Cooking of food is an important activity in all house holds as the major objective in life is to lead a comfortable life of high quality. Though the trend of eating away from home is steadily growing due to the pressures of modern life when time is at a premium, home cooking is still cherished by many for the feeling of well being and fully meeting the joy of eating clean, safe and delicious food preparations. Home cooked foods not only ensure palatability and safety, psychologists consider food as a medium to transfer love and affection from the mother to the members of the family. Besides eating to gether as a family enhances bonding, kinship and mutual understanding greatly and consequently improves the societal behavior of people in general. It is another matter that many house holds employ chefs and cooks who bear brunt of the cooking and food is served by the servants, not by the mother!
Though no precise data can be found regarding the ratio of kitchen area to the carpet area of an average household, stray reports do indicate a trend of progressive reduction of space for kitchen activities that ought to raise alarm considering the importance attached to home cooking by nutritionists, psychologists and sociologists. The advent of studio apartment concept has changed the kitchen into kitchenette because of the extremely small area allocated for cooking activity. The rising construction cost and reduced cooking practices contributed to decreasing kitchen sizes in modern housing schemes. Added to this, rapid growth of food processing industry offering RTE food products like retort pouched foods and other formats, extensive use of microwave ovens, refrigerators and freezers, availability of a wide range of kitchen appliances make large kitchen area irrelevant to day leading to ever shrinking kitchens, especially in metropolitan areas where real estate costs are sky high.
A major selling point for the post-war kitchen systems is the convenience factor and no effort is spared to maximize this aspect in modern kitchen designs. Issues that confront the new home builders are many and each one needs to be carefully and realistically assessed before deciding on the size and configuration of the facility. Primary use of kitchen, desired space for working, desired shape and color combinations, extent of time spent in kitchen, frequency of visits to kitchen, frequency of cooking, frequency of entertaining guests at home and their numbers, type of meals cooked, type of flooring, lighting, appliances to be installed, workspace, storage, traffic flow, liking for island kitchen, ventilation and exhaust system all contribute in shaping a kitchen in a modern house. The needs are different for working couples, busy families, serious amateur cooking freaks, professional cooks, senior citizens, families entertaining frequent guests and people with phenomenal 'eating out' habits. The budget also makes a big difference as specialized facilities come for a 'price' that should be affordable.
In India the onus of designing kitchens and appliances does not seem to be earmarked and many western concepts are 'copied' blindly by the builders without looking into their relevance to local foods and their cooking methods. Even the cooking platforms do not have standard designs suiting the physical build of the Indian house wives and even the height of the platform can cause frequent discomfort. Added to this many Indians believe firmly in 'Vastu sastra' which recommends how a kitchen must be designed with reference to the location of stove and other facilities in order to lead a peaceful life. Being a tropical country pests like ants, roaches and lizards pose some problems and blind copying of western kitchen designs can only lead to excellent shelters for these vectors. The spicy foods, use of oils for cooking and frying, generation of kitchen waste and its disposal and improper placement of windows and exhausts can make maintenance a messy job. Low consumption of processed foods necessitates spending more hours in the kitchen and unless the movement in the kitchen is optimized, house wives can end up with posture problems associated with knee joints and ankles. All these call for an integrated approach to kitchen design involving disciplines like food technology, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering areas, health science, orthopedics, physiotherapy and sociology. An institution like CFTRI should take the lead in launching such a national project to evolve kitchen designs and building technologies that suit the physique of ppulation in different states and earn the eternal gratitude of the hapless Indian wives.