SONGSOPTOK: What, according to you, is the most important place in your house for communicating with the different members of the family? Why?

MANASI SINHA: Mostly at the dinner table & sometimes in the living space we communicate to share our ideas & news.

SONGSOPTOK: In a lot of homes, kitchens are considered to be the nerve center where the whole family congregates at regular periods of the day. Is that the case in your home? Can you give us a brief description of such interactions?

MANASI SINHA: No it's not the case in our family.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you consider cooking as a chore or do you enjoy cooking meals for family and friends? What is it you like most about cooking? What do you like least?

MANASI SINHA: Cooking is a pleasure for me because I cook very rarely. I like the whole process of cooking- starting from cutting the vegetables to making a particular dish. However I don't like to clean the kitchen after cooking is over.

SONGSOPTOK: When you were growing up, did you often visit the kitchen? Was it to raid the fridge or to spend some time with whoever was cooking the meal?

MANASI SINHA:: No as a child I didn't go into the kitchen. There was no fridge to raid & everything was freshly cooked.

SONGSOPTOK: Were the cooks mainly women in your family? Did they teach you how to cook? Do you have family recipes that you cook frequently?

MANASI SINHA: Yes, always the women used to cook in our family with the only exception when my father used to prepare mutton curry on some festive occasion. So also was the case with my husband who excelled in cooking quite a few dishes. No I was never taught any cooking by any of my relatives who used to cook regularly. Whatever little cooking I know learned that when I started working. My circumstances forced me to cook to survive. No, I don't have any family recipe as such.

SONGSOPTOK: Is your kitchen different from your parents’ or grandparents’ kitchens? In what way? Are there features that you particularly miss? Why?

MANASI SINHA:  Yes, it's totally different. My grandparents & parents lived in a village where there was no electricity, no running water facilities, no cooking gear like pressure cooker etc. Cooking was a ritual involving many hands. Wood/ coal were used as fuel for the earthen oven. Everything - from cutting vegetables, grinding spices, cooking to eating- were done by sitting on the floor - the typical floor sitting culture of India. I really miss the fun of warming my hands & also having food sitting close to the oven especially in a winter night.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that cooking habits always reflect the culture and the practices of the societies we live in? Why? Do you consider this to be a positive or a negative point?

MANASI SINHA: Yes, cooking habits in general reflect the culture of a society. As regards Indian cooking it shows how family life has evolved around food & cooking. In the days of joint family system of the earlier times there was participation of several members in the act of cooking distributing the load among themselves. A sense of bonding & cooperation making the work enjoyable & not just a drudgery! The picture in today's nuclear family is different in terms of mode of cooking. Life has become very fast. People can't devote more time for cooking because of their busy schedule. Moreover their taste for food might have undergone some changes due to exposure to different cuisines. Thus cooking habits reflect the pattern of life prevailing at a particular point of time in a society. It reveals how changes in time & social structure bring in changes in life style too. Food habits & cooking play an important role in reflecting the cultural norms in a positive way.

SONGSOPTOK: What kind of food do you like to cook – traditional family dishes / traditional dishes of the country / society you live in / innovative and experimental cooking / fusion cooking / … Will you share some of your favorite recipes with us?

MANASI SINHA: I prefer to cook some traditional dishes of the country ( if I've to cook at all). I'd like to share whatever little I know.

SONGSOPTOK: In this context, do you favor the restaurants that offer the so called traditional food? Or would you rather cook it yourself? What is your experience, if any, about these ‘retro’ eateries?

MANASI SINHA: Yes I like to have some so called traditional dishes from some good restaurant like ‘Chapad Ghanto' ,' Kochur Loti' - the dishes which I don't make at home.

SONGSOPTOK:  ‘Fusion cuisine’ has become very popular almost everywhere around the globe. What is your opinion about this trend? Are you an adept of this type of cuisine? Why?

MANASI SINHA: I like fusion cooking occasionally just for sake of some change. Never tried to do fusion cooking myself.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you watch live cooking shows on TV? What is your opinion about them? Do you think that these programs, immensely popular in almost all countries in the world now, have actually contributed to better cooking and food habits?

MANASI SINHA: No I don't watch live cooking shows on TV.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you teach your children to cook? Do you think that a lot of our traditions can be handed down to the next generation through cooking and food habits? Why and in how?

MANASI SINHA: REPLY: No I haven't taught my children how to cook. When they cook, like their mother, they apply their imagination & common sense. Yes traditions & culture flows through cooking & food habits & that may influence the taste & attitude of the next generation. It forms a link between the past & the present through the fond memories of the dear members who loved to cook, eat & feed others. I firmly believe that the younger members will enrich the tradition & culture with their innovative mind & energetic spirit.

MANASI SINHA: A social person love to interact with people from different cultures. Interested in travelling, reading, listening to music etc. Got the opportunity to come in contact with the bright, young people in her long career as a teacher at IIT Kharagpur.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen

(Editor: Songsoptok)


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