Tuesday, October 04, 2011

"LEAVE THE DAMN THING ALONE!" or how to teach men to cook!

I actually had a stomach ache when I arrived Le 15. I was mentally cursing myself! What in heaven’s name had I been thinking with a cooking class for men! What if no one came?...  What if someone did! When the men who were going to be part of the class all traipsed in, I actually had a moment of blanking out! Would I be a laughing stock? Gosh what bundle of nerves I was!

When I teach, I follow my instincts and for my mens cooking class, I had changed the way I did things. I kept cooking utensils to a minimum, using a frying pan and a saucepan and constructed the class around 3 basic ingredients - Potatoes, Pasta and Chicken with basic vegetable preparations to round things of. I wanted to teach simple recipes and teach them how to cook them perfectly.The idea was to use template recipes that used simple ingredients that could be to mixed and matched into meals for any occaission from a balanced everyday meals to fancy dinners. Here is what I did and what I need to remember for future use.
From watching my husband I knew that men don’t like to ask for help. Just like when they are driving, they will map their route on a GPRS but refuse to ask directions! They need recipes, where everything is very clearly put down a roadmap with specific landmarks. So I went right back to my beginnings when I didn't know how to make anything. What I had not anticipated, what were the questions I had? I laid down recipes as clearly as I could. Talked about knife skills, following recipes, preparing a mise and plating food. I realised I was on the right track, when we got down to it, but I realised I missed out one important thing. What to do when they took a wrong turn. The big question through out was what were the mistakes that could be made and how to correct them.

So things began, we engaged with the potatoes, got turned on by the sausage fry and chorizo and were on a definite high by the time the Naga Chilli Vodka Chicken hit the pan. But then the vegetables came out! Two tine simple vegetable preparations were my attempt at sneaking nutrition into meals because men are very vociferous about meat and consider vegetables beneath them, but those same vegetables can make a world of difference to their health. It was no different from coaxing kids to like vegetables! As I talked about the importance of vegetables, demonstrated how to turn a salad into a complete meal and prep and blanche vegetables to complete plates the gleam in their eyes dulled, the excitement in their voices deadened until ultimately silence reined. 

Uh oh...

I could see something needed to be done! So I brought out my cheese and butter and threw them into the melee. It did resuscitate things marginally but the pan fried chicken breast in white wine sauce was what really got the mojo back into the class! I showed them how to even out a piece of chicken to cook it well and suddenly we were rocking again! We had just one rolling pin, so vodka bottles were brought into use by the innovative male mind and in a matter of minutes we ended up with a variety of chicken pieces from pulverised and paper thin to super fat! I had prepared to let them impress me. If they wanted to try something ambitious, I was going to let them! I patiently stood back and let the first of them start cooking their chicken. I was not going to offer help unless asked. And gently critique so his skills will improve.
Here is the biggest difference between men and women in the kitchen - they lack patience. They want things to happen FAST. Every single one of my students that day just would not leave their pieces of chicken alone; stiring, fidgeting, turning to check! Until I was reduced to a screeching at them them to “JUST LEAVE THE DAMN THING ALONE!"  Which made one of my students turn around and tell me “You are a very intimidating teacher!”  Thankfully when we plated up the chicken, I was redeemed. I sent them off with bottles of Naga Chilli Vodka in the hope that, it would wash away any memory of Rushina the harridan!

On a serious note, I was very happy to see so many men at my mens cooking class from different walks of life, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, marketing . Cooking is a basic survival need today with men marrying late and living alone. Of course they can get a cook and will eventually marry someone who will organise food but why be dependent on others? Why eat out and ruin one’s health? There are MANY Indian men who feel that it is important that they divide the house work with their wives. And there also lots of men who are closet cooks. I have so many men in my life, my Dad, my brothers and friends who have no ego hassles about cooking, they willingly pick up pots and pans and dish up deliciousness. In fact my husband has grown into a prolific cook and an exemplary baker, finding cooking as a way to distress and engage with our children. 

Infact one extremely heart warming discovery has been the singular devotion men have to cooking for their families; their parents, significant others or children. And most men have inbuilt instincts for cooking. So its a fallacy that men cannot cook and it is mostly the fault of us women that men believe that they cannot cook or choose not to cook. Whether they cook out of necessity, or enjoyment the fact is that there are many Indian men who cook. As mothers and wives, we hinder them getting into the kitchen because we believe that is out space, our job, they don’t know how or worse, because they are messy and cleanup is a pain. To all of this I say, we were not born cooking, we learnt, and they will too!

MORE COOKING CLASSES - I am loving my cooking classes so here is the line up for my classes in October with Tadka - Gourmet gifts from your kitchen, and Tadka Spicecapades for children between 9-12 in October. For those of you that complained I was bein chauvinistic by doing a men’s only cooking class we have a beginners cooking class for all in early Nov. Here is the link to the schedule. DO spread the word. http://a-perfect-bite.blogspot.com/p/shedules-classes-demos-gastrotours.html

Cooking for Giving
There is no greater joy that that of feeding people and A Perfect Bite joins Courtyard by Marriott in its mission to bring smiles to people through a unique activity during Joy of giving week. On October 7, 2011 I will teach a selection of signature “A Perfect Bite” recipes followed by a lunch of the same dishes. While there will be no charge for the lunch, the Courtyard by Marriott has designed a miniature edible Marriott donation box to collect donations that will be given to the Marriott Home as a part of the Rising Star Outreach program in Chennai.
Date  Friday: October 7 Time :1:00pm - 3:00pm,  Location: Courtyard By Mariott, Andheri (not Juhu) Mumbai, Mumbai International Airport | C.T.S. No 215 Andheri Kurla Road | Andheri East | Mumbai 400 059 | For registrations Contact: Alankar Thombre/ 8108182152 Please note there are limited seats. Please call above number to get confirmed registration.

More pictures! 


Rahul said...

Wow.. Would like to take one of these classes for men.. :) Thanks

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Anonymous said...

Very cool!

Anonymous said...

Very cool!

Sunayan said...

Wow Rushina! lol this looks fun!