Preparing food with heat or fire is an activity very unique to humans. Most anthropologists believe cooking fire was first developed around 250,000 years ago. Hence forth the development of agriculture, trade, commerce and transportation! With this single new invention ‘pottery’, the cooking has expanded. Zoologist Richard Wrangham believes that cooking has made us human (meaning the calories from the cooked food gave a steady supply of fresh glucose to our brains)! Which is highly disputed and argued by mainstream scientists though…saying that human brain evolved much before the invention of fire!
Anyway, no one has any idea when and by who the first cooked food was made! Evidences from fire altars of the ancient civilizations does not give a clear picture; the fire made would have kept there for keeping the predators away or just for some warmth; or the fire itself could be from the lightning strike!
However, cooked food has become a more than a part of material culture today. That is every known culture, ethnic group, country have their own cuisine to brag about! So, what is cooking after all and how it is made?
Using appropriate cooking method for the type of food being prepared is a major part of cooking. Besides choosing the right ingredients, the culinary art greatly lies on the techniques the cook manifests.
There are many ways to cook food. The difference often comes from historical necessity, geographical location and reflecting economic status and cultural traditions. So, I find it bit hard to divide the cooking techniques simply into two basic categories dry and wet methods! Because every cooking method involves either dry heat or moist heat and sometimes both! Some modernist cooks are also using ultra-scientific techniques to prepare food!!!
Well, I have come up with bit of scientific insight behind the every move in my kitchen. Hope, some of you might find it useful.
|Drying||Ularthuthal||thalanam||When there is an ample of sun rays, one could sun-dry spices and stuff. During cold-winter season, one could achieve the same perfection in a conventional oven.|
|Boiling||Vegavaithadu||pachanam||Boiling is the simplest process most cooks prefer. Yet is is complicated to understand, the boiling point of liquids depends greatly on the atmospheric pressure, so it varies from place to place and even in the same place.|
|Poached||Aviyal||-||Food to be cooked is simply immersed in the boiling water for a brief duration.|
|Boiling Point Increased||-||-||Boiling point could be increased by adding solvents like sugar and salt. So, the resultant solution’s temperature becomes higher. Works well for boiling eggs and potatoes.|
|Pressure Cooking||Dhum (Hindi)||-||Same principal is put to use (boiling) to speed up the process, pressure is maintained with a heavy lid. So that the steam is trapped inside, therefore maximizes the temperature.|
|Boiling Down or Simmering||Kaichudhal||-||Maximum temperature is maintained for longer-period to achieve a consolidated /thickness perfection. Greatly varies from recipe to recipe. Look for the consistency.|
|Cooking Below the Boil||-||-||Boiling point is a handy landmark to rely on. Certain items like greens and fish are usually done before the liquid medium reaches boiling point. Example: rasam tastes better before boiling:)|
|Par-boiled||Puzhungal||kvthnam||Cooked to certain point and then dried for storage purposes. Rice and Potatoes are parboiled to increase the shelf life.|
|Steamed||Aavi-kattudhal||svedanam||Food hardly comes in contact with water, the vessel is designed in such a way that it traps the steam from minimum water used and thereby hastens the cooking process. Its one of the healthiest choice. Example: idlies, modhak, iddiyappams.|
|Seasoning or Tempering||Thaalithal||bhavita||Where the seasoning ingredients are simply heated in little oil or zero oil and expected to produce aroma. Many Indian dishes are tempered finally to appeal our nostril. Sambar, rasam, mor-curry.|
|Saute or Stir-Frying||Vadhakkal||-||The little bit of oil has a role to play in stir-frying. However, if the wok is wide enough, there is a great difference in bringing a perfect dish. Example: Most of the Indian vegetables subzi and poriyal are done this way.|
|Pan-Frying or Braising||Varuval||-||The food is barely covered with oil. The cook often turns it over to the other side to complete frying.|
|Shallow-Frying||Porithal||-||Alright there is little difference in shallow and deep frying. Here, even though its almost the same quantity of oil is used to immerse the food, while cooking…the food is expected to rise to the surface level of the oil. Most of the Indian fried food are ‘surface-fried’. Examples: Poori, Vadai, Bajjis and Pakodas.|
|Deep Frying||Porichadhu||apakva||Deep frying differs from pan-frying in the amount of oil used. Here the food is well-immersed in hot oil. Love Kentucky fried chicken?!|
|Roasting||ularthudhal||-||Where little oil is basted and broiled at desired temperature until certain perfection. Check out the recipe carefully.|
|Dry Roast||Vaatudhal||bharjanam||It is much the same as roasting, without oil.|
|Grilling or Broiling||Theeyil Vaatudhal or Sutta||thanduram||Grilling and broiling are the modern, controlled versions of the oldest culinary technique. Where simply the heat is applied directly. However, in a conventions oven, rack is provided with temperature monitor etc.|
|Microwave||-||-||Heat – Electromagnetic radiation. It affects the polar molecules of the food, therefore food with more water content are heated directly and rapidly by microwaves.|
|Baking||-||putapaka||When we bake food, we greatly depend on a combination of radiation from the walls and hot-air convection to heat. Typical baking temperature is above the boiling point. If you’re a science student you will know…it is nowhere near as efficient as boiling.|
|Spit||-||shula||Spit-roasting is one of the oldest method, where the charcoal or fire wood or even heated rocks works as heat generating medium. And food is usually thrown into it directly to complete cooking.|
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