14 September 2010

Criticizing The Cook

I remember when I was a child (some would argue that I still am), and was at the dinning table for a meal with my family. We prayed together and dug in. My foster sister had prepared the meal as usual. This time, something wasn't quite right. It was a long time ago and I don't recall what was wrong with it or what I said out loudly to let everyone know my grievances. What followed has remained with me to date. I got the worst scolding ever. I was rebuked so badly that I thought I had committed one of the top 5 sins known to man. Never again did I ever criticize someones cooking, at least not out loud! Even now, doing so is just not an option.

After I was rebuked by my parents (I think it was my mother), I never thought about it again really. I just knew never to do it again. The next time I thought about it was when I was in South Africa. I was staying with my Uncle and his family over there for a while. When I went to be with them, I remember sitting at the table that first evening and exhaling a sigh of relief and accomplishment having succeeded in leaving "Nshima land". I thought I'd never eat Nshima again for as long as I'd be there. My eyes almost fell out of their sockets when the dish lids were removed and there stood in front of me, a pile of Nshima. And I was even more disappointed to find that they ate it more than we did back home. Anyway, I remember one evening settling down to eat with fellow dependants when during the meal, the oldest criticized the cooking of one of the young ladies who had prepared the meal. I braced myself expecting to see some object flying towards the face of the critic or someone rebuke him for doing what he did, but nothing happened!

That happened many times after that and each time I looked at the face of the criticized cook, I realised why I got in trouble for doing so even as a child. Here is someone who is not getting paid to put in all those half hours and all that effort, and perhaps cooks for the family several evenings a week as weeks turn to months and months to years. Surely that person must be praised and thanked and not criticized. Even if their cooking is a four on a scale of one to ten, they should be honoured just for doing it. Probably the only person who is at liberty to criticize would be the fellow or co-cook. And so that experience in SA reinforced what I had learnt at home, "never criticize the cook".