A little knowledge from school days in Sri Lanka, helped me to discover scientific energy saving cooking.
Posted on September 20th, 2013

Dr Hector Perera‚ ‚  England

No rice cookers, no rice.

Sometime back kerosene cookers and firewood stoves were used for cooking. Now kerosene cookers have gradually disappeared and replaced by gas and electric cookers. I am not sure of the electric cookers in that many years ago, sure they must have been there but we never had one. If water falls on electric cooker while cooking, for example in cooking rice, it might be dangerous unlike in any other kinds of fires. In country homes there is nothing like having rice cooked on traditional firewood stoves, when rice boils, froth falling over, dribbling all over, it-â„¢s a nice thing to see. Then usually they open the lid on the rice pot, leave it to come down then carry on. I am not sure how our servants and the mum got it right, to cook rice without burning or we call it forming -Dankuda-. Now anybody can cook rice because of these rice cookers, just leave it to cook. That is just a tiny change happened in Sri Lanka. The majority of the present generation cannot cook rice without rice cookers, how wonderful! Now more and more villagers as well get electricity and the ways of lives as well changed. No more kerosene chimney lamps and the humble kitchen kerosene lamps that stood patiently by the firewood stoves.

Sri Lankans are quite fortunate to have firewood to be found for free in their own gardens from coconut trees, cashew, cinnamon plants, pruned tea bushes etc. Some people might buy some rubber tree firewood. From coconut trees they get plenty of different kind of materials to burn, coconut husks, shells, leaves, sheaths covering the coconut flower also known as -hanasu- and many more. Those days even we hardly spent any money on firewood as they were found for free in our own garden and we also used to cook all the time with firewood. The so called kerosene cooker was for just making a quick cup of tea or coffee or to boil an egg but not for real cooking.

‚ Home cooking

I loved the smell of burning firewood; it gives a feeling of home cooking when the smoke from firewood gets mixed with pleasant smell of cooking curries. When our servants or my mum cooked these things, honestly it made a different thing, I am sure anybody else who had these so called traditional firewood stoves would admit. The smell of frying sprats, prawns or cutlets made a pleasant appetizing smell and spreads all over, from the kitchen to living room and to bedrooms. Those days, I never thought about applying science for cooking, just went to school, come back and ate home cooked meals. One might ask, -What about takeaways-, I never heard those things.

Some school cooking helped me.

When I had to go for a college in Colombo, one time, three of my friends and me tried a bit of cooking because we thought it would be economical and cleaner. The boarding house provided just rooms and no food, so first we ate from nearby hotels. When we got the food packets to the boarding house, it looks like all mixed up so we thought why not try some home cooked food, I suggested and they agreed to my idea.

The only thing was no firewood but had to use kerosene cookers. Those days kerosene oil was home delivered by a bullock cart, a gallon that is four and half litres for a little more than one rupee. I never knew good cooking, just tried by trial and error to cook just a few things. I knew some cooking because I did scouting at Kandy Dharmaraja College and when we went on camping we had to cook. Once we went to a camping site in Mirigama and we really enjoyed a few days of camping. To our surprise our group won a competition in cooking.‚  It really helped us in many ways, motivated to try cooking. Believe me home cooked food is less expensive, cleaner and healthier. While we were studying Advanced level science, we managed to have something cooked at the place than depending on hotel takeaways. At the boarding house in Punchi Borella, we had five of us so we shared the work. We cooked enough food only in the morning before we went to college so when we come back, there was lunch and supper.

Three of my friends got selected to do medicine, I didn-â„¢t go that far, went for teaching science. It was much later; I came over to England for further studies. Then only I realised a little bit of cooking knowledge was quite helpful over in England. Most of the time in back home, you just go for the dinning table, all done for you. In way, how lucky to get someone to prepare your meals? Over in England, we had a choice, either make your own or have takeaway junk food. One thing there was plenty of takeaways so one really has nothing to worry about cooking. If anyone thought, learning some cooking is an insult, you should think again sensibly. Why waste money on stale, sometimes rotten junk food?

Over the period of time, I have worked out how to cut down the wastage of energy, gas and electricity used for cooking. My energy saving ideas are not spring chickens, it had been there for years. Even those days, I thought gas and electricity were quite expensive but now it-â„¢s absolutely expensive. Believe me they are going up again and again. Just one other important point in cooking at home is the problem of food smell that might deposit on you while cooking. Yes spices are added to flavour the food but not to have a spicy aroma shower while cooking then walk anywhere smelling like a mobile kitchen. On my scientific energy saving cooking, I have extended the idea how to cut down any smell depositing on you while cooking. When the energy saving experts request me to demonstrate the technique of scientific energy saving cooking all would be revealed. Your comments are welcomed perera6@hotmail.co.uk

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