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The kitchen is just a room where you cook, and cooking is just a basic skill. You can do better than find flaws in someone’s cooking; try appreciating the effort taken by someone to cook for you.
Most women would remember their first day after getting married. You wake up in a completely new house, the air feels different, the bed that you slept on feels different infact even going to the washroom feels weird. You make sure you have your alarm on before sleeping as you are worried about getting up late in the morning lest you be judged.
Let’s be honest who really likes to wake up to criticism on the first day of marriage? “The new bride sleeps till so late”, “this won’t work in this house”, “her parents have spoilt her” or “how lazy is she?”
Gone are the days where you could get up from your bed and lie down on the couch whiling away your time, especially if you are staying with your in-laws. Try doing that and you’ll get the choicest of expressions from people.
No one cares if you are physically and emotionally exhausted coz of the wedding the previous day and all the stress running around making preparations that led up to it. It’s not easy to stand all decked up in a heavy saree or lehenga, smiling for photos and greeting so many people.
As soon as you get up you head for a bath. There are still many families that don’t like women entering the kitchen before having a bath. So basically you have a nice bath, wear the best of clothes (because you’re a new bride), and step into the kitchen to cook, and be covered in sweat again.
Ok, let’s take a step back from that, and go to where you come out after a bath. So, you go the kitchen, and ask your mother in law what is to be made, or if she needs any help in the kitchen.
One of my friends who had an arranged marriage got up on the first day of her married life to find her mother in law not at home. Her mother in law had gone for some work, without giving her instructions or telling her what to do.
Because let’s face it, the assumption is that most women would cook up something; it’s not a big deal. That it’s ‘normal’ for most women to know cooking; that it’s the mother’s responsibility to make her daughter learn cooking. God save the woman who orders food or doesn’t know cooking.
My friend didn’t know whether to wait or to start cooking. It’s easy to cook in your own kitchen but when you are in a new house and you don’t even know where the salt container is kept, then it is a big problem.
She somehow managed to cook up a basic meal for her husband and father in law who were nothing but supportive, but it was an extremely stressful situation for her.
Even if you’re married in the same caste or religion (ref: arranged marriage), the cooking varies from house to house. You don’t know what your new family is used to eating, what their food habits are, and what they prefer to have at breakfast or lunch. And in most families, it’s the new daughter in law who has to keep aside her tastes.
Thankfully everyone loved the food made by my friend. Her mother in law came late afternoon and was shocked to find the meal made. She told my friend, “I just wanted to test you to see how you would manage the kitchen, now I am happy that you can manage it on your own!”
I feel there were better ways to check if she could cook and manage the kitchen, instead of putting her though this traumatising experience where she was totally lost and extremely stressed.
Another thing that many women do is ‘Backseat Cooking’. It is where a person who is not cooking just stands beside the person who is and makes unprompted suggestions on all that is wrong, what ingredients to be put ,how to knead dough, how much masala to be put or how long to cook. The person believes they’re being helpful, saving the cook time and effort, and improving the quality of the resulting meal. But in reality they are doing nothing more than belittling the efforts of someone else.
If you feel you can cook so well, you should gladly take the lead but then again why would someone do that? It’s more fun to stand beside someone telling them, “this is not how I make it”, “add a little more red chilli powder as it’s not spicy enough”, “the pooris should be brown only then you know they are cooked” or “add a little oil to the dough then your chapatis will be soft”.
Another friend of mine who has been married for over 28 years now recently had her mother in law visit her. When she removed the dough from the fridge to make chapatis, her mother in law stopped her and smelled the dough, and said, “I was just checking if the dough is spoilt.”
When she proceeded to make the dal, she was told, “Did you forgot to add tomatoes in it? Dal tastes nice with tomatoes in it, and you should give a tadka of garlic and green chillies instead of using the red chilli powder that you usually do. It tastes better that way.”
She started to roll the chapatis and left a little bit of the window open for ventilation. Let’s all agree it’s difficult to cook in the kitchen in the summers, a little bit of fresh air does no harm. Her mother in law immediately came and closed the window, “Don’t you know the gas is being wasted, you should always cook with the windows closed.”
My friend was really tired by then and she told her, “It’s okay if the gas is wasted, but I can’t cook in the kitchen in so much heat. I think I’ll faint and there’s hardly any breeze coming now”. To which her mother in law replied, “You have to get used to the heat; you people are so used to staying in the AC all the time. We never did this in our times. You should see me – I never even start the fan sometimes in the summer season”.
How exasperated was my friend; after almost two decades of marriage she still had to go through this.
But isn’t this the story in most homes? Why was it so difficult for her mother in law to just sit and enjoy the meal? Why did she need to smell the dough? Obviously to find some mistake where she could reprimand my friend. Why couldn’t she let my friend cook dal the way she wanted? Is it that bad to try a different taste for a change? And why insist on closing the window? Doesn’t a little ventilation always help?
It’s just food
Let’s all forget the saying that food is the way to a man’s heart. Food is not the way to someone’s heart. If it was I would have made the yummiest of food and asked Brad Pitt to have a bite, hopefully he would have fallen madly in love with me.
Food is just a means to satisfy your hunger and that’s all it should be. It is not a measure to test a woman and judge her.
Stop backseat cooking
Please sit back and enjoy the meal. How many times do you even have the privilege of having a cooked meal made by someone else? Why do you want to micro manage the cooking? When you go to a restaurant, you don’t expect the chef to make food just like you do at home! So when your daughter/ daughter in law/ friend cooks for you, why can’t you enjoy and appreciate the variety?
Acknowledge, appreciate the effort anyone puts into cooking for you
It is not easy to stand in the kitchen three times a day, 365 days a year making breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can do better than find flaws in someone’s cooking. Try appreciating the effort taken by someone to cook for you. If you lack empathy at least don’t be ungrateful.
No need for power games in the kitchen
It’s just a room where you cook food. Same thing like a bedroom where you sleep, or a living room where you laze and watch television.
There is no need to control or be controlled. Making a tasty dish won’t earn you extra brownie points with your family. No one is grading you; your kids don’t love you because you cook well. They love you because you are their mother; that’s reason enough
And the same goes for your husband.
If you feel food is the reason he loves you, then maybe you should be alert at all times. If someday your husband tastes someone else’s food that is tastier, he just might fall in love all over again and forget you; after all food is the way to a man’s heart!
Cooking is not like maths where two plus two has to be four. It’s like a versatile art where you dabble in variations, and have the capacity to engage all your senses.
Food is just a human need, and cooking is just a skill anyone can learn. Instead we have transformed and sugar coated it into something more.
High time we stop judging women on the basis of their cooking. It’s been said many times over that cooking is a basic life skill, not a task specially designated for women. It’s sad to see that it’s often women who bring other women down. let’s all uplift each other.
I’m sure all women would agree, that even a badly cooked readymade meal made by someone is much better than standing in the kitchen and cooking an entire meal from scratch. Let’s not lie to each other, we all cook Maggi and eat when we are alone at home, coz who’s going to go through the entire effort of cooking a full course meal for just one person.
It’s just food! Get over it!
Image source: a still from the film 2 States
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