It was back in early 2004 when my dad decided to put me in a boarding school. Since he kept travelling across the country, he decided to put me in a boarding school. While it was the worst day I felt back then, it turned out to become an integral part of my life. There were a lot of things I learned in boarding school. From time management to finances, valuable life lessons and interestingly cooking skills as well.
New Era High School, Panchgani had an interesting concept of vocational courses. Apart from the regular English, Maths, and Science, we had to choose 3 vocational courses every year. These courses had everything from glass painting and soft toy making to website designing (that’s where Atulmaharaj was christened), computer hardware and cooking and baking. One of the courses that I took there was vegetarian cooking. I’m a born foodie, so I was intrigued to learn more about how my food was prepared.
So I enrolled myself on that course back when I was in 8th grade. It’s close to 2 decades since that happened and I must say, the cooking skills that I learnt as a kid are proving to be life savers today. Let me share with you the things that I learned.
Cooking Skills I learnt as a Kid
Understanding the Utensils
The first and foremost thing anyone would learn when they walk into the kitchen is the utensils and the tools used. The kitchen is no less than a laboratory with lots of equipment. Not just plates and spoons, but things like sieves, knives, press machines and whatnot. I remember we spent more than a few hours back then just going through all the utensils in the kitchen.
Today, however, that has gone digital. There are online cooking games for kids that teach about utensils in the kitchen, how to use them and what not. In this age of digital learning, I think such cooking-related games help kids learn faster. They already know about the utensils when they enter the kitchen. Unlike us who were clueless when we first entered the kitchen.
While I didn’t learn about utensils digitally, I’m glad that I understand the most used ones. So whether I’m cooking or helping my mom cook, I know what utensil is needed for what.
Identifying the Ingredients
Vegetables and fruits aren’t the only ingredients used in food. There are spices, herbs and a whole lot of other things that go in your food. And when it comes to Indian food, things become a lot tougher, thanks to the gazillion spices we have. Each of them has a distinct flavour and fragrance to it.
It doesn’t stop there, there are a variety of pulses as well and identifying which one is used to make Sambhar and which one to make dal is still not known to many. Hence it’s a critical cooking skill to have.
I’m glad that I’m good with both. I know the right combination of spices that go in various dishes to bring the flavours out perfectly. I don’t need a ready-made spice mix!
Cooking Processes – Saute, Fry, Grill
How could I not mention the various cooking processes when I talk about the cooking skills I learned as a kid? Cooking isn’t just about putting a pan with a few things on the flame. There are multiple ways to prepare different dishes. Stir-frying, deep frying, grilling, and sauteing are a few of the many cooking processes used commonly in kitchens today. When it comes to Indian food, you need to know a combination of cooking processes to make anything.
For example, the way you prepare biryani is very different from how you make kheer. Or how you make a chapati is totally different from how you make a Bhatoora. I’m glad that I know a few of these cooking processes and that I’m able to cook a variety of dishes. It helps me to not only rely on making noodles!
Safety Above All
Last but not least and the most important is safety. There are a lot of things that happen in a kitchen and hence taking adequate safety precautions is a must. You need to know how the stove works, and be able to control the flame. Understand how various oils and ingredients behave in different environments. Like you cannot add water to hot oil. Or add onions or mustard seeds in hot oil. High chance that oil will spurt and you might have burned.
I understand these things and always ensure that all the electrical gadgets are turned off before I step out of the kitchen. Also, the stoves are turned off and everything is disposed of off as required to avoid any safety hazards.
Kids today can learn more about safety in the kitchen through interactive cooking games. Such intuitive games help children to be cautious before they even enter the kitchen. A boon indeed.
Cooking is a life skill that everyone must know irrespective of their gender. And if we start teaching our kids more about cooking, careers in hospitality etc., it’s going to only help them in future. What are the cooking skills that you learnt and are happy about it? Let me know in the comment below, tweet me @Atulmaharaj, DM on Instagram or Get In Touch.