Eat well, stay well and please God

  • Renuka Narayanan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 05, 2015 15:49 IST

They say that in a bad economy it's important to make yourself feel good. The habit of eating home-made food can be very helpful at such times. We save on the expense of going out or ordering in, we do our digestion and general health the greatest favour and we can, in a cheerful way, convert a disconnected hour spent passively at the laptop or TV into a family hour of shared activity with immediate reward.

That may sound like an idealised situation but is it really so unattainable? Not if we try, perhaps. Those who live alone and may habitually order-in would also feel good if they see cooking for themselves as a healthy, happy hobby. Evenings would be pleasantly productive instead of the TV vacuuming mind, body and spirit.

There are many user-friendly manuals for those who'd like to start cooking at home and one such is 'The Slim Punjabi' (2013) by Harmeet Kaur.

Since being able to cook 'paushtik ahar' is such an important life-skill, I wonder how it would be if it's taught in school with other integrated DIY skills as 'Home Science'? (It would certainly play its part in teaching democratic and interfaith values). Think also of how many children come from motherless or dysfunctional homes with not one kind, reliable person to teach them how to stay well-fed. Just as tragic, think of all the children who despite having everybody and everything in place are nevertheless being fed a massive diet of junk food.

From a practical point of view, I certainly wish I'd been taught such 'home science' at school, including first aid and being able to deal with minor electrical issues and neatly repair things with screwdrivers, pliers and wire - the small, necessary skills that everyone should ideally know. The only household skills I had at 18 were being able to do the flowers and mix a decent Bloody Mary. I wrote out my recipe for my father's tennis breakfast and he said his buddies made copies.

Over the years I learnt useful tips from better-educated friends like how to cover a small, unsightly hole in a regulation cream-painted wall (plug it with toothpaste mixed with turmeric) and how to patch up chipped gilding on picture frames (paint with the matching shade of gold nail polish). These knacks can be important when you're expecting company. After all, a pleasant home by general reckoning is not a place with expensive things in it but rather a place that is clean, with good lighting and good food on our plates. Again, it's not about how many dishes or expensive ingredients. It's the quality of food that matters and in most cases in India, a home-made dinner or potluck can't be bettered. Obviously the best ingredients are the affectionate attention of our hosts and good party manners of guests.

That matters more than anything else, especially in hospitable India. These universal graces are said to be good religion. So teaching children a suitably adapted version of 'Home Science' could actually be a matter of teaching practical spirituality and raising self-reliant, well-nourished generations.

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