Do You Really Want to Reduce Cooking Time?

Alma L. Figueroa

Cooking is probably one of the oldest activities or maybe chores that man has been doing. It is my guess that man would have introduced the concept of cooking when he was a hunter and had to eat meat. In my mind, thousands of years ago, cave man would have spent days hunting and trying to get food so he could survive. His life would have been around thinking of ways by which he could feed himself so he could live. As he evolved, the barter system must have come in where he could exchange and hence get some time to do other things. In the present day, food is widely taken for granted and it is a minuscule part of one’s life. The way it is today, I am not quite sure if it is considered an important part of life. I think we have taken the concept of outsourcing and barter a bit too far where we expect someone to nearly prepare our meal and we either finish it up or even worse, just heat it. We have found several other things to do and lost focus on the most important aspect of life – food. Well, I am not a food-aholic but reason I believe food is a very important part of one’s life is because it determines the state of health of your mind and body. As they say, health is wealth, and this is best appreciated when unhealthy!

Going back to olden days cooking method, I am reminded of one of the programmes on the television that showed a celebrity chef visiting India and cooking regional food the traditional way. He cooked meat in a pit in which fire was filled. The meat was well wrapped in banana leaf and all spices loaded over the meat. The banana leaf is supposed to keep the meat moist. My trip to my hometown reminded me of another traditional cooking method – clay pot! The sight of ladies cooking in clay pots on a fire outside the house tempted me to join them. Another traditional process involved fermenting some food stuff. For example, in south Indian cooking, certain batters were allowed to ferment overnight and the bacteria that actually ferment the food helped digestion. I could go on about such traditional process but did you notice what they have in common? Time! They all do take some time to cook but what else is a striking fact is that my ancestors who followed traditional cooking methods lived long healthy life. As our lifestyle has changed, so has our cooking method. There is probably no household without a microwave oven and few households without prepared food ready to heat or eat stocked in the freezer. Microwave oven am sure is considered a blessing by many people who are busy juggling work and family. Challenging it is and I am no exception. I struggle to find enough time to cook good food and did buy a great microwave. And what do I think of it now? Well, here is a summary of some claims I saw on some websites:

1. General advise is not to heat baby milk (breast or formula) in microwave. Obvious reason is that uneven heating could burn baby’s mouth but also that the milk is altered and some key components of the milk like vitamins are lost.

2. Scientists named Hertel and Blanc are said to have found that consumption of microwaved food caused decrease in haemoglobin levels. It is said thatthey also found that huge amounts of radiolytic compounds are formed in microwaved food and these cause deterioration in blood and immune system. They were supposedly stopped from publishing their findings by some powerful organisations.

3. Russian scientists are said to have found that microwave energy caused changes to the cells of the food, be it vegetables or meat or milk, and created carcinogenic structures. It also impairs the immune system and makes it harder for the body to fight cancerous cells.

4. One would think that if it is all that bad for humans, it would have been banned. But it is said that regulatory organisations like FDA, insist more or microwave energy not leaking and harming people around and also one of the popular benefits of using it i.e. less oil and no water thus healthier and more nutrients preserved.

Having read these scary findings, I think it is suicidal to continue eating microwaved food. Better safe than sorry. So, just as I conclude this article, I have decided to sell my microwave oven. Instead here are a few things I plan to do…

1. Plan my meals for the whole week so I have all ingredients stocked. Wherever possible prepare upfront like cut the vegetables, prepare and refrigerate ginger garlic paste, make the basic gravy sauce and refrigerate.

2. Cook big batches over the weekend and freeze couple of portions for me and my husband. Thaw it in the refrigerator on the morning I need it and heat on stove in the evening.

3. Use my convection oven whenever possible and try to reduce fat intake by baking instead of frying.

4. Use traditional methods like cook in clay pot which tends to augment flavour as well.

While it is entirely up to you to decide if you really want to decrease cooking time going the modern way, I would refrain from putting microwave recipes on my food blog.

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