Cooking Beyond Gender Roles

Written By

Lakshmi A

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When I announce I am going to cook for guests, my husband hurriedly frames sentences in his mind to cover up for the unexpected results. I believe in perfection…in everything I do. I could cook up a perfectly delicious dish, or a perfectly unpalatable one!

At the age of 24, I stepped out of home to experience the great world. I lived abroad for almost 10 years, but can (un)abashedly proclaim that none of those 10 years encouraged me to learn how to cook a palatable meal. For some reason, my rotund figure (I’d like to think it was my sweet, friendly nature too) always inspired my friends and roommates to cook for me and maintain my never-ebbing figure. Not that this bothered me, but in the absence of such angels in disguise, I found that my pockets started to deplete rapidly (unlike my measurements), in search of food from restaurants to satisfy my spoilt appetite.

To add to my woes, I am a vegetarian who does not even consume eggs (yes – I am a hypocritical one who can consume eggs in desserts, though.)

I still remember when I went on a backpacking trip with multi-nationality friends to Morocco; I was the only non-meat eating person. While walking through the sands and villages of Morocco, I would often get asked while the delicious Tagine was being cooked – “If you don’t eat meat, fish and eggs, WHAT DO YOU EAT?”. My husband once jokingly commented that I would eat with the Hippopotamuses when I was in Kruger National park. A chef in Germany once got irate and walked out of his kitchen when the waiter took back my request of food requirements. I often lived on pommes frites in Barcelona since (almost) all the food had egg in it.

I married well! When I married a man who not only cooks great, but also loves cooking, I felt that I hit the jackpot in my life. I don’t know if my husband thinks similarly about marrying me…but that is another story for another day! As an added bonus, all his family members are great cooks as well! And…history repeats itself…they all look forward to feeding me with a variety of delicious foods, while I sit at the table and savour the dishes with all the kids in the family.

If I were to look back in life though, I would want to undo only one thing – which is my resistance to learn some important things due to prejudice. One of them is learning how to cook. Neglecting eating a healthy diet during my stay outside, I ended up having a severe hypothyroid issue. In hindsight, I think I hated the thought of cooking because it was supposed to be a skill a girl must have in order to be a ‘Perfect Bride’. And being a rebel, I wanted to do exactly the opposite of what was expected of ‘my gender’.

I now have two children – an older boy and a younger girl. I can envisage them going on backpacking trips everywhere — enjoying the glorious things that the world has to offer. I want to equip them with all possible life skills — like cycling, swimming, driving, self -defense, speaking different languages and — the ability to eat meat. I would want for their wisdom to prevail while deciding to learn (or not) a skill, not with any prejudice or rebellion, but with a realization that it is a good thing to know (or not!).

As a parent, I’m trying to build a foundation for the adults they’ll be , in small baby steps.

  1. By telling them that we all need to eat, and live in a clean home. So, cooking and keeping the home clean is imperative to any independent adult.
  2. Training them to put away their toys, laundry, books,
  3. Teaching them to at least eat eggs!
  4. Getting them to help to cook.
  5. When they play games, I consciously discourage alluding to any game or activity being a girl thing or a boy thing, or stereotyping any behaviour.

Luckily, I have one of each gender, making it simpler to implement concepts like ‘Equality’ and ‘Work Ethic’ right at home!




Lakshmi Ananthamurthy, almost 40, is the founder and CEO of Siya. She is the Jack-of-all-trades, master of none and has dabbled in Music, Travel, Reading, Sudoku while working in senior level corporate positions across the globe. She is the mother of two young children, who keep her active but not enough to help her lose her baby weight. She tries hard to not take herself too seriously, and is seriously working at it.

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