Indian Customs And The Responsibility Of Cooking Put On Women
By Anisha Dutta
The basic need of a human being is food and consequently comes the question of cooking. Tagore’s sarcastic advice to women was “Cook carefully and perfect cooking is the best bond of love.” The mother or wife cooking at home is performing a great job.
Every man relishes well the cooked food, but how many of them congratulate his wife or mother for this? One finishes a meal in ten or fifteen minutes but hardly ponders over the hours of effort and exertion behind it. On the other hand a man does not feel ashamed to criticize the food served to him.
In the short story “ Punishment” by Rabindranath Tagore, the older brother had cut the head of his wife for not preparing food on time. Statistics unfold the fact that in our society, forty percent of housewives are rudely treated and half of them are beaten for not preparing food up to the satisfaction of their husbands.
My father never entered the kitchen to assist my mother, while she cooked. At that time, that was not the usual convention, but on Sunday and holidays, after lunch, he congratulated her heartily and loudly, “Thank you madam”, for all the delicacies.
My father-in-law had the regular habit to invite people at random without prior knowledge or permission of my mother-in-law. Yet, without a complaint, she always cooked meticulously and entertained the guests earnestly. But the admiration went to the man of the house as a very hospitable person.
In those days, most men were unwilling to enter the kitchen, though it’s a strange fact that Baburchi, Chef, Caterer’s groups are all men. In television programme of cooking, we find mostly chefs of reputed hotels.
The family solely depending on cooks should also have the training of simple cooking methods. Otherwise they might have many difficulties to manage in absence of cook. If the mistress of the family be cooking herself, she should train the rest of the family members in cooking.
“ Eating after cooking and cooking after eating” is no longer the only monotonous chain in women’s daily schedule as was in Tagore’s age and it also conforms to Bengali adage that,” who cooks, ties her hair too.”
Fridge, Pressure cooker, non- stick pans, oven, grinder. Mixer, toaster, micro-oven etc are the modern appliances that have made cooking easier and time saving. Any way, a family can not do without cooking, so the process of cooking must be modified, that it does not become drudgery. Every woman is not a good cook and does not need to be one. There are other diverse interests and pursuits that woman can take up to be accomplished.
Actually, simple daily cooking is not that tough for any one, whether a man or a woman. Cooking need not be a daily mandatory even in our hot climate. One can cook one day and preserve for the next three days. The stubborn attitude of refusal of food kept in the fridge is not practical in modern busy schedule of a family, when both men ad women are working. Every woman, whether a working lady or a home maker is not supposed to spend the whole day in the kitchen.
Different woman have different attitude to cooking. Some may have greater affinity, others more skill, few dislike the very effort itself. Some cook with care, some casually. As for myself, I don’t like to cook. If I had to live alone, I would compromise with bread, fruits, milk, sweets and avoid the very activity. But I have to cook for my family as I dislike appointing cook also. But I spend the least time in the kitchen, since one day’s cooking sustains us for three days. I also follow short cut cooking methods, so that valuable time could be spent in better ways.
Bengalese are fond of multiple items for lunch and dinner, but that demands excessive time in kitchen, so the daily menu should be short listed, by keeping an eye on nutritious values. Only Sundays and holidays can be kept for sumptuous meals. Holidays can be relished all the more. if husbands assist their wives in cutting vegetables or cooking on those days.
In the context of cooking, I would like to mention about a day school teacher who is also a daughter-in-law of a family. For the day, the father-in-law has appointed a cook paid by the daughter-in-law. .The daughter-in-law returns home by eight at night, after taking her son from tuition. Returning home, she is bound to cook for the family, as the in-laws and the husband won’t take “stale” food from the fridge, neither will they allow appointing a cook at night. Their argument is “Being a woman, can she deny the duty of a daughter-in law to cook?” If the in-laws and the husband wish to eat Puri and fried brinjal at midnight (their usual dinner time), she will have to serve them hot.
After whole day’s exertion and late night cooking followed by the cleaning up the kitchen, her bed time is half past one. Then she is compelled to surrender to the sexual demands of her husband. If a self dependent working lady allows herself to be exploited in such a manner, it raises vital questions on our claim in Indian social progress of women.
A modern progressive society can be founded only on shared labors, whether indoors or outdoors