In the past there were some difficulties in cooking but not right now, some solutions are included
Posted on June 14th, 2016

Dr Hector Perera     London

Cooking is not difficult at all, it’s a matter of getting used to it then it becomes quite easy. We have to eat so some people get some people employed for cooking than they get involved in cooking. Back in Sri Lanka some poor women become Kussi Ammas” or servant women in some houses. I am not going into the details of the conditions and environment of those kitchens. Let me point out some difficulties and try and give my ways of solutions how to overcome some difficulties.

Firewood stove kitchen difficulties

Briefly I can say in the past they had nothing but firewood kitchens and generally the kitchens are fairly hot inside due to radiated energy. Most of the time they cooked in clay pots that means they are poor conductors of heat so most of the heat is lost or radiated. Imagine to stay for few hours very close to the firewood stoves in such kitchens. The servants usually stay fairly close to firewood stoves as they have to control the fire. Sometimes the firewood do not catch fire easily so they need to do many things to get the fire get going. While they attempt to get the fire to cook the food, they had to face so many difficulties. All the time, it gives out smoke, some ash, dust then heat due to radiated energy. As the servants had to stay close to the firewood stoves, the radiated heat makes them sweat, feels very hot the whole body especially the face and the hands.

Cooking rice and curries

Then the pot of rice might over flow, dribbles all the way to the firewood then she has to open the lid or nebiliya” to stop over flowing as it wet the firewood then she has to blow several times to get it back. To blow on the firewood sometimes they get very close to the firewood stove or used a metal pipe. Just imagine the heat felt on their heads and the faces, perhaps the others do not want to know as long as the food is served in time on the table. Then she has to open the boiling chicken or fish curry then she keeps on stirring them and taste them several times using a long handled Polkatu handa”. That means she has to look after three things at the same times by standing very close to the smoky dusty firewood stoves. She cannot expect the fire to keep going and sometimes, she has to blow on them as to keep the fire going. Apart from cooking curries, she sometimes fry some papadams and dry red chillies”. Already there is enough heat in the kitchen and with that kind of frying, it makes worse. The chillies give out a strong smell that irritates the eyes to drop tears then the smell makes them cough several times then they get a drooling nose as well. Sometimes they get shouted by the lady of the house for not getting the food on the table.

Quite often they fry dry fish such as sprats that give a very strong smell. If the fire was too much sometimes the frying pan catches fire as well. The smell is so much it fills up the kitchen then some of it enters the main house as well. Have I got to mention that some of these smell get deposited on the person who fry these things? Due to these difficulties some houses always employ servants for cooking. I think now most of those servants have left the country for foreign employment for better paid jobs. Now there are so called visiting servants who try to work at least in two places per day to get good living. They are in a hurry so they try and cook as quickly as possible as they have to rush to the next job, in doing so they might waste more energy in cooking. Sometimes the gas flame even burns off the handles of the cooking vessels as they put too much fire while cooking. Unlike in the past now they have gas and electricity to cook but they are not quite making the best of the facilities.

Some solutions to avoid difficulties in cooking

One must have gas or electricity for cooking than firewood kitchens. That way one can regulate the energy used in the kitchen. The bad conducting or poor conducting materials such as clay pots must be replaced with stainless steel cooking pots and pans for better conductivity of heat. Once it attains the thermodynamic equilibrium condition the temperature must be properly reduced then there will be no excess heat to warm the kitchen. By experience one must understand how long it takes to cook a pot of rice, may be around half an hour. No point of constantly opening the chicken or fish curry as the convection currents created by the heat carries the heat so that it cooks the food. As the convection current comes up, the things in the cooking pots try to absorb some of the heat and that is repeated until it properly cooks. Again by experience one knows how long a chicken curry or a fish curry to cook, may be again half an hour as the maximum. No point of constantly opening and checking to see if they are cooked, by doing that one disturbs the convection currents and the pressure inside the pot. If one keeps on opening the boiling curries, some of the chemicals in the cooking ingredients escape into the air and some are likely to get deposited on the person who cooks. Try and keep them in an enclosed environment so that some get recycled. There is more to be explained again this has to be done with a cooking demonstration. If properly followed the method of cooking one could save a reasonable amount of energy. There are many types of cooking where energy cannot be saved for example baking, grilling, frying and barbequing and a few more methods of cooking. In case of direct heat cooking, my method of cooking can save a reasonable amount of energy if followed properly. I am able to demonstrate how to cook rice and curries by saving around 60% energy wasted in cooking. In the case of cooking curries, the smell depositing on the person who cooks can be avoided in addition to saving energy. These methods have been properly demonstrated in some Sri Lanka TVs and the one done in Sirasa TV gives a long demonstration. If necessary for video demonstration try by typing my name to Google then search under my name Dr Hector Perera Sirasa cooking. Your comments are welcomed [email protected]

 

One Response to “In the past there were some difficulties in cooking but not right now, some solutions are included”

  1. Nihal Perera Says:

    While I agree in theory that cooking with firewood is a difficult process this day and age, especially in modern kitchens we have today, I wouldn’t totally dismiss it as a health hazard, or a wrong way to cook, especially in a tropical country like Sri Lanka.

    Most of my generation (I am in my sixties..), remember how our mothers used to cook with firewood, and with clay pots, which was the norm then as gas and electricity were not available to most of the household, especially in the rural area. For generations, Sri Lankans cooked their food this way, which now you consider dangerous and hazardous to the environment.

    Now that we, who live in the Western world with modern kitchens, with the state of the art kitchen equipment, are under the false impression that the way our ancestors prepared and cooked food using natural firewood and pots made of clay were all wrong. And, only way to cook today is to use gas or electricity, using only stainless pots and pans.

    I agree, due to urbanization and modernization of the habitats today, it is unthinkable to cook food using firewood the way our parent’s generation did. It is simply not practical and impossible due to limited space in living quarters and busy lifestyles. This is where the modern technology, especially in the kitchen, has come into play.

    As a person who enjoys cooking and fine culinary skills, I wouldn’t condemn or reject the way our previous generations cooked, considering the very difficult situations they had to face, such as open fires, smoke, heat and other physical hazards, and limitations. Yet, there is no comparison to the authentic taste and quality of the food they cooked then, and the kind of food we cook today, even with all the ultra-modern kitchens, and the equipment available to us.

    I go to Sri Lanka every year and spend most of my time in Kegalle, where I was born and raised, until immigrated to Canada in 1970. Every time I go there, I visit my old relatives and friends who live in nearby villages. One of my favourite thing is to taste their food that they (thankfully..!) still cook the old fashion way using firewood and clay pots, using locally grown produce. I must say, there is no comparison to the taste of these food, which is delicious and authentic, in every sense of the word.

    I have tried my best to emulate that taste in my well-equipped modern kitchen in Canada, but I don’t even come close, no matter how hard I tried. Though may not be practical from today’s standards, I have lot of respect and gratitude for the previous generations who were knowingly or unknowingly much more environmentally friendly, practical, and frugal than the present generation which has a long way to go, especially when it comes to cooking..!

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