Food is what binds us all together, especially in a diverse country like India where food and food habits change at every 100 metre distance. It won’t be wrong to suggest that it is the first and last point of discussion in every household. What’s for breakfast? We start with, and what’s for dinner we end with! While food continues to hold its position tight what is rather loosing its space is-the art of cooking. Ahh! why should I cook when I can easily order. Oh my god! Pizza at just Rs. 99, let’s order it for dinner. Oh! Its too late to cook or I am too tired to cook, I should order something online…these days we are just finding reasons to skip cooking.
This is what online food companies and their marketing gurus have understood about the human mind. Zomato, Swiggy, Food Panda, Uber eats all of them have started to rule our lives by satisfying our ill psyche. They offer to satisfy our pallet with their amazing options on discounted and offer prices, not sure if they really match the quality or taste. One gets deals on everything, simple food, Maa-k-haath ka khaana, dhaba style, non-veg food to Thai, Mughali, Chinese, Mexican, you name it and you get it, just a click away. Their lucrative deals, accessibility and reach convinces us to order butter chicken online rather than spending (nay wasting) time in the kitchen making it. Well of course, cooking is a tedious task especially Indian cooking. Lots of steps, exact measurements of ingredients, diverse method of preparation all this has to be kept in mind. Moreover cooking not just involves fire and wood, all the pre-cooking preparation and the post-cooking cleanliness makes the entire process all the more cumbersome.
Contrary to this notion though as the famous idiom goes “Cooking is for the mind and not the stomach”. Yes! Indeed right, cooking against the popular perception is a therapeutic exercise which is required for both the body and the mind.
In words of Michael Pollan, author of the book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation “cooking is natural to human being just like living or breathing”. While defending the age old tradition of cooking he argues that cooking is what differentiates humans from their ancestors- apes or other animals. Humans cook such that they can cut down the time taken for chewing raw food. As chewing is highly time consuming so much so that it can be the only productive activity for living species during their waking hours like animals. Cooking thus makes the task of chewing food easier, however he does not denies the benefit of chewing food, what he simply argues is that the progressive human is involved in cooking and chewing by nature.
One cannot deny Pollan’s argument as it is important to cook such that one is mindful about what is it that they are consuming. The visual of loaded cheese burger or double cheese pizza tends to tempt but it blinds us from the reality of the food item- what is it that it is made of ? how is it made? were the ingredients fresh enough and the likes.
It is important to know our food, the colour of our food, the ingredients, what is it made up of, how is it made. When we cook we involve all are senses together as we see, feel, smell and eat. This is what makes our food more delicious as well as more nutritious. But, who wants to get into all the trouble even though it is important to take that trouble! When living in the neoliberal period where food has become a commodity. It is important to revive the idea of food as an experience. For the overall physical and mental health of the body. This is not to suggest that one has to be a master chef to cook. Clean and simple cooking is what is expected nothing beyond that is needed however desires can roll in. Once we start cooking we start understanding food more closely and would often indulge in healthy cooking.
In the name of serving food, food apps are just doing their business for profits and popularity. It won’t hamper the economy of a well to do food chain if they start selling their burgers for free. But it will surely affect our bodies if we get into such marketing gimmicks. One should not plan to eat out because an XYZ food company is offering a discount neither should one binge eat because fries are for free. Such tempting deals are just for the psyche not for the body. This kind of marketisation and commodification of food is what needs to be stopped one should not let the food industry rule our lives.
However our dependency on the food industry cannot be stopped completely amidst the 9-6 (or maybe) kind of life we live but it can surely be reduced by taking the opportunity to cook whenever one finds time. It has been often observed that the entire household stands still when the house help/cook decides to take leave. Such days often benefit food chains as the easiest option during this time is to dine out or order online. This is the level of dependency on others for our two square meal. Nonetheless no house help/cook days should be rather considered as an opportunity to brush up our cooking skills. All of it is understood, the paucity of time and the work load with which human is surrounded but cooking unlike the imaginative tedious task will turn out to be good break for the mind. It will not only ensure a healthy diet but also a clear mind space. As cooking is about precision, concentration, attention, creativity and mindfulness. It is rather an art to which the human has the opportunity to experience. Thus it needs to flow and the tradition has to be followed for the art to flourish and exist longer and longer.