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A woman need not ‘know’ or ‘enjoy’ cooking just on account of her gender. It has to be a choice, that even men should get – if they like to cook, they should be able to.
I have been very privileged. Unlike many other women of my generation, and the generations gone before, and even some of the next one (read – mine as the millennial cusp and next as Gen Z), I was never told that I need to learn to cook and find a husband to settle. I have been brought up by a single mother. I’d call her progressive even if she’s not as progressive as I am.
Therefore, I have not had to be inside the kitchen to learn stuff to ‘impress’ others.
As I entered adulthood, I learnt to cook simply as a survival tactic. Very basic. Roti, basic sabji, daal and rice. And Maggi of course. Omlette sometimes. And chai. I never tried anything else. Mom cooked and she is very pernickety. A laid-back, indisciplined person like me is a horror in the kitchen for her. And she never wanted me to cook and clean ever, anyway. Her priority for me was education and independence.
I didn’t realize that I love to be in the kitchen so much with my entire indisciplined person, until I shifted to Bangalore. I did make some fancy dishes in Mumbai but there was always this hanging sword of mom’s eyes. Here, the freedom of being in my own house gave me the leisure of making mistakes.
This freedom of making as many mistakes as one might, gives one a lot of confidence. Because you know there’s no one who will chide you for being imperfect. There is no pressure of making perfectly round rotis, you can mess around without your entire life and upbringing being judged by hundred other people. You are on your own. And having a partner who is willing to cook along with you, instead of leaving you alone in the kitchen while lounging on the sofa (he is someone who cooks very well and not just me, the man cannot see anyone at all slogging away without he contributing to it), and taste all the shit made is also very liberating.
So, we try stuff here. One by one.
I had never thought earlier that I would touch mutton or fish to actually cook it. And here I am, making mutton kosha and prawns curry with loads of spices and mustard oil, trying to understand the meaning of “tenderize” and “koshano” and stuff like that, mixing recipes, experimenting with spices, improvising, forgetting ingredients and enhancing them.
But I keep digressing. Because my point actually was that when things happen as a part of the natural process of evolution, they feel wonderful. When there is freedom and choice and consent and all the parties involved are happy to have an adventure and experience new things, it is wonderful. When things are forced upon us, when individual interest isn’t the focal point, these things just become chores that need to be finished.
The number of women who are left unsatisfied in their lives because of the amount of time they have to spend in the kitchen should be our talking point. The unpaid labour and the forced job description that is undervalued in the name of emotions and motherly duties and some such gobbledygook conditions pile upon women, leading them to believe they love cooking when many might actually not.
The femininity associated with cooking, with men occasionally assuming the fancy word chef for themselves, also creates barriers for many men who might actually love to cook but cannot because of societal stereotypes. More women liberated from the kitchen, more they discover their individuality other than simply being feeders, more we all cook because we love cooking, and not because we HAVE to, more people not leaving each other out, more we become a better world for everyone.
Learn basic cooking, everyone. And do it each day to feed yourself. Stop this dependence. If you see someone is in the kitchen cooking alone, go help, or just be there.
A version of this was first published on the author’s Facebook wall.
Image source: a still from 2 States
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