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It was like a scene in a romantic comedy. He whipped out a big, charming speech. There was probably something about my eyes in there, but I only remember two of his reasons specifically. What did that have to do with anything?
The way to a man's heart is through his stomach
Cooking is a metaphor for the gender divide that gives the Indian male primacy at home. The young woman asking this question was single, independent and despairing of Indian men in general. She was a television reporter from a Telugu channel and had just interviewed me with regard to a talk I had given in Hyderabad, presenting economic reasons why Indian men must learn to cook. They were there because one of the guests on my panel was a studly Telugu star.
When the lights and camera were lowered, she had a similar question. Now, I consider myself something of an evangelist for the idea of getting men into the kitchen, and I talk, write and blog enthusiastically about what—to the majority of Indian men—is an amusing, esoteric notion.
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But, sometimes, I scratch my head when I have conversations of the type I had in Hyderabad, a heaving city where the middle and upper classes are notorious for the size of the dowries they demand for their sons and the domestic expectations they make of their daughters-in-law. Of course, Hyderabad is no exception. As much as Indian women become increasingly visible in the workforce, the Indian family reacts by expecting her to become a superwoman, piling on so many expectations that she inevitably gives up and opts out. As someone in Bangalore said, yes, things have changed, women are everywhere at work, but at the end of the day, husbands want their salaries, but they also want hot chapatis on the table.
My argument is—as it always has been—that at the heart of this disgrace is the belief instilled in the Indian male from childhood that he has no place in the kitchen, that he is the provider and must be cooked for and looked after.
12 quotes about the joy of cooking from the heart
Cooking is a metaphor, really, for every other gender classification that follows and provides the Indian male primacy at home. I acknowledge it is difficult to expect someone brought up in privilege to suddenly take on the burden of cooking or other domestic duties.
She pointed to her balding, somewhat embarrassed-looking, husband and narrated her story. Apparently, when she was at a crossro—as many women often are, torn between home and office—her husband decided to up his game. He told her to forget about the kitchen.
Her husband was an exception, but I want to believe there are more like him—caring and confident enough to not have bruised egos just because their partners want to fly. I am still regarded as an oddity, the man who cooks, but I am delighted to see that many boys—perhaps encouraged by MasterChef, a television show I do not profess to watch—want to learn how to cook. It may be a fad, the latest in-thing among a certain class of boys, but it rocks.
In our family, he and I are the only men who like the idea of cooking.
The way to a man’s heart
It is clearly linked to the fact that he has a mother who did not bring him up with the ludicrous and retrograde idea that he has no role to play in the kitchen. The Telugu film star I talked about at the start of this piece revealed that he loved cooking—which is why he was there—and that interest was stoked by his father, who liked to cook.
Similarly, cooking comes easily to me and my brother—a computer engineer with a high-power job in the US—because my mother, as I often mention, made sure we were afforded no gender privileges. K tsp butter. K cup white wine.
The way to a man's heart is through his stomach - myth or reality?
K tsp sugar. Only if you want a zing. Wash the fish and drain all water. Marinate the fish with lemon or lime juice, sprinkle salt and fresh ground pepper and set aside for about half an hour. Fry the fish gently in olive oil in a non-stick pan, do not brown.
Set aside. In the same pan, lower the heat, melt the butter, add a little olive oil and fry the garlic and fennel powder for minutes.
Stir in the white wine and reduce slightly. Add the tomatoes, sugar and salt to taste and give it a stir. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Arrange the fish in a warmed serving platter. Spoon the sauce over.
This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!
Why a man’s place is in the kitchen
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The way to a man's heart is through his stomach
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