Every gyal bubble…

… a pot.

When your granny was a little girl, dawtah, running around in the yard and stoning mango from the tree in the back yard, it was common that girls were expected to learn how to cook. Girls were expected to grow up and become mothers and wives and they had to know how to feed their families. This was true of rich girls, middle class girls and poor girls. What’s more, the men they were expected to marry were taught to look for girls who could cook; it was a normal part of the exchange of services in marriage at that time: the women would keep the house and the men would go out and work to provide money to run the household.

A lot has changed in sixty years. Nowadays many women choose not to keep house, and instead go out and work to earn money. Your own mother probably does. And because that has changed, there are now quite a few mothers who don’t cook. Perhaps your own mother doesn’t. Maybe your dad cooks instead. Or you might have your granny living with you and she does the cooking. Or maybe your family buys most of its food already prepared.

A lot has changed, it’s true. But one thing remains the same: everybody has to eat. That’s why, dawtah, I recommend that everybody learns how to cook. Boys as well as girls.

The first reason for this is that home cooked food is delicious. You know your own tastes, how much salt, sweetness, crunchiness, softness, spiciness you prefer. When you cook for yourself you can make food that exactly matches your palate.

The second reason is that home cooked food can be more nutritious than bought food. A lot of bought food is made delicious with the addition of chemicals and fillers, or very high quantities of oil and salt and sugar. When you cook for yourself you select the ingredients and make the decisions about how much fat, salt or sugar you use. When you choose to cook with fresh, good-quality ingredients, the food you make is better for you.

The third reason is that cooking for yourself gives you independence. When you can cook, you can decide what you want to eat and make it. Imagine you’re in a strange country where they’ve never heard of macaroni pie, or curried chicken, or rice and peas. Sure, you could buy a burger, but wouldn’t it be amazing if you could make your favourite food for yourself?

Mmmmm… rice and peas with curry goat! [Photo courtesy Wikipedia from Babble on Babylon in Melbourne Australia. Photo by avlxyz (Flickr)]

That’s whyyou should learn to cook.

But what about the how?

Cooking is both an art and a science. The science part is understanding how ingredients interact with each other and heat and cold. Cooking is a chemical reaction, and the reactions are predictable. That’s why we have recipes. But cooking is also an art. I’m not talking about fancy haute cuisine dishes that look like they should be in a museum rather than in your tummy. I’m talking about the special something that makes your granny’s stewed chicken taste like no other stewed chicken in the world. Same ingredients, yet she’s done something special in there that makes hers unique. That’s the art of it.

You can learn to cook from recipes in books or on the Internet or TV, but the best way to learn to cook is from cooking with someone who knows how. If your mom or dad cooks, ask if you can help them in the kitchen. Watch what they’re doing, and you can even try your hand at making something with their supervision. You don’t have to learn to cook everything, and certainly not all at once. Try simple things at first—boiling macaroni, making scrambled eggs—and build on your knowledge as you go along. You might never grow up to be a four-star chef. That’s quite all right. But you should at least be able to cook a dish you like, whether it’s sada roti and tomato choka or pelau or mannish water.


6 thoughts on “Every gyal bubble…

  1. I didn’t learn to cook from my mom. She used to chase me out the kitchen unless I was making a cake or washing the dishes. I did Food and Nutrition in high school (instead of Sewing, which would have served me so much better!!) but it wasn’t until I moved out and started living on my own that I started cooking for myself. I remember how triumphant I felt when I went back home and was able to chase my mom out the kitchen! I don’t always get the flavours the way I’d like and there are certain Caribbean staples I can’t make because I still don’t know how to use a pressure cooker (or own one) but at least I can keep body and soul together.
    The Internet is also my friend when it comes to making certain things.

  2. I can say, with no hesitation whatsoever, that I became a man when I learned how to cook everything I like to eat (well, except for macaroni pie which has a low satisfaction to effort ratio for me).
    Until then, I was a slave to the whimsy of any partner I happened to be with or the menus of fast food joints. Being able to cook weeks worth of different food didn’t just make me independent of both, it freed me to be more discerning in my choices on both fronts. So there, it isn’t just for Dawtahs, sonny boyz could learn a thing or two about life in the kitchen.

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