Nita Mehta is a widely recognized pioneer in the food industry who is best known for her cookbooks, cooking classes and as a celebrity judge on cooking based television shows. Mehta has authored more than 400 cookbooks of which 6 million copies have been sold worldwide.
In an exclusive interaction with Nitish Raj, The Policy Times, she comments on the changing preferences of Indians at the dinner table and how television shows on cooking are binding families together.
Q1: Why is cooking a male-dominated industry whereas the popular belief in our society is that it’s them women who are good cooks?
NM: This field needs a lot of time and for women, to balance their professional and personal time is quite cumbersome. This is the sole reason of this industry being a male-dominated one.
Q2: Why is cooking seen as a matter of common sense in our country rather than an art form?
NM: Not really! Today cooking is seen as an art and chefs are given due importance and remuneration. But still people do not want their sons to be a chef.
Q3. There has been a dearth of institutions in India focusing on cooking. Is there any particular reason or we do not feel the need?
NM: There are quite a few home management institutes. We at our institute, focus on making homemakers and for the specialization in restaurants, we have different classes.
Q4: What has been the contribution of Snab Publishers in enriching the tradition of cookery in India?
NM: Snab which stands for Subhash (my husband), Nita (me), Anurag (my son), Bhavna (my daughter) was a result of the rejection of publishers. They were of the belief that a book on cookeries won’t sell. So instead of giving up, I founded Snab. Even though my first book did moderate sales, Paneer: All The Way made me what I am today because no other book on paneer was written before then.
Q5: The foreign cuisines are always criticized for being health-degrading in the name of fast food. To what extent is this true?
NM: Not really! The spices and herbs are different to what we use. The main ingredients are same along with the procedure and technique. If we are considering restaurant food, that’s a different thing as the normal restaurants add MSG (monosodium glutamate) which makes it unhealthy. If we go to a high-end restaurant, their ingredients are healthy with vibrant green vegetables.
Q6: Indian foods are always criticised for their lack of nutritional value. Do they really lack or is it a result of our misconception?
NM: No, it’s not like that. Every food becomes the way you cook it. We lose the nutritional value due to overcooking as we are accustomed to the flawed habit. Adding extra ghee and butter also results in loss of nutritional value.
Q7: In India there are various opinions regarding vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. People are quite contrary when it comes to advocating their food habits. What is the reality?
NM: It’s just about our choice. There is nothing like if we do not eat non-veg, we can’t remain healthy or vis-a-vis. It is just the selection of our diet which makes us healthy. Whether it is vegetarian or non-vegetarian, both have a lot of healthy items in the offing.