Home cooking helped me to find out the technique of energy saving scientific cooking.
Posted on June 10th, 2012

Dr Hector Perera      London

I remember that some people took hours to cook then I thought that cooking is a real time consuming and a tedious job. Many years ago we had servants to cook at our home; they did everything to prepare our meals such as string hoppers for breakfast, rice and curry for lunch and super. In between that, they also made homemade sweets as well.  Honestly, I never realised that they had to spend so many hours in the so called kitchen to do various things before this magic thing called meals are prepared. Unlike the present day kitchens, we had firewood stoves and the kitchen was partially filled with some, dust, heat and many more things. Strictly speaking it is not a healthy place due to many reasons. I do not recommend anyone to use these firewood stoves but some people have no choice.

In the past we had one or two servants to work at home; in a Sri Lankan home this is quite normal. Most of the times a woman servant was dedicated for cooking, sometimes they visit for the day from a nearby house or sometimes they are from far so they stayed or they were resident servants. I cannot say the exact list of tedious work they did from what time of the day to what time of the night.  

Rather than allowing the servants to cook, try and cook something, to realise some of the good and bad side of cooking.  I am not asking for anyone to try cooking in firewood stove because due to a number of reasons, it is not advisable for anyone to try cooking that way unless they are quite used to them.  When I was studying for advanced level in Colombo, my mum found a place in a family home because daily travelling to college was not convenient from Gamapaha to Colombo.  Later I went to a boarding house in Punchi Borella where they provided just the room only, no meals were provided. That time the only option was takeaways from a hotel but I didn’t like it for many reasons. Then arranged meals from a nearby house but that also didn’t work out. A final year medical student was also there at the boarding house then we decided to try out some basic cooking. Meantime a fellow student wanted to move into my place because of lacking facilities at his boarding place.

As the time went through, four of us had started some basic cooking. I knew just a little cooking but not quite certain how to cook anything.  I am sure as science students we experimented cooking as the time went through and found some cooking techniques for various things such as rice and curries. Those days TV was not found in Sri Lanka so we never knew anything like cooking programmes. Those days we used a kerosene gas cooker and I still remember a gallon of kerosene was Rs 1.10 or slightly less, a pound of chicken was Rs 2.50 while for Rs 1.10 we could get a pound of boneless beef.  On Sundays a man on a bullock cart delivered a few gallon tin cans of kerosene. I cannot say how convenient it was; when I think back, we had clean and healthy meals prepared at the boarding house. There was no place called a kitchen but we used the small passage leading to the backdoor entrance. The cooking was not tedious at all because we shared everything from shopping, cooking, the bills and all the rest, we really enjoyed. All of my friends became medical doctors and I didn’t pass all Advanced level subjects.  I just went to Colombo University for my practical exams only but didn’t have any University education in Sri Lanka.

When I came over to England, either I had to eat takeaway or cook and eat. Any way most of the time, I did some cooking while attending a University in Kingston Upon Thames then doing a part time work. Even from those days, I had this idea of energy saving but not understood how to get about it so my energy saving idea has been there for a long time but not a spring chicken idea.

 At the flat there was a kitchen but only I used it for little cooking. When some friends get together, we had a typical Sri Lankan, rice and curry meal. I was quite concerned about the food smell that gives in cooking and this could be avoided since there was a kitchen next door to my room. One thing no gas so I used a two ring electric cooker with oven and grill faculties.  Just like back home we have almost everything over here but I didn’t know how to get about with all these different foods. I never realised that much about cooking while I was back home because there was always help from others. In a way, I am sure some knowledge from our boarding house cooking helped me to get through and find out more about scientific energy saving cooking. Now I am in a position to help the others know about this energy saving technique. Well, if anyone is cared to disprove my method, challenge my scientific energy saving technique then there is my challenge money. I am sure you know the meaning that, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”.

Cooking at home

I do not know how to cook that many things but cooked rice, lentil, chicken or fish. You will see it takes some time to wash rice, lentil then fish or chicken.  Rice and lentil need to be washed properly to get rid of the loose flour on them, apart from some dust and dirt but would you think that they are carefully washed in hotel kitchens? Now small sand particles in rice are removed by the application of centrifugal force in rice mills.  This is the same effect when the servants washed rice then made them to go in circles so that heavy sand particle sank to the bottom due to gravity. In fact they applied science to remove sand particles in rice or in lentils by this centrifugal force set in water. How did they know about science?

The skin of chicken has saturated fat so it is removed before cooking because eating that kind of fat is not quite healthy.  When they cooked chicken in hotels, I am sure they do not waste even a piece of skin because for them they are money. They just cook either unwashed or under washed, so how would you safely eat these from takeaway places or from hotels? The unwashed chicken have a number of germs and bacteria Salmonella Enteritidis, is just one kind out 2000 species. Apart from that Staphylococcus Aureus is another kind of bacteria can be carried on human hands, in nasal passages, or in throats. Sometimes these cooks sneeze, cough, clear nose, scratch head or ears while cooking in these extremely hot kitchens. If you watched some British TV chef’s shows, you would have noticed that some of them shout, occasionally swear, may be to entertainment the viewers. When they do these things, naturally they add germs and bacteria to the food they cook. Some taste food with a spoon then used the same for stirring them as well, how’s that umpire, a clean out! Sometimes they cut fish, chicken or beef on the same chopping board that is used for cutting vegetables or onions. That means these kinds of acts cross contaminate food with germs. In hotels or at takeaway places, these cooks leave chicken, beef or fish for hours without refrigeration in a hot kitchen floor. Some people shop early in the morning for fish and meat in large scale then leave it on the floor than in a refrigerator.  I am sure anybody would understand these kinds of food storage are not hygienic. Would you still be tempted to eat food from these busy hotels or from takeaway places? Don’t worry, they temper with lots of spices, curry leaves then add monosodium glutamate as well to bring out additional taste from food.

There are a few food poisoning problems such as tummy ache, diarrhoea and vomiting. I am sure there are many reasons but some foodborne diseases go hand in hand with food. Campylobactor jejuni is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in humans. Preventing cross-contamination and using proper cooking methods reduces infection by this bacterium. Quite often these foods are not cooked long enough to get rid of germs and bacteria because cooking longer means using more gas.

Listeria monocytogenes was recognized as causing human foodborne illness in 1981. It is destroyed by cooking, but a cooked product can be contaminated by poor personal hygiene. Observe “keep refrigerated” and “use-by” dates on labels. I am not trying to put off the people eating out, we all need to eat somehow but it is better to watch out for cleanliness of food before you let them go through the mouth than suffering later on. One of my friends in Kandy told me that, occasionally he goes to Colombo for some business then eats a bread roll and a banana for lunch because of food safety reasons. Have you not read the Daily News where food safety inspectors have rounded up so many unhygienic food outlets in Colombo, Kandy and in some suburbs? According to some reports, some places are infested with rats, mice, cockroaches and flies in filthy surroundings. Are you still really interested in takeaway or hotel cooking?  One of the things what we can do is to watch out for food safety then try and learn some basic scientific cooking which would save some money as well. Your comments welcomed [email protected]

5 Responses to “Home cooking helped me to find out the technique of energy saving scientific cooking.”

  1. LankaLover Says:

    I am sorry Dr Hector Perera, every time I read your article, it reminds me the Sinhalese adage of “කොහෙද යන්නේ මල්ලේ පොල්”.. it starts with an interesting headline, and then wonders away as much as possible with rambling into various perhaps peripheral topics and make your reader lost.

    You challenge people to disprove your method of ‘Scientific Energy Saving Cooking’. Ask yourself a question – if my readers do not know about my method, do not I need to educate them about the method first?

    In 10 years, I might be you too, and I should be asking my kids or wife to read whatever I write first before publishing.

  2. AnuD Says:

    I Can not find anything to say that Dr.Hector Perera has said something revolutionary.

    Bacterial flora in developed countries and Sri Lanka are not the same and even the cooking practices are not the same. For example, Listeria Monocytogenes became a problem only when the refrigeration of food began. At 2-8 degrees some bacteria growth slow down while others can slowly grow.

    Sri Lanka may develop similar problems as there are refrigerators in Sri Lankan homes, and when Food-sellers begin storage in cold rooms. I don’t know now, a few decades ago, I noticed, Sri Lankan-butchers leave today’s beef carcass for tomorrow just covered with a wet gunny while hanging inside the storage room in the open and there was refrigeration.

    Don’t forget Sunlight itself has bacteria killing-power because of UV light.

    As we cook properly, we can not get Salmonella-diarrhea from chicken.

  3. LankaLover Says:

    Can you show me which section of this article talks about “the technique of energy saving scientific cooking”?

    I do not have a personal beef with this Dr., but I am ticked off when I waste my time reading a “කොහෙද යන්නේ මල්ලේ පොල්” article!

  4. AnuD Says:

    Listeria causes havoc in AIDS patients, causes still births in pregnant mothers and gives problems to very old people. Listeria is found in refrigerated milk (OR in Cheese) in very low concentrations. i.e one bacteria per 500 Liters.

    But, Sri Lanka doe snot have that kind of problems as we boil and drink milk. One we start drinking refrigerated milk, that is again, milk stays refrigerated weeks from the day it came from the farm, then the same problem may come in Sri Lanka too.

    I got myself fever because of Campylobactor (which is found in milk, meat and sea foods) infection by drinking refrigerated – unpasturized milk. But, it was just one week end.

  5. Vijendra Says:

    Hello Dr. Perera, where the hell did you get your doctorate or MD? Everybody knows that saving energy on any activity is good and economical. You are talking of common sense trying to make it sound complicated, talking of health and energy and all sorts of things in between. I just can not believe you have either an MD or a PhD from a reputed university as this is not the first time I have got really frustrated with your “koheda yanne.. malle pol”harangue. If i were you, I would respect other peoples time and intelligence and stop wasting their precious time by writing these “cock and bull” stories.

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