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  • dharashah2907

My journey into the kitchen!

If you follow me on social media, you won't believe that I didn't know how to cook! But yes, until a few years back I had no interest in cooking & didn't even enjoy cooking. I grew up seeing my mother cook every meal for our family. Be it our tantrums for lunch boxes or dinners, she would make us all we like. If I wanted 'Daal (Lentil) Rice' and my sister preferred 'Roti Subji (Vegetable)', she would make it all. She would never make us compromise in our meals despite being over-worked and doing all the work by herself.

Now being an adult and living by myself, I realize how hard and almost impossible job my mom did all these years. Despite this, my father was the bread earner and considered the head of the family. This only taught me that I get the decision making power & I am considered to be of importance if I go out of the home & work. If I learnt 'cooking' it wasn't a good enough job to get appreciated but rather just a 'duty' being a women. Hence, I never took interest in learning to cook being the rebellious self I am. 'Cooking' to me was to be tied in the shackles of inequality in India. I didn't ever see my father or my grand-father go in the kitchen and cook & it was always my mother and my grand-mother who were suppose to cook as it was a gender role more than a basic human need that each 'human' must know to survive. 

Once I was at a so called marriageable age (this is a debate for a different time), I was taunted a million times about not knowing how to cook and how it could be a problem with being married or finding a suitable boy. Although, my parents never forced me to learn to cook as may be they knew the harsh reality of our culture that a woman in kitchen is not respected as  much as woman in an office space. Even if you spend the whole day planning meals for an entire family & fulfilling needs of your family, your work is not seen as much important as a male or female working for a '9 am to 5 pm' job in an office space. As a wife or mother or daughter-in law, it is rather your 'DUTY' to feed ALL full-grown adults in the house & any guests visiting the house. 

Living away from my parents and my mother especially was the reason I started to cook. More than using youtube to learn cooking, I relied on my mother's recipe book that she specially wrote just for me. It included her recipes for rolling perfect dough for super soft 'Roti's' to boiling 'Basmati' rice. I was so naive that I didn't know to cook basic dishes! As I started to cook using my mom's recipe book, I came to realize that I have over the years learnt so much just from observing my mom. Even though I almost never helped her in cooking, I always was around when she made a meal or did the preparations to cook our favourite dishes. From the aroma that filled my parents home when my mother cooked, to all the "dos" and "dont's" that my mom would give me and my sister when she was cooking, all those memories would run in my head when I started to cook, staying away from my mother. When I hear the North-American stories or plans of mother-daughter or families spending time over cooking, I find that I have never made any such memories. I firmly believe that in India cooking is not as much as a 'memory making' but rather a MUST for a girl or any women to know as it is the 'DUTY' they take over for the rest of their lives as they get married.

Even today when I cook, my mind unconsciously goes to visualizing how my mother made that specific dish. If I forget what spice goes in the dish I am making, I try and remember my mom's version of it! A lot of my friends and family love the meals I prepare & I believe that it's because my mom is in my head, smiling away! That's how my mother makes any meal! She would make all the efforts tirelessly for our entire family & never expect to be rewarded or praised (although I am totally opposite with expectations of being rewarded & its my sister who is more like my mother but she still hasn't started her journey of going INTO the kitchen!)

As I take on this journey into the adult life, I have come to realize how cooking & serving a meal is the biggest form of service you can do. I do not think there is anything more to value than someone putting a ready meal on your plate. I have no words to describe how much I miss all those ready meals by my mother or having a plate of cooked food ready for me when I come home tired! I wish this realization had come when I was living with my parents in India but the western world has made me value the task of 'COOKING' (except cinnamon pie crust or a dish with butternut squash!) & ace it, to connect me to my roots even stronger.

This has been my journey from not learning or liking to cook as it was merely a gender role to now acing & loving to cook (highly debatable on mood, time, people) as it connects me back to my mother, my family & my roots!

Today I write this to say that let's break this stereotype where our culture only teaches the younger generation that going out of the house and working is more powerful & respectable than being a home maker & cooking meals for the family (I agree that times are changing but cooking still remains more of a REQUIREMENT skill for woman than a man).  Rather let's teach the generation to come that cooking is a 'basic life skill' & not only does everyone need to learn it but the ones who devote their entire time in your homes tirelessly cooking all meals, they need more Appreciation, Respect & Acknowledgement than they get!

Yours truly,

Dhara Shah

(I need to video call my dad & say I LOVE YOU TOO!

FYI- He now knows how to make his tea & 'Maggie' noodles & as seen below at least he is trying other dishes as well!)

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