When cooking becomes an ordeal
Unavailability of cooking gas and kerosene has hit the city dwellers hard in recent times. To add to the woe is declining mercury level. Go anywhere and the conversation begins with ‘the’ question, “How are you managing cooking gas?” Unfortunately, this question has become an integral part of everyone’s life. Whatever the problem, one has to live, for that you have to cook and eat. Gone are days when this sentence was just a
mere sentence. Yes, there is a problem, and we can’t let things be, so we search for alternatives to cook. Let’s explore.
Almost a saviour
The first and promising alternatives were induction heaters, and infrared heaters. These heaters come with 200 to 2,000 watts and operate accordingly as per the programme set in the equipment. “There are various cooking options on it and if one needs to operate it then s/he can switch on the desired button,” informed Anu Magar, Supervisor at Esquire TV Centre, New Road.
These two appliances may sound similar, but the difference is — infrared is similar to normal heater. It has coils inside. Food can be cooked in the utensils that you normally use in your home. One doesn’t need to buy separate utensils for cooking. But aluminium utensils are not compatible in both the appliances. And cooking food consumes less time (around 15 to 20 minutes) in induction heater as per Magar.
These were the best options and not worrying despite of dearth of LPG was nearly too good to be true, when the downside caught up. Firstly, induction heaters need steel utensils with flat surface so you have to bear extra cost. You will need a separate frying pan, pressure cooker and similar other utensils. And with power cut, will the money you spend be worth regardless of what heater it is?
There was a time when “sales of these items soared in such a way that people even didn’t get space to stand inside the shop”, shared a shopkeeper in condition of anonymity. Though both the machines save energy, the recent power cuts “has resulted in decline in their sales”.
For Bijaya Sharma, 53-year-old resident of Koteshwor, life at this point is indeed challenging as there are empty gas cylinders lying at her home. Humans always find a way to survive no matter what, that is how we are built. So, Sharma started “cooking in firewood as there is no other alternative”. Some of her relatives suggested to buy an induction heater but she didn’t find it worthy for obvious reasons.
She resorted to chulho (traditional mud stove). She made it at her home and “there are woods available in the local wood godown”. Cooking in LPG was easier as cleaning utensils didn’t need much effort. Even weather is not in the favour. Emitting harmful fumes, chulho needs to be placed in the open making the usage “comparatively difficult. It is cold outside, and I sit there engulfed in smoke with teary eyes. But one has to survive and that is what we are doing”, she manages a smile. So with limited options, people like her are switching to chulho.
Soaring price disappoints again
Heaps of ready to use wood pieces look tempting at Khaadadevi Kastha Udhyog, Jadibuti (what age have we come to!), but how can it be so easy.
To facilitate in cooking Yam Bikram Ghising started selling firewood. “I didn’t sell firewood till Tihar. As people were seeking for alternatives for cooking gas and visited my godown to buy logs, I began selling it,” said Ghising. Despite difficulty to cook in chulho many can’t afford induction heaters and other alternatives. So, logs become the best bet as “they are cheaper. This is why the sale of wood has drastically gone up immediately after the economic blockade”, Ghising adds.
Other than the traditional chulho, bhuse chulho, baayupankhi chulho and other items have become available in the market. And sale of such items will obviously rise, agrees Sharmistha Kayastha, Proprietor of KK Phalame Saman.
Increase in demand will automatically lead to price rise and the complains are not baseless. “In normal situation it used to cost around Rs 50,000 to bring the logs from Sarlahi to Kathmandu,
but now it costs around Rs 1,50,000 to bring the same amount of wood in the Valley,” Ghising defends the price hike. Not only wood, but the demand for wooden dust also has drastically increased as people are resorting to bhuse chulho lately.
As you find a way out, there is some obstacle waiting to pounce. This is the reality Nepalis have been facing everyday since last three months. Leaving one frustrated comes naturally, but giving up is not an option. All we can do is try and hope that soon we will be able to cook a meal without worrying how to do so...