June 2020 is the Female Wave of Change Story telling month: Stories matter and we want you to share yours! Today Mohit Kanada originally from India shares his story how his cooking developed from a necessity to passion: a tribute to his mother, his wife and his daughter.
My cooking journey: from necessity to passion
Life teaches us the most unexpected of lessons at the most unexpected junctures of our lives.
“It all started when I was just 10. For generations there was a tradition for the women in my family: they have stayed away from all household activities during their menstruation time. We as the three men of the family (my father, my elder brother and I) also offered rest days to my mother. None of us knew how to cook so my father used to order the lunch box for all of us during those 3-4 days but it was a costly affair at that time. So, I used to ask my mother, “Mom, please teach me something so that we can reduce the expenses by cutting out takeaway food.” I remember clearly the day my mom taught me verbally how to prepare rice and dal in the pressure cooker. It was my first big win when I could cook it for the very first time flawlessly because the proportion of water with rice/lentil is the key to crack this! I could get the consistency of dal and firmness of the rice grain spot on. It was a great success for me to eat the tender dal and perfect rice. It was absolutely incredible feeling. That is why ‘Rice and Dal’ is my all-time favourite dish.
I mastered to cook perfect rice and dal eventually so some part of expenses was saved. However, we still used to order Roti (Chapati/Indian bread) and Sabji (Vegetables) from the local lunch box provider. The problem was only partially solved. I continued asking my mother to teach me how to cook other vegetables also so that we can stop takeaway meals eventually.
My necessity became my inspiration
We all know that necessity is the mother of invention. I didn’t need to invent something. I just had to do something to fulfill our needs. Hence, my necessity became my inspiration!!! Once I began preparing the necessities such as rice and dal, thus began my journey of wanting to cook more delicacies. I started to learn potato fry and down the line plethora of dishes.
By the time I left my house for higher studies and career, I was trained under the guidance of my mother every month during her break time. It was an incredible opportunity for me to show off my newly acquired skills and experience the joy of achievement when my father and my elder brother would acknowledge it. I was always curious to get my mother’s feedback because her opinion always mattered to me.
Food is essential for our health
I learnt my lesson how food is essential for our health through a health crisis I had during the initial years of my move to Germany. Being hospitalized for 64 days taught me that food is medicine and an important necessity to stay healthy.
Before my marriage, I considered food as necessity but with my marriage my view to cooking changed and it became a skill for me. In the beginning it was surprising for my wife as she got to know about my cooking skills because it is still not common in India that men know how to cook. She must have thought, “Oh God … you saved me …. Mohit will cook for me when I am tired.”, when she got to know that I know how to cook. I believe that every woman, now a days, secretly hopes that her spouse knows how to cook.
Food is celebration
When I visited my in-laws and my wife’s relatives, I realized that food is celebration for them. Whenever I got something to eat it was very well organized and well decorated. I was amazed when I moved in with my wife after my marriage. The early years of my marriage were spent being in awe of my wife’s passion for cooking and decorating the end products like it’s a feast on normal days too. I learned the presentation skills in the kitchen department from her. We always took pictures to share those with her parents so that is how our passion for food photography started. Those early years of my marriage inspired me to not only cook, but to enrich the experience by adding aesthetics to it, and capture this bundle of appetizing joy through the camera lens.
Once I had to come to Germany after our vacation and my wife stayed a bit longer in India, my wife and her parents were worried about my food behaviour. My family never worried about me as they knew and still know that I would cook anything and I would take care of myself. To ensure my wife and her parents know that I am taking good care of myself I started to take pictures of my breakfast, lunch, dinner almost every day and shared those pictures with them.
My ‘Necessity’ and my wife’s ‘Celebration’ became my ‘Passion’
My ‘Necessity’ and my wife’s ‘Celebration’ were going hand in hand and cooking became my ‘Passion’. The survival mechanism got converted into everyday celebration, hence joy and gratitude evolved. This is an incredible feeling for me every day. Every cooking activity in a day brings all my memories, innocence, passion, gratitude, joy, learning, and creativity together and I deep dive into the mixture of all these emotions to express my authentic appreciation for being a ‘Human Being’ and to be able to enjoy food made by me.
It is an art for me to express my gratitude through my culinary skills
Every time I cook, I remember and understand my mother’s pain from those 3-4 days. I become the ten year old innocent and curious boy all over again; and at the same time, I get inspired by my wife’s decorative skills. I become passionate to present it to myself even though I am home alone during the pandemic. My wife and daughter are stuck in India due to cancelled flights. Honestly speaking, it’s an art for me to express my gratitude through my culinary skills.
I pass on the message to my 4 year old daughter
I cook in front of my 4 year daughter, Hrida and also seek her innocent guidance and support. I wish to pass on the message to her that cooking is no longer a woman’s onus as it was supposed to be in the olden days. But with that, I am also trying to teach her how important it is to be self-sufficient and be able enough to cook one’s own food, and hope that she picks up on these important messages, between the fun and giggles.
I believe now that cooking is a way for me to show deep respect to my mother, in fact, every single woman on this earth who goes through the pain and discomfort in those 3-4 days; it is a way to express my happiness and art to my wife; and perhaps an amusing way to inspire my four year old daughter as we start clapping and jumping as soon as the popcorn start dancing in the pot when we cook popcorn together.”
Mohit has given Female Wave of Change permission to share his story