About a decade ago, the world was introduced to a little animated film and its very humble claim, ‘Anyone can cook’. At the time, quite unsurprisingly, this innocent phrase had everyone on the screen and in the audience justifiably baffled. But time is a strange teacher, is it not?
Today, as I take a few scrolls down Facebook I lose track of how many pairs of hands I have seen showing me the right way to crack an egg, the correct proportion of mutton to rice for an authentic Kabuli pulao, and the perfect one-pot pastas.
These hands come in all colours and sizes as well. Sometimes you even see an artistic daemon in the spirit of the film, All Hallows’ Eve. Every now and then you also see a face. And then there are the masters whose every flick and twist of a wrist seems to produce a culinary Adonis.
These brushes painting this new map have settled quite comfortably in the colours of the east as well. Where once our round-bottomed clay handi was too pedestrian to be deemed suitable to even sit inside an opaque kitchen cabinet, it is now an ambassador of rustic chic. Every now and then, one of the arms we see in a video on our homepage is decorated with gold and kaanch bangles, and the concluding ‘aray vah’ at the end of a video by Food Fusion draws an almost imperceptible smile of proud ownership on desi faces.
The marriage between the fast-paced modernity of the Internet and the proud chalices of cultural heritage, such as the inimitable Zubaida Apa has, without a doubt, left its own distinguishable imprint.
The digital world, it seems, has become a seamless bridge between the rookies and the professionals. Everyone is either a Nigella Lawson or Gordon Ramsay. And if your skills are refined beyond the comprehension of your measly competition, and you feel a little self indulgent, you might even be a Heston Blumenthal.
What has made so many of us equal to, or even better than, five star chefs in our own eyes though? The answer could be very simple. We live in an age that rewards those who are well-versed in the art of scrolling and clicking. All one needs is a craving for a certain combination of flavours, and with but a few clicks an infinite cavern of mouth-watering creations is within your grasp.
This easy access to what were once family secrets ritualistically passed down from generation to generation, has on the one hand made everyone a cook, and on the other, stripped away the mystery that once made it a wonder.
It is no secret that every generation has a gift for glorifying its own heyday. But perhaps something that we are all guilty of brushing under the carpet is our inclination to accuse the past for being archaic and the future for being disrespectful and lacking in ‘true character’.
Read also: Confessions of a terrible cook
However, is there really something wrong with keeping up with the times? After all, physics was once a branch of philosophy until its theories became experimentally testable, thus graduating into becoming a hard science. Should the world have held on to their now redundant beliefs simply out of nostalgia? Must we now look down on those who take advantage of their easy access to the culinary secrets that were once guarded under lock and key? The comparison may be a bit dramatic, but it does make a point.
And like every change, this too comes as a double-edged sword. Now that we have been given words to describe the fine differences between tart and sour, perfectly done chicken instead of slightly underdone or a disastrously overcooked abomination, and even the density of maash ki daal ke baray versus moong ki daal ke baray, every single person is a self-proclaimed food critic and/or a foodie. I don’t think I would be too surprised to one day see someone trying a whiff of the bouquet of a fruit salad.
On the other side of the coin, we also have a steadily blooming cottage industry. The sheer number of urban women and men running moderate to extremely successful businesses from their homes is fascinating. Many of these enterprising individuals could be the owners of the hands we see in those Facebook videos. Many others could have found the courage to finally step out of their shell and offer the ‘foodies’ around them a feast that could appease their cravings.
And then there are the driven independent youngsters or the students living away from home who might have come to the conclusion that cooking on their own might save them a few bucks. For those who don’t have the strongest grip on what the written instructions on the masala boxes actually mean, these videos are like a beacon of hope that, at least for tonight, they might not have to resort to a watery mess, instead of the edible qorma they are aiming for.
Anybody can have any number of feelings on the matter, but that in its own right is a testament to the impact of the tide. Whether it was first triggered by the Instagram community obsessively putting up pictures of their exotic meals or by young aspiring chefs who took a leaf out of the music industry’s book by putting their work out on social media, establishing their own market and opening up their prospects, the fact is that this is our reality today.
Food is now one of the arts. It cannot be contained by boundaries. It produces celebrities. And it gives everyone that little space where you don’t have to make do with the pots and pans and jars in your kitchen as the sole audience of your flare as you create your concoction, you can actually share it with the world. And above all, anyone can cook.