Why some British TV chefs waste energy in cooking demonstrations then let cooking aroma deposit on them while cooking?
Posted on November 8th, 2015

Dr Hector Perera      London

Long-time ago we used nothing but firewood stoves in Sri Lanka for cooking but the things have changed for better. Now gas, electricity and in some places even solar power is used to get energy for cooking. Gas and electricity are not available for free unlike solar power but in solar power initial expenditure is fairly high but on the long run it is worthwhile because one do not pay anything for the energy they get from solar power. Perhaps until one gets solar power why not stop wasting these gas and electricity because one has to pay for them to the energy companies who supply them.

Energy is important in many ways. Unlike in hot weather countries, the people who live in cold weather countries such as in California and England have to pay for the energy that they use for heating and eating. Fortunately the people who live in hot weather countries such as in Sri Lanka do not use energy for heating their homes to keep them warm. The bills keep on raising by the companies who supply these resources and the government as well sometimes lose control. If we find another method to reduce the energy wastage in cooking then the general public would benefit at least on the energy used in certain types of cooking methods. I do not know how to save energy in baking, only direct heat cooking.

I am not suggesting to eat raw vegetables to reduce the energy used in cooking. Why not find a method to reduce the energy used in direct cooking. Nearly everybody in Sri Lanka eat things such as rice and curries which have to be cooked in direct heating. What I say is that the energy used for direct heating can be saved to some extent that means one can save some money wasted in energy bills. I am sure the people who live California, Australia, America and even in England eat things such as rice, pasta, spaghetti, then curries such as chicken, beef, lamb, pork and vegetables. Then making soups with chicken, beef and with vegetables as well, one can save energy in cooking these things. In cooking those things and many other kinds of dishes, one can save some energy wasted in cooking. I have my doubt if the British TV chefs care about energy wastage.

When I said energy let me concentrate just on one thing that is energy used in cooking. I still remember just like yesterday back home in Sri Lanka we used firewood for cooking because those days no gas and electric cookers were at our home even they were generally available. There was no problem of getting firewood from our own garden because we had a coconut land where other kinds of trees such as cashew, jack and other kinds of trees as well could be used for firewood. The servants usually collect firewood and stack them into a small shed so that whenever they want they just get it from there. We didn’t have to spend money for these things as they were available for free in our own garden. How about the other people who have to pay to get these firewood, they have to spend their hard earned money.

The firewood kitchens have their own way of cooking unlike any other types of kitchens. The kitchens are sometimes smoky, dusty and generally hot due to radiation of heat from the stoves. Our servants cooked all kinds of food on these firewood stoves and I never knew any difference between the cooking on gas or electric cookers because we never had any those days. Sometimes my dear mum as well cook with the servants or visit the kitchen to see if they are cooked or ready. The cooking vessels were nothing but clay pots for cooking rice and curries but a metal kettle was there to boil water. The kettle was sometimes put against another stove than using a separate one so the water is always ready for making a cup of tea. A kerosene lamp sits somewhere near the stoves and sometimes, a little kerosene oil is poured over to light the firewood. I am not going to describe those things right here but those were very difficult days.

Our servants are highly experienced

The servants cooked nearly everything quite perfectly, that really amazes me because unlike with gas or electricity cookers, the control of fire is not an easy task with firewood stoves. Usually there are two or three places to cook, sometimes they are in a row or separately. If too much fire is there for cooking rice then it is likely to get burnt rice. They repeatedly open the pot of rice and check the rice in the pot. A long wooden handled spoon acts like a dip stick in checking oil in the car. Sometimes they add some water and sometimes stir and sometimes rice goes pear shaped but very often get it right.

In cooking curries such as chicken or even dry fish, they open even the boiling curries several times in order to add this and that then keep on tasting the gravy to check the salt. Even recently I have seen some Sri Lankan ladies also did exactly what our servants did in the past. I was wondering was that a rule one must follow in cooking rice and curries or is it a habit?

Some British TV chefs are time wasters, jugglers and jokers

I like to watch the British TV cooking programmes and competitions just to see what they do. There are quite a few during the week days then in the weekend. May be I am wrong but none of them showed any kind of energy saving cooking and not applied any science in cooking. Those British TV chefs also followed exactly or worse than our poor servants back home. I sympathise and understand about the servants in Sri Lanka because they have little or no education. Then what about the so called TV chefs in England? In England they have many modern facilities for cooking, cutting, slicing, grinding and mixing as many are done by machines. The firewood stoves had no control of the fire whereas gas and electric cookers have all that facilities. Many people including the TV chefs in Britain, just put fire at full blast and cook. Do they know excess fire produces poisonous oxides of nitrogen? When excess fire is there, liquids evaporate faster then very likely to burns the whole thing. When the liquid evaporates quickly it will leave the food uncooked. We have to make use of the liquid in the food than just allowing it to evaporate. Scientifically most foods have plenty of water in them but if we let them evaporate them without making use of that water then the food run dry very quickly.  It will create some kind of convention currents so that it will carry the heat and some dissolved ingredients from the bottom to the top when the cooking pot absorbed heat due to conduction. I wonder if the TV chefs realise these scientific ideas in cooking. That is one of the reasons why I choose quality cooking pans in my case of scientific cooking. Long time ago we had nothing but clay pots for cooking in Sri Lanka. I am not in favour of aluminium pots because the metal is soluble to some extent in acidic as well as in alkaline foods. That is the amphoteric nature of Aluminium. I have witnessed in some restaurants they use nothing but Aluminium cooking pots and pans.

When the liquid get heated, some liquid currents are created then slowly hit the food making any juices or ingredients to ooze out from some food substances and at the same time some other ingredients might get absorbed. In the case of rice grains, the boiling liquid hit the grains and eventually and slowly the grains get hydrolysed. When this is continued for a while, all the food gets cooked consistently but one must understand that not all kinds of food get cooked at the same time. You need to set the cooking conditions consistent then only it works, at the start the ingredients must be allowed to get in contact or must be allowed to marinate with the food. I use the term hybridisation that is adopted from chemistry. Again a practical demonstration can explained better.

Just chatting does not help, it must go together with demonstration

I have observed some British TV chefs also some housewives in Sri Lanka repeatedly open the boiling curries and keep on adding this and that several times to the curries. That is not the end, then start to stir from the bottom to the top or keep on turning over. I understand there are cooked, partially cooked and uncooked food in a curry but if we get them to boil at consistency then there will be no problem. Then by previous experience one must understand how long it takes the food to properly cook. Say for example chicken takes about 25 minutes or maximum half an hour to get properly cooked if left under certain conditions. If the pressure is disturbed during that time, then it will not get cooked evenly. In most British TV cooking programmes, the cooking pans are always left open so that TV cameras get better views. In Sirasa TV cooking demonstrations done in Sri Lanka, we didn’t disturb cooking by opening the cooking pots. As I mentioned these words do not make the explanation, it should be properly demonstrated then it must be explained with respect to the demonstration. I have done a few times that kind of cooking demonstration in the TVs in Sri Lanka including the one in Sirasa TV for the benefit of the public. Just writing articles do not help, it must be properly demonstrated then should be explained. If I mentioned some more scientific terms that are related to cooking such as intermolecular and intramolecular reactions, convection currents, vapour pressure and thermodynamic equilibrium condition, I am sure no ordinary people would understand. I am sure that kind of TV chat show without a demonstration would be really boring. Let me say again explanation must go with a proper demonstration. Let me repeat, I have done that in Sri Lanka TVs.

  British TV chefs make mistakes purposely, why?

Sometimes I leave the food to cook consistently then attends some other work in the kitchen or watch the TV but not forgetting to come back after a few minutes yes after few minutes. In the case of baking bread and cakes, one leaves them in the oven to get baked but do you get it out every five minutes or so and mix them. Similarly I leave these things to get cooked for a certain time and do not disturb it while it cooks but the British TV chefs always stirring or tossing the food in the pan while cooking. It looks like nice jugglery to the camera and sometimes it catches fire then loads of cooking aroma as well get out in that kind of cooking. Would you not think that some of those cooking aroma get deposited on the person who cooks. Further those cooking aroma are unhealthy to breathe for a long time as it will cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems. This is established by series of research by leading Universities. I am sure cooking and science and chemistry go together because all the food we eat are made out of chemicals. One must have an understanding that has to be gained by experience. The servants know by long experience, how long it takes to cook rice, potatoes and vegetables. They are always not the same time but different times to different things, how did they know, of course by experience. Green leaves like mukunuwenna” do not take that long to cook like potatoes. Rice takes around 25 to 35 minutes depending on the type of rice. Brown rice has harder grains so it takes extra five minutes longer than white rice. Once it gains an evenly cooking condition then from that time, it takes 25 to 35 minutes to get rice cooked. This could have been a better explanation with the demonstration.

My intention is to help the public save energy

I am still looking for an opportunity to demonstrate my kind of scientific energy saving cooking in any TV show in England because none of the British TV chefs know exactly what this is about. If the energy saving experts in England and the British TV chefs disproved my scientific energy saving idea then there is that challenged money to give away, what about if I was right? Your comments are welcomed perera6@hotmail.co.uk


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