The Importance of Mood When Making Food
The importance of cooking in Indian culture can be assessed by the significance of the kitchen. The two holy places in any Indian home are the pooja (prayer) room and the kitchen. Often times, as in my home, these places occupy the same space. Pavrita or ‘holy’ in Sanskrit means pure, clean, or cleansing, as the saying goes “cleanliness is godliness”. Purity is a very important concept in practical day to day life. As when entering a temple, we don’t enter our house or kitchen with footwear on. Footwear is considered dirty for two reasons, it has collected dirt from outside, and in some cases it is made of animal skin.
The mother is traditionally the cook of the house, she has the responsibility to feed and nourish her children. I remember mum would get up at the crack of the dawn, have a shower, offer prayers, and then enter the kitchen to cook. I would often hear her chanting religious hymns and songs. When I asked her why she chanted she would reply with "I want the essence of the hymns to truncate into the food I am cooking for us”. She said that the human mind is like a monkey, it wonders off and often to unhappy places, hence chanting helps her stay focused. This piece of wisdom was passed down from her mother! Whenever I had a fowl mood or a bad day she would suggest that I don’t cook, as she feared I would be passing that negative state of mind to my loved ones through the food. Looking back, even now, it makes sense. The days when I am not in the right head space my cooking has something missing…………….Love!!
I learned a very important skill while watching my mum and dad in the kitchen; the power to control my state of mind. I also learned that I have a responsibility for the wellness of my family, and that I have the ability and responsibility to ensure that the food I create nourishes the soul along with filling the stomach.
The most magical thing about mum and dad’s cooking was that they never smelled or tasted when cooking, let alone measured anything. Watching dad and mum in the kitchen was like watching a symphony, they knew their roles and played them in perfect harmony. The cooked food was always dished in small bowls and offered to god with two words “Krishna arpanam”, this translates to "Krishna everything is for you". Following this we were served, and the family had the meal together except mum as she would only be satisfied after we had finished eating.
You will find the following cooking utensils in most Indian homes:
· karhai: (like a wok, but deeper, for deep frying such food as puris)
· tawa: (iron skillet for roasting chapattis.)
· belan: small diameter rolling pin
· chinti: chapatti tongues
· masala dibba: large tin with seven spice containers
Food is traditionally served on a stainless-steel tally (small bowls, katoris, on a large tray) or using natural products such as banana leaf plates and clay pots. The food is usually eaten without knife, fork or spoon but using the right hand (the left is reserved for unclean jobs.)