Energy saving problems and style of cooking in apartments.
Posted on May 29th, 2013

Dr Hector Perera      London

Now the life style of living in Sri Lanka also changes gradually or in some case quite rapidly. My parents were government servants, dad was a doctor of medicine and mum was a school headmistress but none of them lived in high rise buildings unlike most of the present generation. I have visited lots of my relatives who were living in villages but none of them lived in high rise buildings. Now when I looked around in little towns such as in Gampaha, Jaela, Dehiwala and Nugegoda, you don’t have to look too far to see plenty of high rise apartments. Need not to mention any other towns such as Battramulla and Borella where there is sea of high rise building everywhere, who knows they soon turn into little Manhattans?

One of the points I am trying to get is how do these people cook in high rise dwellings? In villages they always used fire wood stoves for cooking but when they live in such high rise apartments, certainly they need to change the style of cooking or just depend on takeaways. Our servants in the past cooked anything on firewood stoves where the fire spreads from the base of the cooking pot to the top of it. I cannot describe exactly how the situation inside a firewood kitchen is. Most of the time smoke, dust and little pieces of ash flying all over, generally the kitchens are fairly hot due to the wastage of radiating energy from the burning firewood. Unlike in high rise buildings there are plenty of space in country side houses because generally they are large houses. Most of the times, the kitchen is at the far end of the house so that no smoke, dust or heat is felt to the main house. The servants spent a great deal of time in the kitchen doing so many things. The master and the lady of the house hardly visit the kitchen to see how cooking was done but in some cases ladies always cooked side by side with the servants.

In apartments, the space is limited, the kitchen is almost next to the sitting room and the bedrooms are not too far away. They cannot afford to use firewood stoves in apartments so they have to use gas or electric cookers but majority of the people use gas cookers. What I have observed is that their habit of cooking has not changed even if they used gas or electric cookers. When rice is boiling usually it froths and likely to over flow then immediately they take the lid off and stir it until it settles. Then check water, sometimes add some water as well. In doing so very likely it goes wrong and forms burnt rice. The cloud of steam escapes and likely to condense on the walls or kitchen cupboards or might go a little further. When ladies come to cook with lots of face make ups, have I got to say what would happen to them with hot steam? Sometimes they repeat this process a couple of times when they check the water in the rice pot.

That is just cooking rice what about cooking other things such as chicken, meat or vegetable curries or frying dry chillies, sprats, dry fish, sardines and papa dams? They cooked all these things in firewood stoves even in villages but unlikely to get the curry smell or frying smell of dry chillies or dry fish to the main house. In limited space of living in apartments, these smells cannot easily dissipate unlike in villages’ country kitchens. It is just not the smell but the invisible volatile chemicals come and deposit on your valuable in your house. If you live in country houses, there are no such problems because there are lots of spaces but the problem is with these limited spaces of living dwellings or in apartments. Some people get away the problem of cooking rice and over flowing rice pots by using rice cookers but how would they escape of the problems of cooking curries? One might ask what problems, yes there are plenty of problems. To me one of the main problems is the cooking smell or the curry smells when cooking chicken or vegetable curries. You mean a quick solution is to, depend on takeaways? It’s good occasionally.

When I came to England, I had to live in a room only basis where I have do everything including cooking. I was really worried about this smell because how would I wear clothes to the University with curry smell all over? Fortunately due to careful thinking in the right direction, I modified my type of cooking and reduced this smell. That is where my scientific energy saving cooking initiated.

Recently I was on holiday in Sri Lanka, I had a chance to visit a few apartments somewhere in Mt Lavinia, Dehiwala area and I observed the kitchen area. The extractor was covered with oil deposits, felt very sticky and smelly. The walls surrounding the cooker were covered with the same kind of sticky oil deposits. When I answered the intercom, I realised it was very sticky then I realised that some of those oily volatile gases have deposited on it then on the surrounding area as well. There were nice curtains near the kitchen diner area but have I got to say it’s deposited with these volatile chemicals? I didn’t say a word, just observed for my facts finding mission. In some apartments daily visiting servants did the cooking. Would you say they have any idea of wasting gas and escaping curry smells? I have my doubts.

In these apartments, the rooms were not too far away from the kitchen area and the sitting and dinning area then very likely some of these gases might have deposited on these places as well. In a way they have ruined or ruining their valuables but there was no option. Please tell me who would like to purposely ruin your hard earned valuables? The expensive flat screen television seemed to have a microscopic film of oil and I have my doubts how to remove it carefully. Without their knowledge they are ruining plenty of valuables in your compact apartment. Why not try and fry some prawns, believe me, the smell is so unbearable when it deposits on clothes but the fried prawns are tasty.

The lady in the house cooked some chicken curry while I was chatting with some friends in the sitting room. I could see how it was done because the place is quite small, compared to countryside houses. She kept on adding a few ingredients from time to time while it is boiling then waited for few minutes and opened to check something. A stream of steam along with other volatile ingredients gushed out every time she opened it. According to science when any cold object was on the path of the hot volatile gases, some of it is likely to get deposited. I assumed some of these curry smell might have deposited on her face, hair, clothes and also on the jewellery such as bangles and the gold necklace. That was a newly married couple and I was one of the guests invited for dinner.

There were lots of different curries and dishes for dinner, in fact a very nice dinner. Honestly no one cannot stop over eating in such instances. When I said good bye after the dinner, I realised that I was right because I felt some of the curry smell on the lovely lady’s face but I never said a word. This is one of the most important issues to be addressed in the style of cooking in apartments.

When I cooked these kinds of simple dishes such as fish, chicken or vegetable curries at home, we also get this kind of problem but it can be controlled if cooked scientifically, carefully. One of the ways is to limit the number of times of opening the boiling curries or try and not to open while it is piping hot. The vapours must be controlled and try to keep them inside the cooking pot than allowing to escape. The more heat we put, faster the rate of volatility of these vapours but do not increase the temperature of the liquid. One other important point is, once a curry comes to boiling, must reduce the fire because one cannot increase the temperature with increase of fire. It will not raise itself until all the liquid evaporates, this is according to science. Once the liquid evaporates then temperatures rises and even get roasted or burn. This principle is used in fractional distillation as well. Wait until it reaches to the state of equilibrium then reduce the temperature in order to avoid drying out the liquid quickly. Let it recycle then the volatile liquid might fall back into the cooking pot and keep on going in circles so most of the ingredients get absorbed into the food than escaping. If the lid was opened while in this state, no wonder the whole cycle breaks and some of it escapes to the surrounding, may be some get deposited on the person who cooks the food.

Make use of these simple scientific rules and methods to avoid wasting gas, polluting the air by burning gas wastefully. One might say this is impossible, I agree to some extent. There were two opportunities to demonstrate how to cook in the scientific way. Later on some people came to me and congratulated me. After few days as well, a few ladies and gentlemen mentioned they practiced my scientific cooking technique and they told it really worked. I thought, “Mission accomplished”. The method saves energy, save money spent on valuable energy and there are other lots of other advantages as well. So far not a single energy saving expert came forward to challenge my energy saving scientific cooking even when I put Rs two million on the challenge, so what am I suppose to do? I could not get hold of some energy authorities due to Wesak holiday season. They must give me an opportunity to demonstrate my energy saving scientific cooking then I will disclose practically so that the general public as well save energy and money spent on energy. Once they see my kind of cooking, these people living in high rise apartments would change the attitude towards cooking. I am sure cooking would never be the same again. Please remember, I am here to help and give you a practical help to cut down this problem, not a total solution.

If you wish to walk down with Asian cologne and Chicken cologne smell on your clothes then on your body you may do so, it’s your choice. No wonder some people spray the houses with loads of chemicals to cover up these smells and spray themselves with expensive scents and colognes but need to think whether these chemicals are really good for breathing even though they smell nice.

I cannot understand why these energy saving experts or authorities who are concerned with saving energy are not taking my challenge seriously? If I could not save energy by using my scientific cooking, I am happy to hand over my challenged Rs Two Million but what would I get if I proved my technique? Let me reiterate that according to science, every action must have an equal and opposite reaction. Your comments are welcomed


One Response to “Energy saving problems and style of cooking in apartments.”

  1. Podda Says:

    Thank you Dr. Perera for your submission. This is a very good solution to most of the Sri Lankans who cook using electric cookers and worry over the present power price hike . Even those using LPG gas for cooking, savings will be most welcome since the LPG gas prices increase from time to time. My only concern is the taste. Food ingredients will have to be added to bring the curry to your desired taste and for this you have to open the pot from time to time. However one has to learn how to put everything in one go and hope to achieve the best.

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