In the 90s, a middle-class Tamil family’s outing would be to go to a restaurant labeled ‘North Indian’ and have butter naans and paneer gravy. Even till my early teens, I have always wondered as to how the gravy had such a brilliant bright colour and even without asking anyone at home, I was convinced that these dishes could never be made in our kitchen which could only ‘handle’ tamarind and asafetida.
Practically every Tamil bride would get her share of ‘Samaithu paar’ (Cook and see) book by S Meenakshi Ammal, until the internet exploded.This cookbook was published almost 70 years ago and has in it traditional recipes cooked in style.
In the earlier times, not knowing the nuances of cooking was seen as a ‘defect’ which could hardly be set right without proper training. Bachelors struggling to put a meal on the table and new brides trying their hand at cooking for the first time were popular stories which evoked laughter and sympathy in the neighbourhood. The only remedy then was to opt for cookery books or ask for a friendly neighbor if Sambar had to be done with Toor dal or Channa dal or both.
My mother loved sharing her story of her first kitchen experience. She was asked by her mother-in-law to make decoction for the ‘all-important coffee’. For the uninitiated, the morning coffee in a Tamil household is sacrosanct. The texture and the aroma matters the most. My mom remembers how instead of pouring boiling hot water she poured in normal water. Such stories have truly become a thing of the past.
The millennials will never have such stories to share because if they have the inclination, every single aspect of cooking is available online and can be learnt.
By mid-2000s, mobile phones started slowly creeping into households and nobody would have thought then that it would take over all of us within a span of fifteen years!
People interested to learn food recipes had to call up one of their friends or family members and thus the knowledge of the art was passed on.
The expansion of the telecom industry, the availability of mobile phones to everyone and the high-speed internet connection has changed the dynamics completely.
Whatever you want to try – be it Bisibelebath of Karnataka, Pulihora of Andhra Pradesh, Puttu and Kadala Curry of Kerala or Aloo Dum, Kashmiri Pulav or Rajma of Jammu and Kashmir – all you have to do is to login on to the net, browse for the recipes and get started!
The internet is flooded with recipes not just from award winning chefs but also from experienced homemakers who want to share their knowledge and sometimes, make some quick money along with gaining popularity.
Seetha Swami, a software professional from California says she would give 4.5 stars out of 5 for the recipes on the internet. “My personal favourite channel is Hebbar’s kitchen. I have tried lot of these recipes and end result is tasty,” she says.
When asked if there is any difference between learning to cook from individuals personally and from the internet, Seetha says that there is lot of difference.
“Learning from the internet is lot better because we can go back and forth as many times as we needed. Target audience is generic and so there won’t be any influence of a particular style. It is more adoptive and directions are easy to follow. The recipes are available round the clock. There are several options available and there are no limitations,” she adds.
There are large numbers of YouTube cooking channels and there are plenty of programmes which get telecast on mainstream television channels. It is up to the audience to choose the right recipe and follow the one which suits their taste buds.
Speaking to a lot of people interested in cooking revealed that using the internet to learn forgotten healthy recipes is becoming quite a trend.
Increased awareness about health, the food that we eat and the importance of choosing the right way of life are factors that contribute to the popularity of internet cooking.
A retired school teacher says, “It would be a cliché but it has to be told. Internet can be a boon or a bane depending on the usage. In this case, if people are able to learn cooking and prepare a healthy meal for themselves, it would help them stay healthy. It is good for their purse too! But it is very saddening to see people, mostly youngsters ordering food at odd hours in the night. Hope awareness is created on that front too.”
Preetha Kadhir is an independent journalist who has worked in national and international newspapers. She loves to teach and interact with students. Her wish list for the world is long.