The idea of energy saving or efficiency is not something new.
Posted on July 2nd, 2013

Dr Hector Perera     London

You’ve probably heard the grown-ups in your house say “Turn off the light!” or “Close the refrigerator door!” Have you ever wondered why?  This is because it cost something and the adults, the parents have to pay the bills. Energy is there whenever we need it, so it’s easy to forget where it comes from, or how much it costs.

In anybody’s view, it’s better to use than waste but not always possible, wastage is inevitable. Just not electricity or gas, even King Parakramabahu in Sri Lanka said, water should not be wasted. He said, “Not even a little water that comes from the rain must flow into the ocean without being made useful to man”.

Actually wasting energy is the same as wasting money and we know that’s not a good idea! I mentioned earlier as well that many people are wasting gas and even electricity in cooking. I have demonstrated in TV how to cook scientifically and save about 60% gas but so far no energy saving expert or any scientist never bothered to find out.

TV chef’s cooking

If we put too much heat or more than one can hold or in other words more than the thermal capacity of the vessel then one must expect wastage of heat. Those TV chefs just put gas on full fire and cook, it’s not energy saving cooking, they try to sell and talk about lots of supermarkets products in a brief time because they are paid to do that job. I agree that they are right, people must be informed what’s in store for them and how to use them for cooking. They cannot help energy saving because they are not aware of scientific energy saving cooking; I am not blaming them at all.

Cooking utensils

Take a few examples of cooking utensils such as aluminium saucepans, cast-iron utensils, stainless-steel vessels, glass utensils, aluminium and Teflon-coated non-stick pans then our traditional clay pots. I think some of you remember, “ƒ”¹…”Ambalamae pina walan kadak gena’ then what happened?

Each type of cookware affects the flavor of the food prepared in it. For this reason, one needs variety in cooking utensils to achieve optimal results. Cast iron pots have been around since the frontier days and it was the most popular cookware at the turn of the century.

 Types of cooking

 The cooking process might include baking, boiling, SautƒÆ’†’©ing, heating, steaming or cooking in the microwave. In this description I am refereeing only to a few methods where energy can be saved in the process of cooking. SautƒÆ’†’©ing is a type of cooking where all the ingredients are heated at once and cooked quickly. To facilitate this, the ingredients are rapidly moved around in the pan, either by the use of a utensil, or by repeatedly jerking the pan itself. Since the pan is open while sautƒÆ’†’©ing it is quite possible volatile chemicals escape all the time and some of it might deposit on the person who cooks. Now you see one of the ways where this curry cologne or spicy cologne comes out! Who likes a rub of curry cologne on the body or what about spicy cologne, no one?

After effects of tempering

I was wondering this coughing, sneezing during tempering is somewhat related to laughter therapy in India.  Don’t forget the spices come from India then tempering also originated over there. While tempering, this invisible chemical mixture has the ability to release instantly some secretions from the lungs or somewhere and make you cough, sneeze, drool from the nose, tears from eyes so it’s like instant stress release, I don’t know!   They claim laughing is good for health, a kind of therapy. It says laughter has beneficial effects on various aspects of biochemistry such as reductions in stress hormones and when laughing the brain also releases endorphins that can relieve some physical pain.

 Some curries such as red lentils are tastier when red onions, mustard, curry leaves and red chillies are fried in oil and added. It’s inevitable to stop coughing, sneezing and tears drooling in eyes when you do this kind of sautƒÆ’†’©ing, or tempering, am I correct? That is because a cocktail of invisible volatile chemicals escaping while you do this type of cooking. Believe me these Sri Lankan ladies still love to do it because the end results are good, an appetizing and a tasty curry. Now this or similar mixtures are bottled and sold so just add some of them, cooking made easy. 

Alzheimer’s disease

The stainless steel does not react with the food, the metal is inert to chemicals in the food but metals such as aluminium reacts with food ingredients. There is circumstantial evidence linking aluminium with Alzheimer’s disease. Sometime back a senior lecturer from Kelaniya University published an article about aluminium and possible Alzheimer disease. Stainless steel products heat fast and evenly for constant performance. This is possibly one of the best utensils you can buy. If you look at the base, only in some pans you see there is a thick base due to a sandwich of metals. It could be up to five bonded layers of aluminium, copper and stainless steel. This is what makes it heat fast, consistently and evenly. These are fairly expensive than ordinary cooking pots and pans. Thin base stainless steel cooking pans are also available, so watch out what you are paying for. When it comes to cooking with them each type has its disadvantages and advantages.

Clay pots

Traditionally in many cultures across the world, unglazed pottery or earthenware was used in cooking daily food. The use of these materials is still prevalent in all over Sri Lankan homes. Given its natural makeup, earthenware is the most ideal cookware, as food prepared in these vessels retains its natural flavour. One of the problems with these are about heat conductivity because they are non metals so heat conducts slowly compared to metallic cooking pots and pans. We used these vessels all the time at home on firewood stoves. I agree the foods such as fish and potato curries, “ƒ”¹…”kiri hodi’ taste delicious when cooked in clay pots.

Our servants in the past cook the fish until nearly done then remove the cooking vessel from the heat and allowed the dish to stand for a few extra minutes. Although the fish will be removed from the heat source, it will still continue to cook for a short while, thus ending up with a perfectly cooked fish dish. That is due to some heat capacity in the curry and the cooking vessel that adds up to some slow cooking.  How did they know the science behind this technique? I am sure it’s due to long experience in cooking gained in the kitchen laboratory. Any comments welcomed, [email protected]

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