In the fast pace of life are we forgetting the traditional art of cooking, asks Sumeet Naik.
Generations after generations remember that waft of awesome flavor emanating out of the kitchen where one’s mother often supervised by the omnipresent grandma churned out food that would have lasting impact both on the mind and stomach for good. The kitchen had rudimentary grinding stone and bottles and bottles of multi coloured masalas but the magical touch from mother and grandmother.
However, with the passage of time the grinding stone was replaced by the quick mixer-grinders, and curries that where once proudly churned from scratch have been replaced by ready-made pastes and artificial cubes for flavoring. Lack of time and death of joint family system is often painted as the villain in handing over and recording of recipes that were treated as family heritage and silver and passed on from generation to generation.
Nobody understands this better then Snehal Suresh Govekar (79), who at her ripe age not only enjoys cooking but also, prepares it using traditional techniques. “One always feel grounded when you cook using traditional tools. I still grind my masalas on a small grinding stone and use earthen ware for most of my cooking,” says the Santa Cruz resident, who originally hails from Malwan. She is also optimistic about younger generation picking up certain old methods of cooking and gives due credit to her daughter-in-law Leena Govekar (44) for learning their methods of cooking despite hailing from Vidarbha.
“Since last 25 years we have not drank fridge water, like many traditional tools in the kitchen we have an earthen ware pot where we store drinking water,” says Leena, who strongly believes that the secret behind older generation’s good health and longer life span was mainly due to these traditional methods of daily routine including cooking. “I would love to see my college going daughter (Sanika) adopt to some of these methods in the near future and carry this tradition forward,” adds the professor associated with one of the reputed engineering college in Mumbai.
“Fast pace city life and lack of space, might be one of the reasons why our generation likes to use electronic cooking methods or opt for ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat stuff,” says Sanika (17), Ruia College student and the youngest among the foodie Govekar’s. “Though I don’t directly assist my granny in cooking, I love to stand next to her and watch the way she does it,” adds Sanika, who personally feels that eating the delicacies cooked traditionally has its own unbeatable taste.
When it comes to cooking traditional dishes in its authentic form, having a joint family really helps,” says Chandan Dharamsi (76) who still heads the kitchen in the family of 11, residing in an ancestral house in Kutch. “I always taught my married daughter to use traditional methods of cooking to maintain the original taste of the dish. Even the masalas we use are homemade,” adds Dharamsi.
Dharamsi’s married daughter, Nayana Lodhaya (52), who resides in Mumbai, shares her mother’s opinion when it comes to using traditional methods of cooking. “As far as possible I still adopt my mother’s style and technique of cooking. So much so that despite having all the modern cooking tools in my kitchen, I still use the grinding stone to grind masala or make chutney,” says Nayana, whose sister-in-law Dipti (41) has made it a habit to follow Dharamsi’s method of cooking.
But, for the Furtado family who from their ancestral house in Goa and moved into a 2 BHK flat has a different story to tell. “My mother was a great cook, never once did she use any measurement tool while preparing any dish. Be it salt or sugar or any other ingredient, she had the perfect measure at her fingers tips,” says Ana Furtado (65), a retired school teacher. After moving into the flat the lack of space forced the Furtado family to leave lots oftraditional cooking tools behind.
“My grandmother never used any electronic device; she always cooked using all traditional tools. Though, my mother learned entire cooking from her, the magic in my granny’s cooking was never the same in my mom’s,” says Joana Rodrigues (43), elder daughter of Ana, who resides in London after marriage. She admits to losing the touch of cooking traditional dishes and doesn’t see her pasta loving daughter to pick any of these skills in near future.
Indeed, change is inevitable, but it’s too early to write-off ‘Granny’s Kitchen’ as of now. There are many persons in India and abroad that are trying to preserve and consolidate the dying art of recipe cooking that has been handed down the generations.
For example, http://secretindianrecipe.com is an “outcome of passion for Indian Home cooked food by three food lovers, an engineer, a marketer and a stay-home mum” Sneha Lad, Co founder & Partner Relations, SecretIndianRecipe.com who is currently based in Singapore told The Free Press Journal that after moving out of India, she realized the value of home cooked meals. “I needed a platform to document my grandma’s recipes and also allow everyone in my family to share recipes on the platform so I could replicate them from anywhere in the world. That’s how secretIndianRecipe was born. Purely out of need and passion for Indian home cooked food”
According to Lad, the current busy lifestyle entails people using “ready to eat” food and embracing quick shortcut recipes. “We have adopted “restaurant quality” food and are compromising by choosing convenience over quality Every household in India has their own version of a Dal Bhati or Aloo Paratha or Misal Pav, all these variations are slowly getting lost as we adopt pre-mixes and packaged ingredients
Eateastindia is another site based in Canada that enables learning of “delicious Indian food recipes ranging from everyday Indian food, Indian appetizers, curries, desserts, salads, sandwiches, traditional and non-traditional Indian food” The road ahead in preserving Indian cooking heritage of recipe cooking is being charted by Indians abroad as they have realized that invaluable nature of culinary cooking improvised through generations. The way out according to Lad is not to lose this heritage to start documenting delicious recipes for our future generation.
Which is what another web site, https://www.youtube.com/user/feedmegranny is doing. It is a tribute to grandmas’’ recipes. “Cooking with Granny is a multicultural, multifaceted, multi-generational homage to the best chefs we know — our grandmothers” says the website.
Ironically, the same social media or the digital web world that the world accuses of ruining inter-personal communication between generations and death of family food recipes has give a flip to the same world. It is no w getting together consolidating and preserving the heritage of grandma recipes on the net. Recipes that an aroma of their own. Touché!
I remember, as a child, when my granny would cook‘yakhni-pulav’it was almost like a ritual.The preparations would start one night before. Recently, I stumbled upon a packet of ready to mix ‘yakhni pulav masala’ along with other ready to use spices in a super market. I was happy to find one, but after the quick fix recipe I did get the pulav, but not the one that my granny made. Something was missing, it was apparent that it lacked craftsmanship… it lacked the finesse, the aroma, the exotic charm of the good old days where things were time consuming but could actually reach to the heart.
Aarefa Faridoon (37), Asst. Professor.