Cooking! The essential skill every Indian woman needs to know to be considered marriageable. I resisted learning cooking and was proud to tell that I didn’t cook every time girls discussed all the dishes that they had cooked. Luckily my parents did not impose the ‘every girl should know to cook’ rule on me.
As I grew older, my pride disappeared and was replaced by a sense of shame that I couldn’t cook while most girls my age could. I groaned inwardly when the topic veered towards cooking or when I visited my relatives. I hated that collective sense of social shame imposed on women who do not cook and do not enjoy serving dishes to the men in their lives. I do not approve of the collective pressure on females to cook by our society – all those seemingly well-meaning uncles and aunties, in lots of cases parents, your friends, guys you know teasing you that my future husband will suffer as I cannot cook blah blah blah. Even educated people made statements like “Even my friends, who are guys can cook better than any girl. It is a matter of shame for us women”. Guys who can cook, still expect their wives to cook and serve them. Indians who come to this country are appalled at the fact that women here do not bother cooking and use this opportunity to showcase the superiority of so-called Indian culture.
The reasons I never cooked until recently were
- I hated the fact that only women were expected to cook and not men. I believe people should do what they like\want to do not what they are expected to do because they are of a particular gender. I have known women who hated cooking but were now doing it because they were married and they had to.
- Due to the statements made to me regarding cooking, I associated it with female suppression, docile women serving their husbands/family and lack of choice because we were women.
- To me not cooking stood for not bowing down to the rules of this male dominated society.
Things which made me want to cook were:
- Need to be self-sufficient. I was an adult and still could not manage everything in my life on my own and had to depend on my mom to cook for me.
- Ayurveda – Food is the one that nourishes us and becomes a part of our cells and tissues. So cooking for ourselves is an act of nurturing with love. That really struck a chord with me.
- Cooking ended up feeling like science! Like performing those PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) experiments ha ha
- Canteen food gets boring over a period of time.
When I moved abroad, the intense societal pressure to cook because I was female disappeared. Also it was helped by the fact that I do not hang out with Indians as much. With me living alone, cooking only for myself and for no one else, no man, not to increase my value in the marriage market, made me realize that cooking was fun! I now enjoy cooking which I never thought I would. Surprising! It is so destressing. I am glad I discovered it 🙂
If I were to have kids, I would definitely teach them to cook the basic dishes as I consider it to be a vital skill and especially if they were in a country where eating out is not cheap and let’s admit it’s not always healthy considering the amount of oil and salt used, but yeah none of that “ you are a girl, you ought to cook” business with me around.