Though the family’s nutrition has mostly been a woman’s responsibility, the recent stress on cooking with organic food, can put too much on the modern women’s plate!
Organic food has moved from being just a flash in the pan to a wider movement. With growing concerns over the chemicals we’re dumping into our body, many are making the shift.
This need to go back to nature in its pristine form with minimum human intervention is the need of the hour, not just to save our own bodies but also this planet we call home.
Fresh food was the only viable option in our grandmothers’ time with refrigeration arriving in India only in the late 1950s. If we choose to make a big hullabaloo about cooking daily, our grandmothers are quick to cut us to size and tell us they did it too, with lesser resources and for larger families.
But today’s woman operates in a world far removed from that of her grandmother’s and maybe even mother’s. Our definition of what constitutes a fulfilling life has changed. Modern gadgets and services claim to simplify our lives, but women are choosing to step out, challenge those toughened-with-time glass ceilings and explore personal dreams. In this changed scenario, providing fresh food everyday for every meal is in itself a challenge and cooking with organic food further complicates it.
Suppliers of organic groceries, vegetables and fruits are few and far. Not all of us have the luxury of a farmer’s market around the corner. Just procurement adds a time-consuming layer to the process. Organic produce is higher priced and the monthly budget seems to shrink even further.
Once you make that shift, you realise that not all vegetables and fruits are available through the year. Peas, my quick go-to fix, lend themselves to a range of cuisines and dishes but for the last one year that I’ve only cooked fresh organic food, I’ve learnt peas aren’t perennial. Surprise, surprise! Apples, the one fruit my family will chow down every day, are seasonal too, something I’d forgotten from my childhood ever since imported produce hijacked our shelves.
Cooking with organic food also makes you work harder. Lentils, beans and rice take more time with most of them needing to be pre-soaked. You can’t just come home from a long day at work and throw something together for a healthy, fresh and tasty meal. It needs planning.
Some vegetables taste different, for e.g. organic methi is usually more bitter and one needs to tweak familiar recipes to ensure organic food is eaten without much fuss. With greater exposure, thanks to international travel and restaurants offering different cuisines, our palates aren’t satiated with the same ol’ ghar ka khana.
All of this but naturally results in a multi-fold increase in daily load. Who else will that fall upon but the woman? So now, not only does she need to get tasty food on the table everyday, but it should be freshly made and she must be exclusively cooking with organic food. Why only the woman? Isn’t health important to all?
The woman might be redefining her place in this world, yet the need to prove oneself as a domestic goddess sticks to her like a shadow. Archaic in the 21st C one would think! When it comes to nutrition, I think it might be safe to assume that there exists an innate need in most women to nurture, whether biological or whether due to a societal stereotype perpetrated by generations of role division. Even today, after a tiring day at work, it’s the woman who manages the home and the husband who enters the kitchen is looked as a deviation from the norm.
I’ve also seen women who let their husbands/partners lounge in front of the television after a day of work while they slave in the kitchen. And reasons they give are never solid. Why is this important? Because I think gender roles are so entrenched in our systems that we women seem to perpetrate exactly what we should be fighting against. If we are choosing to get out and chase our passions and dreams, why should our supportive roles be 24/7?
Is the world view changing? Ariel’s Detergent’s #sharetheload campaign encourages men to participate in laundry. An ad on breastfeeding has superbabies tell you it’s an entire family that helps a mother breastfeed exclusively for six months.
When it comes to nutrition, some men just aren’t concerned and will gladly ignore it or let the wife take the lead. My husband, going by his bachelor days, would allow the maid to stock the kitchen, not even know where the vegetables were coming from and eat two to three vegetables on a rotation basis – mostly cabbage!
The load of nutrition, of safer and better choices, must not come to lie on the woman. While trying to balance everything in her life, there is no need for one member of the family to be ‘super’, maybe everyone can help out and we’d be a happier bunch. When the load falls on one person something has got to give.
And ‘fresh and organic’ might become a passing fad and not bloom into the healthier, wiser option that it is for each member of the family. It is probably time partners became true partners and jumped in.
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