When Arvinda Chauhan started her Indian cooking classes 20 years ago, she never envisaged a time would come when South Asian women would be students at her cooking classes.
Her daughter Preena Chauhan says, “We’ve noticed this trend over the last couple of years. These South Asian women seeking help in the kitchen department are often highly qualified and holding great jobs. The demand has grown so much that we’ve now started to offer two-day intensive cooking workshops for young professionals who have to learn to cook the basics in a hurry or otherwise.” Classes are held at their Toronto and Oakville locations.
Thousands of South Asians are now young adults who were born and raised in Canada. Aarti G, is one such thirty-something soon to be married and whose future in-laws casually enquired about the Indian dishes she liked to cook. “At that point I got into a panic because I could not cook Indian. I promised my in-laws that I’d cook them a great Indian meal once we got married and so I had to take classes,” she said.
Many South Asians like her grew up enjoying Indian food at home but never had the patience to learn to cook from their mothers.Then they went off to university, lived on campus and ended up learning to cook basic pasta dishes. Indian food was perceived to be too labor-intensive.
Geeta Maini, the popular Toronto-based author of ‘An Affair with Indian Cooking’ also holds well-attended cooking classes in the city. Indian cooking and its popularity is on the rise and hence there has been a continued surge to learn the art of cooking with Indian spices and ingredients. “My classes have been very popular with Caucasians and I have also had South Asian women at my classes, but never South Asian men. There was an inquiry from a group of males in Toronto but I am not sure what percentage was South Asian.”
Given the surge in the number of South Asian enquiries, Geeta is now offering classes for newly wed couples and brides to be held in Toronto.
Preena Chauhan agrees that many South Asians who attend her classes lived away from home while attending school. On completion of their education, they moved to another city to take up a job or if their parents lived in say Richmond Hill or Mississauga, they chose to rent or own a condo in Toronto to be close to work.
“The hectic pace of work and living on one’s own makes it hard to pick up cooking skills. The only time they realize they need to learn something in a hurry is when they are about to settle down and start a family. That’s when panic kicks in,” she says.
Deepali, a South Asian mother feels, “It is unfortunate many of our children lose out on cooking skills. However the good thing is that although they enjoy foods from all over the world, they still crave Indian food. And it is nice that they are learning to cook it themselves.”