything a father needs to do for his children. But he has already placed a subtle extra burden on his unborn daughter.

Since cooking is something we can't do away with, I wish families will teach both their sons and daughters the art of cooking, and in such a way that they both come to enjoy it to some extent, and also the burden is not placed heavily on the women. I am most definitely doing my bit here. My son proudly tells everyone, that he will be cooking as well as his mom by the time he is eighteen. "My mom has promised me that!"


  • At 2:51 PM, Anonymous Alka said…

    "Her husband was very happy she said. He was already dreaming of the day when the little one would grow up and make his tea and serve it with love. I almost wished they had another son."

    I wish the same for them. I agree what you have written. I too used to hate cooking. But now, when I was all by myself, I wanted good, home cooked healthy food. And there was only me to provide it to myself. :-)

  • At 5:23 PM, Anonymous disha said…

    hmm..ur post has inspired mine..be up soon!

  • At 7:37 PM, Blogger starry nights said…

    I used to hate cooking also, and only learnt because I had to cook for my husband. I am sorry to say he cant cook, but I am making my son do some grocery shopping and teaching him a few simple things in the kitchen so that he can help his wife and maybe prepare a special dinner for her.this is a really neat post.women should not be the only ones made to earn to cook.

  • At 9:18 PM, Blogger Shruthi said…

    Lovely post!! Yay!
    And Whaaa?? I don't believe that you don't like or love cooking! Then how is it that you turn out such perfectly tasty food? And are so eager to try out new recipes?
    Ah that Rissotto!! Oh those Akki Rottis.... Oohhh that Lebanese concoction.. WHEN ARE YOU COMING HERE??

  • At 9:23 PM, Blogger chitra said…

    my story is very much similar to that of yours.

    But my 0 year old son seems to love cooking. He seems to prepare dosas (paper dosas), laddoos and murukkus . He , learnt it from my mother.

    Last year, he had to write a paragraph on "why should men learn cooking" and his concluding remark was that one should simply not depend on women.

    i hope he continues to love cooking and help his wife in later years ,.

  • At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Emma said…

    I can't agree with you more - on the emphasis laid on cooking for women. I hate cooking too, and even though I do cook everyday (my husband can't cook; besides one has to eat right?), I am an awful cook. My husband just about puts up with my cooking because he has no choice.

    I am really surprised at your friend's husband's response about having a daughter - god save the little one from the expectations laid on her from even before she is born. It is truly sad!

  • At 3:02 AM, Blogger Inder said…

    My mom too is a great cook. But, she can't prepare good soup and she wouldn't accept it. She used to make some disgusting soups and made me drink them. I developed soup-phobia. Dad says that Mom makes great soups these days. But, even now I am not able to convince myself to consume soup. Other than that, she is a great cook.
    I too started cooking out of necessity. Got bored of Mac Donalds and Burger Kings. The food available in the Indian and Pakistani food joints are too oily. We (2 roomies and I) cook by trial and error... and are improving a lot. I have even started to enjoy cooking...

  • At 3:42 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Alka, Starry nights, Emma, ha, I knew there were many women who would share my sentiments. Thanks!

    Disha, Waiting!

    Shruthi,hehhehhe... The key word being love and the pleasure being in the result, if loved ones love the result,.....you know what I mean...:))))

    Chitra, how old is your son? You left out one of the digits:D Wowwww, laddoos and murukkus!! I hope he continues to love cooking!! Not to depend on women is a good reason to learn cooking, dont you think?

    Inder, I was wondering where all the men were this morning! hmm.. see? If all my cooking had been bad, my son would have had food phobia! Yes, I know, food in Indian/Pakistani restt are so oily, I would rather cook at home. The only restt I really love to go to are the Thai ones. Somehow I cant manage good Thai recipes so it is worth it. (My husband says it is because they use Shrimp paste which I, being a vegetarian dont use, but blindly eat once I go to the restt. I dont believe it.)

  • At 5:19 AM, Blogger Deppe said…

    I learnt to cook last year. Not so much by choice though. It seemed like the only way out of steak and fries in the belgian eateries or 4 Euro Samosas in the local indian restaurant. I think , like you, I'm pretty much an indifferent cook who would gladly give it up if that option showed up.

    Greatly enjoyed the post. I tried hard to think of some other kind of pressure that only boys have to face, but couldn't think of anything important enough.

  • At 6:58 AM, Anonymous disha said…

    hehe..done..:D finally :D

  • At 7:48 AM, Anonymous chandni said…

    this is such a nice post!!!

    Agree whole heartedly with you...and well..I am going through the "I hate cooking" phase..without trying it. just as you described...

    but reading what u wrote...may be I should not feel burdened and give it a clean shot!

  • At 9:04 PM, Blogger chitra said…

    Yes, i seem to be having probs with my keyboard. Mu son is 10 year old. Today, he is preparing gulab jamuns with my mother's help as a weekend gift for me!

  • At 6:53 AM, Blogger Enigma said…

    ha i belong to smae category! i don't liek to cook, but i cook for survival purpose! and as i liek good food i try to make my cooking tasty. if u are in us and u are veggie!! then its difficult as u may not get variety to eat only lettuce onion tomatoes :P. I was forced to cook when i came to us. now i don't loev it but i do enjoy cooking (strictly 20 minutes nott more than that) . My room mates also cook well, since we atke turns/cook together :) its become bearable :)

  • At 12:38 PM, Blogger Anu said…

    Deppe, Even with this indifference one is able to produce great pancakes :) eh?
    Let me help you with regard to pressures only men have to face. Can a man get away with giving up his job because he wants to spend more time with his children? Even if his wife brings home a handsome salary? I know there are men opting for it in the west. And let us not go into the disadvantages women face because they gave up their jobs. But I feel educated Indian men would be treated ss freaks if they wanted to do that. Just like a woman would be treated as a failure if she didnt cook for her family. :(

  • At 12:44 PM, Blogger Anu said…

    Chandni, Thanks and yes, you may even come to enjoy the process and product!

    Chitra, wow again! A friend who came to know my son's enthusiasm for cooking once said she wished she had a daughter, she would want my son for her! Same holds for your son! haha!!

    enigma, 20minutes only? What about the cleaning up afterwards? ;)

  • At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Rajani said…

    Hi Anu,
    Entertaining post! I never learnt cooking till I was over 25, becos I'd been living in hostels & never really wanted to try it myself (and be deprived of ma ke haath ka khaana? Noway!)But once I started to cook I found it was a good way to relax and unwind. even today I can't cook if there are too many people around or if there's not enough time...But otherwise I like it. Happily, my 3 yr old son seems to like it too. He takes all the pots and pans into the liviing room and pretends to cook something. Even gives me a taste!!

  • At 9:51 PM, Blogger PRIDERA said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 10:57 PM, Blogger Raj said…

    Anu, if this was a ramble, it certainly was one of the best rambles I have come across.

    On a completely unrelated note, can someone explain why is it that a person who cooks is just a 'cook' and not a 'cooker', whereas one who teaches is a teacher. For that matter, why doesn't a butcher butch?

  • At 4:37 AM, Anonymous confused said…


    I would add one more thing to why men make great chefs.

    Perhaps because they do not have to conform to a past and live up to a reputation, they can afford to be more experimental. And experimentation is what makes a great chef.

    just my 2 cents or pence or whatever.:)

  • At 8:16 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Rajani, I know youenjoy cooking. Do you still make the paneer and baby corn sabji?? Yumm....

    Raj, Oh, thats a compliment I will remember!
    haha.. thats English for you! I think English is a bit like Bangalore. First there is a 'free for all' word contruction and then the search for rules of grammar. Just like Bangalore where there is random house construction and then a search for places to build roads. Indian languages are like Mysore, where we plan good roads and then allot places for people to build houses. OK, thats enough, bye, I am going into hiding!!

    Confused, heee, perhaps thats one of the many reasons. I hadnt thought about it.:)

  • At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Rajani said…

    Thanks Anu, No don't make that anymore...The thing is I can't find fresh baby corn here..only canned ones and they taste terrible..so that's that...One more reason for preferring Singapore to US!!

  • At 10:27 PM, Blogger Swathi said…

    now this is what i could call a coincidence, jus yesterday my mom n me were listing women who don't like cooking and suddenly we see them all around -not surprising for my generation but even from my mom's generation.some of the best chefs in the world are men but still they expect all women to love cooking, thatz not fair at all.but yaa i must confess that i love cooking, though i started late.check this my cooking

  • At 11:37 AM, Blogger PRIDERA said…

    hey Anu,
    I had left a comment on this blog sometime back and its gone :(
    But I could relate to this post for most part ... when I got married, I could not even prepare decent tea ... cooking was a distant thought. But the need (read craving) for the type of food I grew up with forced me to learn cooking and guess what, I enjoy cooking now :)
    My complaint area now is the clean up after cooking ... I still hate that

  • At 1:34 AM, Blogger Viky said…

    Ohoho...super post.

    My mother always told me and my sister "Ellaru ella kaltirbeku". So she encouraged me to venture into the kitchen, and my sister to drive the car.

    My sister was stuck in the first gear, and me at coffee and tea. But we pride ourselves in the fact that no one in the family can turn off a car with a jerk in the first gear like her, or make heavenly coffee like me.

    My room mate is by far the best cook I have ever seen. Give him the bare necessities, and he can churn up a nice dinner for you. He can whip up a chitranna with rice and tadka, he can make "coriander-rice" when there are no veggies in the house. His "sabbasige-soppu-anna" is his masterpiece. Some dishes he cooks better than my amma and ajji. Thanks to him, we are enjoying nice dinners at our bachelor pad. And morning coffees and rainy-day ginger teas are made with a flourish by yours truly.

    The biggest compliment was when some lady colleagues had come over on a weekend, and one of them made tea. Boys took one sip and said "Viky maDo ashTu channagilla, biDi"

    Now I can manage cooking plain rice, omelettes and dosas (batter bought, of course). And of course, rudimentary fried rice, the recipe for which I found at fellow blogger Madman's hotel site - Shiok. http://www.shiokfood.com

  • At 4:06 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Swathi, Read your post on cooking. Heeee. Very funny and intersting. Nice kitchen too. Btw, where do you work? Will submit my CV;)

    Pridera, Heh? How did that happen? Anyway, I have often wondered if I would have started to like cooking if I didnt have to 1.Wash the greens which I cook rather often. 2. clean up afterwards. Who knows? But I feel, if I could cook only when I felt like it I would have come to enjoy it.

    Viky, Haaa, one masala tea for me, please! Sabsige soppu anna? have never eaten it... What is the 'canbedevelopedintoapost' potential of this subject? Then you can post its recipe for us! Do ask your friend :)

  • At 12:31 AM, Blogger Swathi said…

    'am glad u liked my post, well i work for a IT Consulting Company in Hyderabad.(better still u can give me ur CV since I'm planning a UK trip in the next couple of months)

  • At 12:14 AM, Blogger Bhargav said…

    Nice post anu. I learnt cooking simply because I wanted to. I wanted to make that delecious awalakki uppittu that my mom makes. During holidays, I used to lock the kitchen door and prepare uppittu all by myself. I didnt want anyone to instruct me or stop me from preparing it. Well, after coming to the US for studies, its more of a necessity to cook. Sometimes when am in full 'josh', I do prepare very delicious pulav or majjige huli.

  • At 6:42 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Swathi! haha... sure!

    Bhargav, Atlast! I write a post addressed to you and you were nowhere to be seen! Wow good for you that you enjoy it so much. And I hear that one your friends loves Avalakkai uppittu as well! Is that a coincidence or....? Infact it is my son's favourite as well!

  • At 11:38 AM, Anonymous bhargav said…

    am sorry i was away. need to post something too.
    about awalakki uppittu, you bet its a coincidence all the way.

  • At 9:32 PM, Blogger urban trotter said…

    i couldn't agree more. I have always resisted what is traditionally meant to be a woman's "job" like cooking. In spite of that, I always managed to look at cooking as an art and learned cooking quite early in life. Perhaps it was because my mom never said anything to indicate that I had to. It was my interest and I didn't have a brother to notice the difference . Now I am married and lucky to have a husband who is a better cook than me, I don't even think about it as there are no roles. What I detest most is role-playing.

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