Monday, April 30, 2007

What men cook for The Week Magazine (web special)

About 20 percent of the attendees at Chef Ananda Solomon’s workshop and the Gourmet Holiday, introduced by Club Mahindra last November, were men. The Uppercrust food and wine show was no different. Were they just arm candy for their women or were they there for gastronomic gratification. They shopped for specialty ingredients, asked knowledgeable questions and looked longingly at the Le Crueset pots! These men were genuinely hungry to learn more about food.

Male chefs and cooking shows are netting a delicious chunk of primetime TV, a fact confirmed by Preeti Prasad, executive producer of The Foodie, the show anchored by Kunal Vijayakar on Times Now. “While we have no clear numbers on how many of our viewers are men, every second email we receive is from a man. Most of the cultural references that inspire our stories come from men,” she says. Add to this a rise in nuclear families, women joining the workforce, increasing single men and the world of information on the Internet.

Indian men have obviously entered the kitchen, but what are they cooking? The findings of an Internet-based study on 32 men, aged between 22 and 60, predominantly of an urban mindset, on cooking, were illuminating. For example, Italian cuisine was more favoured than Chinese; the favourite regional food was Punjabi; and the favourite street food was pani puri!

The presence of a woman in the Indian home — grandmother, mother, wife, sister or even a maid — makes the kitchen a female domain. So a man would cook because he had no choice. Wrong. Men have begun to cook because they were influenced by watching their mothers cook, or purely out of curiosity!

Aseem Dixit of Wraps and rolls weilds a mean knife!

While Aseem Dixit, owner of Wraps and Rolls, admits to having been inspired by watching chefs cook, Surgeon Cdr Sudeep Naidu, 44, began cooking “to start one new hobby every year.” “I first sampled Tandoori chicken at a dhaba in north India and it was love at first bite!” says businessman Aditya V. Heble. Nothing in Mumbai matched up, so I succumbed to a lifelong fascination with grilling and barbeque. After trial and error, I perfected the recipe.”

Amol Sardesai confessed that he began to cook to impress his girlfriend, “who became my wife. So I guess it worked!” Most men attempted cooking by the age of 20. While some continue to do it to assist mothers or wives, all admit to loving it, even if they are occasional chefs.Heble, now famous among friends, for his tandoori chicken, has gone on to experiment with other cuisines. He is currently perfecting his Lebanese hummus. Hashim Moizzuddin, an adventure travel specialist, corners the market on roasting and grilling meat. “I also toss up a good mutton or chicken curry,” he says.

Regional cuisine seems to be the favourite but a few are global gourmets, cooking everything from Italian and Continental to Thai and Jamaican. Interestingly, vegetarian food and men don’t quite go together. So much so that Vijayakar says: “Vegetables to me are potato, garlic and onion!” Recipes are sourced from everywhere — family, friends, TV, the Internet and even cookbooks—but most men cook by instinct or trial and error. Anthony Tongbram of the popular food blog gets his recipes from his mother and friends. Aniket Pohekar gets his fix from TV shows, Yan Can Cook, Khana Khazana and Tarla Dalal’s cookery show. Wilfred Mathias has the ingenious ability to “prepare a recipe after tasting the dish.”

And, their instincts are obviously spot on because the collective offerings of this group range from the homestyle dal chaval and sambhar rice to the sumptuous stuffed Ravioli with spinach and cheese, topped with spicy mushroom sauce and jerked chicken to exotica like Digonta Bordoloiis bamboo shoot pork. Interestingly, pasta is an all-time favourite with seafood a close second.

Shopping lists throw up a few surprises: cost is not a factor and quality of ingredients and buying seasonal ensures the finest quality. Although every ingredient from meat, seafood and mushrooms to scotch bonnet peppers, coconut milk and East Indian bottle masala are on it, the most favored ingredient is the humble garlic, ginger, spices and red chilies.

Anupam Sehgal stirs up a spicy Thai Curry

Anupam Sehgal, media consultant and global gastronome, says: “The quality of ingredients is the most important factor. The fresher they are, the better your dish will taste and appear.” If you think health and nutrition are alien terms to men, think again. “I have learnt a lot about nutrient values of various vegetables, cereals and pulses and vegetable fat,” says Chennai - based C. Gopalakrishnan, 60.

Aditya V Heble shows of his masterieces - Tandoori Chicken and Hummus !

“I am a great believer in diet food that tastes good, after all diet food should be tasty enough to encourage even a diabetic to enjoy his meal.” Vijayakar, however, is not as mindful of health issues. “All good things in life are either illegal, immoral or unhealthy!” he says.The age of ‘India [men] shining’ in the kitchen brings a refreshing flavour to the dining table. And if they follow Sardesai’s advice: “Clean up when you’re done, it's no fun for the person picking after you, and keep it simple.” It's not about toys in the kitchen.

Pictures by Sanat Tanna
Posted by Picasa

No comments: