To my Swedish classes sometimes I do carry lunch - the last few times it was some rice variety with veggies or greens. Of course a different one every time, given my appetite for good variety of food and love for cooking. I was initially apprehensive to carry Indian food, with so many flavors, but as i got to know my friends' love for food and their readiness to try out different cuisine I got comfortable.
Some of my new non Indian friends here, are especially fond of Indian food - and more of the spicy, hot varieties. And I do offer them my rice whenever they are around and being great foodies that they are, they relish my methi rice, spinach rice, rajma masala and so on.
The most common question I'm asked is "Do you cook everyday?"
"Yes I do", I say. The fact is, I cook twice a day - like most of us Indians - Breakfast and lunch to be packed in the morning and something fresh for dinner in the evening. That makes it three mostly different meal a day! When the fact that I do cook everyday itself is quite indigestible, I do not mostly get into the details!
And then I'm asked for details like whether I cook in the evenings and save the leftovers for lunch next day, how long do i spend in the kitchen, whether I cook before breakfast or after breakfast and so on. [The fact is most of us Indians do make breakfast too - cereals and bread are only emergency breakfast items for us :) ]
And they wonder how many hours a day I slog off in the kitchen. But the fact is that cooking fresh for every meal hardly takes a lot of time - especially when you have some experience and when you like it. How long does it take to make a flavored veggie rice, for example? Cook rice in a pressure cooker, and while it is cooking or cooling, saute some veggies in a pan along with some spices and mix it with the rice! Tada! Yes, it is that simple! And those who do know cooking did agree with this - it doesn't take more than 15 minutes of your active time - especially here, when most veggies are available in frozen form! This is it, unless I'm trying out some extravagant item for the love of cooking.
This left me wondering how different our lives are and what could be the reason for this...
Firstly, I've grown up eating fresh food for every meal, almost always... and that has continued even after marriage at the in-laws' place. And it was the same even when I had a full time, super busy life. So it is in a different country too, where you get ready made foods of all kinds. Food and cooking has been an inseparable part of our lives. When I can't or on't want to cook, D offers to cook. Not that we do not eat out, but it is something we do occasionally or the fun of trying out different places, or when we really feel like it.
Second, the concept of frozen foods for us Indians is quite new. And I bet many have not yet embraced that lifestyle yet. Refrigerators are a recent inclusion in our kitchens. And we hardly know about the freezers - except for the small compartment at the top of the refrigerator, that is used to store ice-creams or to make ice cubes!!
Thirdly, we believe that eating fresh and homemade is healthy.
And not to forget many of our elders' beliefs that left overs should not be eaten the next day. In many households even today, cooked stuff are not stored in refrigerator, let alone frozen!
Of course many urban families have embraced the western culture of frozen and ready to eats, but I'm sure there is a large chunk of people like me who still hold on to the old roots!