September 02, 2008

The Cooking Dilemma

ApuSOME DAYS AGO, at a function, a distant relative was gently ribbing me and my husband as to who was responsible for cooking at home. Specifically, he was taking a few shots at my expense, that I must be ‘making’ my husband do all the cooking. Most of this was inconsequential small talk; I doubt this relative really cares about who cooks at our place or whether we cook at all. I didn’t take it seriously or feel riled. Still, behind these jokes are some notions so ingrained that we have a hard time recognizing them. The joke exists because the notion exists that a woman must be an excellent cook, devoted to feeding her family.

I started thinking about how this notion has impacted me. In our culture, food has a role to play not just as nourishment for the body. It is also believed to have an impact on behaviour, which is why we categorise food as sattvik, rajasik and tamasik. Beyond this, food is also believed to be an important form of charity — feeding the poor is a key activity for many religious organizations. Hindus revere the goddess Annapoorani, considered the giver of food. With the importance accorded to food, cooking naturally cannot be a casual affair.

Today, many of us eat out frequently — but there is always an underlying consciousness that food cooked outside cannot be as healthy as home-made food. Processed food/ready-to-cook meals are still a rung lower on the…er…food chain. This venerated ‘delicious, healthy, home-made’ food has always primarily been made by women. Even today, when many women work outside the home, it continues to be so.

For many women, perhaps, this deep-rooted belief in the importance of healthy, home cooked food clashes with the time and energy left after working long hours. Still, one’s role as provider of food is so deeply ingrained that it is difficult for even an educated, young woman like me to view it objectively. I’ve seen my mother waking up at 5 in the morning to get the meals ready and prepare lunch boxes for three demanding children. Life seems so much more convenient today with the appliances we have; it seems somehow shameful not to cook.

When this relative ribbed me, I caught myself hastening to assure him that I managed the kitchen myself. While I explained to him that my husband is a fairly poor cook, I was also quick to reassure myself that I wasn’t just taking on prescribed roles (“after all, my husband does many of the chores at home that would usually be done by women”). If I sound confused in my attitude to cooking, it’s because I am.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I avoided learning any cooking at all. In the days when I was first forming my own feminist ideas, my logic was very simple. Men often overrode women’s decisions. Men worked outside and earned money. Most women didn’t. What most women did was cook and keep house. Women couldn’t work outside if they got caught in this role. Ergo, I didn’t want any of it! It seemed to me that only the food was really valued, not the cook herself. Through my early twenties, I was often the butt of jokes as someone whose repertoire consisted of maggi and toast. Gradually, as I began living on my own, and got bored of eating out, I started trying my hand at cooking. And realized (gasp!) I enjoyed it!

But even when I realized that cooking could be an interesting and creative affair, I always felt a little embarrassed about it. Especially when I got married, I was afraid that I would become ‘just a housewife’, the state I’d always dreaded. I was so afraid of falling into traditional roles prescribed for women that I tried hard to keep myself away from them. (Though I’m using the past tense here, many of these fears still persist.)

In reality of course, traditional women’s roles, including cooking, bring in tremendous social wealth, even if they cannot be measured in monetary terms. In earlier generations, most old people, even those without children, could be assured of some care and support from extended family. This was possible, mainly because of the presence of at least one woman staying at home. Home makers spend an enormous amount of time with children, besides doing many other chores which would otherwise be outsourced. Similarly, home cooking has a lot of benefits in terms of health as well as cost savings. It is a pity that I (and perhaps other women like me) feel embarrassed to don these roles.

Am I advocating that women should take up all the traditional roles again? Not at all. For one, our horizons have broadened — we have any number of choices when it comes to career and work. Full time caregiving will not be feasible, or interesting, for many of us. The best situation of course would be for men to enter (traditionally) female bastions as much as women have entered male ones. When men cook and feed a family as commonly as women do, I bet that cooking will be seen for what it really is — a time consuming, high-involvement activity requiring skill, patience and love.

25 comments to The Cooking Dilemma

  • D

    I don’t view cooking objectively at all. And there are several points that come to my mind:

    1. The expectation from a woman to be a good cook and to feed her family is made out to be one of the essentials to becoming a “good” wife/mother. It’s also an idea perpetuated by women who think they can express their love only by feeding their children and husband well. Most often, these are women who cook because they enjoy, which they won’t reveal because it may take away from their “good mother/wife” tag!

    2. As a result, even women who have all the help in the world have to slog it in the kitchen to vie for that tag. Apart from doing other stuff, of course!

    3. I still love the food my mom cooked for us. But I also know that if she was a working woman like me, she might not have spent as many hours in the kitchen as she did. It’s unfair to expect women to carry on with the same life at home that the generations before them did, without taking into consideration the lives they lead outside of it.

    3. The sad thing is that boys are discouraged from helping out in the kitchen while they are kids. They are fed patriarchal ideas of how the kitchen is the woman’s domain. When these boys grow up and find that times have changed, it’s tough for them to develop culinary skills overnight.

    4. Kitchen politics is at its worst in joint families where the D-I-L has to prove her culinary prowess in order to win over the love of her new family! It’s ridiculous, to say the least, but true. And sadly so.

  • D

    I think the comment got just a tad too unweildy! Sorry.

  • D: Long comments are great and always welcome at UV. 🙂

    Apu: Great post…some thoughts.

    I agree with D that boys need to be taught cooking too, while they are growing up or at least made to feel that it’s not a ‘girlie’ job. Finally, how a couple wishes to share responsibilities is their business but it does put a lot of pressure on the woman if she feels that unless she cooks, someone won’t get to eat!

    I do know some couples who share the cooking but by and large, it’s still heavily woman-reliant. But the question also is how many women insist on it being a shared responsibility? Would things be different if we did?

    The other question is does it need to be a shared responsibility if both partners are okay with it not being so and if it evens out in terms of total housework like in your case? What if the man really does suck at it? Isn’t it better to apply skills where best used, in terms of resource management at home?

    On a personal note, I like cooking but only occasionally and I also suffer from some perverse thing about not wanting to do it when it’s expected of me. And I HATE people asking me about my husband’s tiffin.

  • I can definitely empathise with Anu ‘about not wanting to do it when it’s expected of me’, I think that’s a natural reaction. Well done, Apu, for raising these sticky issues that continue to plague us.

  • High Priestess

    Over here in USA I see men cooking almost as much as I see women. Yeah, I would say it’s about equal.

  • apu

    D, agree, agree, agree with all your points. I think the crux of it is that while cooking at home offers many benefits, society needs to wake up to the fact that women do other stuff too.

    Ani – I think getting boys involved in cooking is one of the single most important things any mom can do, towards furthering gender equality. I don’t believe that couples need to split every task in a 50-50 ratio – at the same time, it is obvious that in many households, women, even when they are working, are doing the majority of chores, and almost all the cooking.
    Even if partners say they like it this way – its worthwhile examining why.

    For instance it could be because the man is so poorly trained at household chores that its a big hassle for the woman to keep telling him what to do, and so she decides to do it herself. From a resource management perspective, yes, it becomes easier to do what you’ve been trained to do well, but at least from this generation, we need to ensure that men are not so poorly trained at household work.

  • Apu, you’ve done a wonderful job at detailing a key issue that plagues many of us. I agree about feeling averse to things that people expect, even gifts!

  • aparna: An excellent, thoughtful post.

    Personally, I find the whole ‘home-cooked food is healthier’ assertion particularly fascinating. To hear people stress this you’d think we’re a nation devoted to healthy eating, while the truth is that a great deal of home-cooking (well, at least North Indian home cooking) is woefully unhealthy. My own grandmother, for instance, has no qualms about feeding me on a diet that is 80% desi ghee, thus setting me on a path to an early pyre, but will shake her head in dismay when she hears that my usual lunch is a salad brought from outside.

    More seriously, of course, this whole ‘outside food is not good for you’ thing is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I remember conducting a great deal of primary research on consumer behavior among middle to high-income families as a consultant for a company looking to enter the processed food space, and the single largest barrier we kept coming up against was the unwillingness of consumers to buy processed food. And we weren’t talking pre-cooked meals or anything – we were talking packaged spices, pickles, preserves, even just packaged atta. It was frankly shocking how many women seemed to see buying something pre-processed as compromising on quality and therefore letting their family down, especially when you consider that their alternatives (buying raw ingredients from the market and then preparing everything from scratch) weren’t just considerably more inconvenient but also potentially more prone to contamination. The problem, of course, is that that kind of resistance makes producing better quality processed food unviable, setting up a vicious circle where ‘outside food’ is unhealthy because no one will buy outside food because it is unhealthy…and so on.

    I also think the whole ‘I remember my mother’ bit is really interesting, because I think that’s a key pathology by which patriarchy propagates itself – not only in the kitchen but with gender roles more generally. But that’s a whole other post

    Anindita: You know, I find the argument that being the only person who knows how to cook weakening the woman’s position very curious. I would argue that it should work the other way around – ceteris paribus the fact that the woman has a capability that both people need should increase her bargaining power. Not that I’m suggesting that men shouldn’t know how to cook.

    Part of the trouble, I think, is with the expectation (shared by men and women alike) that all food must be delicious. Everyday food needs to be nutritious, yes, but there’s really no reason why it has to be rich in subtle flavors or needs to taste like your mother’s cooking. I enjoy tasty food as much as anyone, but that doesn’t mean I feel compelled to eat it for every meal, anymore than the fact that I love poetry means that I expect every e-mail / blog-post I write / read to be rich in imagery and metaphor.

    Which is why I find all this talk about ‘learning how to cook’ fairly amusing. What’s so hard about cooking? Any moderately intelligent person with a beginner’s cookbook can learn how to cook a competent meal or two in a couple of days. Obviously, good cooking is a challenge, but cooking-as-a-necessary-evil is a cinch. I never learnt how to cook as a child / adolescent (I had better things to do) and everything I use on a daily basis I figured out through a combination of the Internet and my own experimentation, but I’ve been feeding myself for five years and I’m perfectly healthy. I’m not a particularly good cook (when people come to visit me we go out for meals) but I don’t want to be. It’s because we all blindly buy into the ‘every meal needs to be special’ logic, because we subscribe to the ridiculous notion that everyday cooking is a difficult and exacting skill, that men can excuse themselves by claiming never to have learnt it and women end up spending long hours slaving away in the kitchen.

    The standard we define for cooking also has an effect on the division of labor within the house. You say “Isn’t it better to apply skills where best used”. That’s one way of dividing tasks, but a more free market solution (and therefore more probable one) is that whoever cares more about how good the food is is going to end up cooking. The more you care about how the food you eat tastes the lower your bargaining power in determining who gets to cook. And that, of course, isn’t true for just cooking but for most household chores. In fact, I would argue that part of the reason women still end up doing the greater proportion of housework isn’t simply because of the perception of it being women’s work, but because women are socially conditioned to be more particular about the standards they set for their homes, which means that they logically become the ones doing the work to meet those standards.

  • Veena

    The cooking dilemma and the question around what happens when one person’s standards are different reminds me of this equal parenting article in the Times couple of months ago (by the infamous Belkin, I think. Cant find the link) One of the couples featured decided to fight the standards issue and set down acceptable standards for parenting – such as was it necessary that their daughter’s outfits match etc. A bit of an overkill but a bit of standard setting beforehand on what is acceptable and what is not for household chores (including cooking) can get both people to equally share the work imo.

    The way I see it, if / when the “where’s the butter?” question comes up, a woman has the following choices:
    1. Train questioner to find the butter and keep it back exactly where you want it
    2. Don’t answer, wait for him to find the butter and get used to the fact that it might be a few inches off from where you expect to see it and guess what, thats bloody alright!
    3. Get the butter, butter the toast and do everything that goes along with it and stop complaining about the glass ceiling at home

    Also, agree with Falstaff on cooking being not a big deal. So we are all not Michelin chefs but come on, how difficult is it to make decent food? I don’t see how anyone can suck at it unless they want to suck at it. In which case not sure why one should be married to such a person.

  • veena: agree in theory that pre-nuptial standard setting is a good idea. Three problems though:

    a) Setting meaningful standards up-front requires i) clarity on all the issues you need to define standards on ii) willingness to walk away from the relationship if the negotiation breaks down (or, technically, an equal unwillingness to walk away) iii) clarity of communication iv) a rational approach to the subject of marriage – conditions which are rarely, if ever, achieved.

    b) there’s a classic incomplete contracting / hold-up problem, isn’t there? You could set standards ex-ante (when exit costs are presumably low), but how do you enforce them ex-post (when exit costs are significantly higher)? Take the example of the couple you cite. What’s this woman going to do once she actually has a daughter and her husband decides he can’t be bothered with trivialities like making sure her outfits match? Will she really walk out on him then?

    c) even if you could make the whole ex-ante standards thing work, it would only moderate the problem by pushing it up-front. To the extent that social conditioning means that men and women start with very different standards consensus on standards is still going to be difficult to achieve. Either people will try to find partners whose standards closely match their own, in which case a lot of people won’t find anyone, or they’ll try and arrive at a compromise standard that will make both people uncomfortable and unhappy.

    My point is just that the real issue is the gendered difference in standards in the first place. It would be better if men and women had, on average, similar standards on housework / cooking / parenting, etc. Of course, that could mean conditioning men to have higher standards instead of unconditioning women to have lower standards, but I can’t pretend that I don’t strongly favor the latter – if only because I see this whole fetishisation of ‘home’ thing as a patriarchal conspiracy to keep women trapped in a kind of disguised unemployment. I mean seriously, why should any intelligent human being be spending his / her time obsessing about whether the butter is in the right place? (I’ll skip the obligatory Last Tango in Paris joke).

  • bluebird

    for a while now, had been thinking of why i dont know how to cook and it suddenly struck me that it was.. in my own way… a way of rebelling. of saying… well if you expect me to cook.. ha!

    i realise the stupidity of the act now that i am on my own and forced to live on mess food or maggi… simply because i dont know what it takes to cook! i realise that letting the associated notions of overbearing traditions to rule my choices has meant that an important fact has bypassed me all this while… that cooking is essential to survive! for myself! to be able to eat good food and savour the tastes that evoke familiarity.

  • apu

    Wow, wow, wow! I love all the commentary on this post. Falstaff in particular I think brings in some really, really valuable points.

    I think one of the issues she mentions, about the differing standards men and women hold, when it comes to household work, is probably very important to explaining, why, even in “modern” partnerships where presumably, the men dont hold archaic views, women still end up doing a lot of the work.

    Regarding everyday food needing to be delicious or not – I disagree a bit – fussiness with respect to taste varies a lot – and I would say part of it is conditioned from childhood – it is very hard to adjust to a lower standard of deliciousness (if one can objectively decide that!) To me, therefore, the solution lies more in training men to have higher standards than asking women to lower theirs.

    Veena – this is why, I think, contracts/agreements, formal or informal, will never work – once a person is 28 or 30 and has certain internalised standards, it’s almost impossible to really change them. So, either marry someone who meets those standards, or if you fall in love with someone who doesn’t, good luck! There could be a million other reasons to stay with them of course… To me, the solution really lies with the next generation – this generation of parents has to start undoing the way both work roles and standards are set differently for both genders.

    Bluebird & others who’ve pointed this out – yes, it is amazing how the sword of “following the norm for good girls” hangs above our heads!

  • Veena

    Falstaff, Apu: Agree that the question of standards needs to be tackled at the root. However, it seems to me as if we are just transferring this burden of change to the next generation if we say that we can’t do anything about the billions of men and women with differing standards in our generation. There must be something we can do about them, no?

    Falstaff: Wait, yeah some clarity on issues (and clarity of communication) is needed upfront but this is not some elaborate pre-nup process I was thinking about. You have a certain broad consensus and then you make up things as you go along. And I am not sure why a compromise standard will make people uncomfortable or unhappy – it is not different from say, food choices. So my heartland Tam constitution needs a certain amount of chilli in everything. Bill’s delicate Bong constitution cannot take too much of it – so over time, we have gotten to a compromise spice level that works for both. Does this make us deeply unhappy? No, it was a minor irritant in the beginning and we just got used to it. It is the same with household standards.

    I don’t see how anything can be achieved without these compromises on standards. Just look at this thread – you said that you would prefer bringing up women with lower standards. Apu commented that she would prefer training men to have higher standards – I wouldn’t be surprised if other women think this way. So going back to your plan of conditioning the next generation, if you decide to bring up a child with someone who thinks higher standards is the way to go (as scary as that may seem, people, chill, Falsie raising child is purely hypothetical), it seems to me as if you would have to get to some kind of a compromise standard. I don’t see that as being a problem as long as both people are clear that there are things beyond the placement of the butter that keeps them together, way more important things, and sharing cooking and housework (in the interests of advancing gender equality!) happens to be one of these important things.

    Of course I am making all these broad statements based on my experience in one marriage, mine, but then I think about it and realise that it is alright as I am talking to you. I mean, what exactly does Falstaff know about what works and what doesn’t in relationships that is not purely theoretical?

  • fussiness with respect to taste varies a lot – and I would say part of it is conditioned from childhood – it is very hard to adjust to a lower standard of deliciousness

    I agree. But it does suggest, doesn’t it, that we should be trying to condition children (both male and female) to be unfussy about taste? As you say yourself, “the solution really lies with the next generation”.

    In the meantime I’m not sure why, if childhood conditioning is so hard to overcome, we believe that training men to have higher standards is any easier than getting women to lower theirs. Particularly when, given gender inequalities, women stand to gain from lowering their standards while men stand to lose by raising theirs – which means that the former should be easier than the latter.

    At the risk of stereotyping I also have to wonder whether the difficulty of adjusting to lower standards isn’t gender-loaded as well. On average, I’d say my single male friends are a lot less concerned with how tasty the food they eat is than my single female friends. If one assumes that the deliciousness of food they grew up was about equal, that makes me wonder whether men aren’t simply conditioned to be less focused on food, so that they find it easier to compromise on the standards of its tastiness (Note: this is also known as the ‘men like good food but are too lazy to make the effort to cook it themselves’ hypothesis)

  • Arya

    I’m nearly 19 years old and have been learning basic cooking for some time now for reasons of pure necessity. When I live on my own, I want to be able to feed myself.

    A few years ago, I was very adamant about not learning how to cook. I was resentful that it were women who were expected to cook, and my usual refrain when advised to learn ‘household duties’ was that I had to learn only because I was a girl.

    I’ve tried my hand at some household work now, and while I don’t particularly enjoy it, I’m learning it as a skill any human being needs to know to live reasonably well.

    Of course, in my home it’s my mother who does all the cooking. I think these habits need to be inculcated from childhood – boys need to be shown that household duties ought be split equally, and girls need to know that it doesn’t have to be only their responsibility, and they needn’t be guilty about not being the perfect ‘multitasking wife and mother’ when they grow up.

  • High Priestess

    The “outside food” thing stems from notions of “pavitra versus apavitra” more than “health”.

    People who grew up in agricultural settings or in small towns and urban centers with an “agricultural mindset”, usually grew up with notions about caste and caste purity.

    Outside food – who knows who the hell prepared it, what caste they are from, what their standards of cleanliness and “ritual purity” are, etc. etc. etc.

    Therefore generally the upper castes would eat only home cooked meals.

    Many people who were raised in orthodox brahmin families when they travel in India carry a cook with them.

    I came to find out that even when they travel abroad – cooks come/go too!

    I have a Tam Brahm friend who was working in a company in the Carib Islands somewhere and there were so many Tam Brahms there that they brought over a brahmin cook to prepare their dahi/bhaat for them so that they would not have to eat in canteens or restaurants like the rest of the non-Indian employees.

    Imagine that.

    So yeah, nowadays in the cities Ammas are declaring outside food “un-healthy” but what they really mean to say is “impure”. That is the social conditioning they were raised with.

    And it doesn’t just apply to brahmins, oh no. Many Indians will only eat food cooked by other Indians of similar background, because they have shared standards.

  • apu

    Veena – Yes, maybe I was taking it a bit easy there by transferring the load on to the next generation. I don’t of course mean to say that people shouldn’t work hard at it today. Perhaps its just that I am somewhat pessimistic about the possibility of adults changing their habits too much. Which is why, I feel that if you have the misfortune to marry someone with very different standards, it’s not easy to work on it, unless the other person feels the need to work on it. And lets face it – men often have it easy at home, so how many of them really want to change the balance? Having said that, compromises do get worked out on many things.

    Falstaff – well, partly, yes, fussiness about taste should perhaps be curtailed at an early stage. On the other hand, even delicious food isn’t that hard to prepare. I’m not talking gourmet food or chef style presentation here. Just simple daal, roti, rice and vegetables can be delicious if well made. So. I would still prefer teaching everyone, male and female, to cook and eat well!

    Whether adjusting to lower standards is gender neutral – well, here, I’d say it isn’t just women are fussy. And this is worse – because I do know many men who won’t cook but still insist on that ‘maa-ka-khana’ taste. You’d assume that in such situations, wives would have tremendous power, because, if food is so important, and they control the kitchen, that’s how it should be. But. It still doesn’t seem to work that way – cos, of course, thats the duty of the wife, isn’t it! However, I’m also happy to report that these couples are now mostly in their 40s/early 50s… so I assume there is hope for my generation yet!

    Arya – I think that’s a practical attitude every human being needs to take…

  • apu: Yes, but the fact that it doesn’t work out that way is THE problem – the one that we should be focusing on. All this other stuff about men not being taught how to cook when they were boys, etc. is all so much fluff. Once we accept that ability is not the issue, we’re left with the question of why the cooking role doesn’t confer the kind of power that it should. Potential reasons include:

    a) Women care more about food than men do, so their superior bargaining power as suppliers is negated by their inferior bargaining power as consumers (of course men are fussy too – but it’s all relative, isn’t it? Would the men who claim to want ‘maa-ka-khana’ taste be prepared to make the effort to actually cook it? Of course not. And the fact that they wouldn’t makes them ‘less’ fussy – the willingess to free ride is not the same as real demand).

    Solution: condition women to have lower standards on food – not only on what they consume themselves, but also on what they feel ‘obliged’ to provide for their children, partners, etc.

    b) Economic dependence means that what little bargaining power women gain from being able to cook is entirely subordinated to the fact of their being economically dependent on their husbands. (I wonder how many of these couples in their 40s / early 50s you describe are single income or quasi-single income – meaning the woman’s income is a small fraction of total household income – households? Is it really a generation thing? Or is it just employment?)

    Solution: Economic independence for women (which is happening, of course, and needs to be pushed harder)

    c) Women are conditioned to see cooking elaborate meals as their ‘proper’ role.

    Solution: See ‘a’ above. Also, well, not so much getting boys into the kitchen as getting girls out of them. What do girls need to learn to cook for? If / when they need to learn they can pick it up easily enough. In the meantime, surely there are more interesting things they could be doing with their time.

  • High Priestess

    The economic thing.

    Shouldn’t a dowry give the wife some bargaining power???

    I mean, when I was in India I saw that many of the small town household’s items like refrigerator, beds and dresser-drawer sets, motorbikes, washing machines, these came from the bride’s dowry.

    So while the husband may be bringing in a weekly or monthly check, the reason why the in-laws are enjoying ice in their summer Rooh Hafza is because of bahurani’s dowry.

    So why not leverage with that?

    Another thing, in India men rarely move out of their parents’ homes. Sure, that’s changing due to the change in career options that may take them to other cities, but they often still try to move back home after marriage.

    In a place like USA single men have to learn how to clean and feed themselves because no one else is going to do it. We don’t have cheap labor here. Granted, many of them eat out, but alot of them cook as well because it is just not economically feasible to eat out 3 times a day, 7 days a week.

    If Indian men could get out on their own and take care of themselves, that might help.

    Then they would be used to working (or going to college, or both) AND taking care of their apartments and cooking for themselves.

    Then when they got married they would’nt use the “i’m working” excuse for not doing anything.

  • Hey there – like you I before I got married, my cooking prowess was limited to a few pasta dishes and salad (stuff that you cannot get wrong) and ran away anytime my mother used to try and teach me how to cook (Remember that scene in Bend it like Beckham – yeah that was my reaction to aloo-gobhi too :P).

    It wasn’t that I disliked cooking, it was for the fact that my mother was trying to teach me so I would be able to cook for my husband. And that shit me. My hubby lived by himself for 2 years before we got married and is a much better cook than I am and I was sure that it would continue into our marriage as well. So why did I need to learn when he was capable of feeding himself??

    Now, he DOES do most of the cooking and the rest of the time, we cook together. I enjoy it a lot more that there is no stereoptypical pressure on me that I need to learn “because it’s a wife’s duty’ (my mother’s words).

    And I did learn one thing – I can make a damn good Pao Bhaji 😛

  • Traditionally women do not encourage boy child to do any household work. Its like a coolie who doesnt allow the passenger to carry his briefcase. I hope everyone understand what I’m saying. Btw I was also brought up like that but i learned cooking overnight.. hey I mean it, overnight. Its just a hours job (not with tinned food buddy, oh yea just an hour…)

    India is a poor country and will remain poor as long as over .5 billion people quit TV serials and do something productive; I hope you know whom I’m mentioning about.

  • I’ll have to disagree with Falstaff on the ghar-ka/bahar-ka food. I think it depends on, and varies according to the particular family, and not all families cook unhealthy ghee-laden/fried food on a regular basis. I know my family as well as my grandparents’ families cooked healthy, nutritious food on a regular basis. Out of all my aunts and uncles, I can think of only one family where ghee-and-butter laden food was the norm and not the exception. One out of 10-12.

    I also think that food should be prepared using fresh ingredients as much as possible, and yes, it takes more time but between two people, it’s quite easy to manage. I don’t quite buy (literally as well as figuratively) the idea of prepared food (restaurant or meal-out-of-a-box) being better than ghar-ka food, and any resistance to promoting such prepared food gets my support. Some things – including attitude towards food – our Indian culture gets it right, whereas the American culture reduces food to mere fulfilling a craving and promotes eating on the run. Most prepared foods (can/box) are highly processed (and as a result, are less nutritious) and use a lot of preservatives to keep it “fresh” (oxymoron). I will have to challenge anyone who thinks that eating such food on a regular basis is healthier than eating healthy and fresh home-cooked food.

    I do agree that men should learn to cook too, and that’s why I cook my own food. But I also expect the same of my (future) partner – that she share the same interest in cooking fresh food. 🙂

  • Amit: Just out of curiosity, do you have the slightest scrap of evidence for all the claims you make in your comment? What, exactly, are the health benefits of preparing food “using fresh ingredients as much as possible”, and what, if any, reason do we have to believe that ‘eating on the run’ is bad for your health?

    Just to be clear – I’ve never claimed that outside food is better than home food, only that I have no reason to believe that it’s any less healthy, so that the fetishization of home food as being good for you has no basis in fact, and is, instead a lie concocted by the patriarchy to create the illusion that housework is more meaningful than it really is. A lie, I might add, that gains greater currency with every person who credulously and unquestioningly subscribes to it. If you know of any scientific evidence to support the claim that home cooking produces superior health outcomes, I’d love to hear about it. But until I hear something more than a lot of familiar superstitions about what constitutes healthy food, I, for one, will continue to believe that ‘outside’ food is no better or worse than home cooking.

  • Falstaff, spend a few weeks at a yoga center eating the food there and you’ll find out for yourself. I mentioned two aspects – outside prepared food is highly processed – meaning, it has some of the nutritious part taken out of it – and it contains preservatives to maintain “freshness.” Both aspects make the food less healthier than freshly prepared food that is not as processed.

    While there may or may not be a fetish of home-cooked food, it’s only matched by the fetish of a reliance solely on “scientific” studies of food, funded by the very companies that have a stake in selling more of boxed/canned/processed food while the credulous and unquestioning people ignore this blatant conflict-of-interest. I personally don’t consider science as the new religion, to be blindly followed; and for me, scientific studies are but one factor among many that go into decision-making.

    As for patriarchy, if I had an interest in its continuation, I wouldn’t have learned how to cook.

    We approach the issue from different world-views, so I doubt that there will be an agreement. 🙂

  • Let women cook because they want to and like to, not because they should and must. Let it be their choice, rather than anyone else’s. Why is that so difficult?
    BTW, my Mom has failed in her attempts to teach both me and m Bro cooking, while it was my Dad who taught her when she got married to him.

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