Indian Women And The Expectations Of Being A Culinary Genius

Seema Sethi, Founder of Planet Kitchen

One of the most common expectations from every India woman who is embracing matrimony, is that she must be a culinary genius. Other standard matrimonial expectations such as knitting, weaving, etc may have faded away with changing times, but we still have to tackle this load in our kitchens every day, with spice racks and cooking paraphernalia as our allies, or enemies.

The compulsion to be a good cook

On the eve of Ismat Chughtai’s 107th birth anniversary, social media strategist and award-winning blogger Pooja Priyamvada shared an anecdote from the late writer’s childhood. As a young girl, Ismat Chughtai convinced her father to excuse her from learning how to cook and give her the opportunity to go to school and get an education. Her father countered her pleas by saying, “Women cook food Ismat. When you go to your in-laws what will you feed them?” he enquired.

To this, the noted author quipped, “If my husband is poor, then we will make khichdi and eat it and if he is rich, we will hire a cook.”


This interaction is still relevant today. Year after year, Indian girls even under ten are rerouted to the kitchen from playgrounds or reading rooms. They must start early, so that by the time they are of marriageable age, they can be well versed in the length and breadth of vast Indian culinary landscape.

No matter if you are a successful professional or a scholar, the expectations of at least being a decent cook if not an expert shall always burden you, if you are a member of the female gender. “But I was studying hard to become a doctor, instead of learning to cook,” or “I never had an interest in that department,” are taken as mere excuses and never valid reasons. That Indian women must know how to cook well is the thumb rule in our society.

So what must women do, if they hate it or are not good at it? Must they wave in the white flag and come clean? Must they forever bear the shaming and nagging from family members, for not living up to the set cultural standards in the kitchen?

Perhaps we must throw in the apron and refuse to endure this slow burn any more.


  • All Indian women are expert cooks, is the assumption we must all live up to every day of our adult lives.
  • In our society, it is inexcusable for a woman to not be a good cook.
  • Such expectations often end up shadowing our other achievements, as people fail to see to our capabilities beyond what we put on a dinner plate.

So many girls are rooted from their study time or play time. All because this burden of expectation on Indian women refuses to die down. Even in modern marriages, working women feel less appreciated if they can’t cook properly. Their talent, their paychecks or even accolades and awards don’t matter, unless they are certified kitchen goddesses.

Being a woman in India there is no escape from kitchen duties. Even if you hate them or are poorly skilled.

If you cook well, you must endure with demands and standards as high as of any Masterchef. If you are bad, then you must endure repeated nagging and criticism. And if you lack interest, you must feign one for the sake of household harmony. Little do we realise that this burden only ends up demoralizing us, one way or the other.

This bias in kitchen duties and culinary expectations needs to go down. So that people begin to see women for other aspects of their personalities. Please stop reducing our achievements to merely what we put on the dinner plate.

Picture Credit : Planet Kitchen

Also Read: Helicopter Eela Trailer: More Age-Appropriate Roles In Bollywood Please!

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.