Kill it with Kindness

This post is long overdue. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a symposium on “Remembering Charles Darwin”, during which the concept of Parent-Offspring conflict was extensively discussed. One aspect of the Parent-Offspring conflict was the constant attention-seeking tactics of the child, which caused the parents to devote their attention to the offspring, thereby preventing them from having the time to create more progeny. The parents, of course, cannot blame their young one for this particular phenomenon, and so the unconceived sibling is effectively “killed” by the kindness that the parents show towards the child.

This concept sent me a long way back to when I had read “The Taming of the Shrew”, where Petruchio alleges that he is killing Kate’s spirit, but he is doing it with kindness. His definition of kindness is rather crooked, for he categorises starving his wife and depriving her of sleep as kindness. In his defense, brutality at that time was physical abuse, so this kind of psychological trauma could be seen as kindness, if only in a very screwed up way.

But the phrase has evolved considerably since the Bard used it, and today it has taken on a different meaning entirely, one which is much closer to the one referenced in the case of the Parent-Offspring conflict. Today, to kill with kindness is to shower the subject of your affections with so much kindness and love, that they (figuratively) choke on the intensity of the emotion. We see it more commonly that we assume, with couples constantly asking for “space” from each other, or children needing “time” away from their parents, or any other of the myriad of examples available.

Even literature has reflected this change. The expression of affection has become more and more superficial over the years, be it the teary-eyed romance of The Fault In Our Stars or the pseud-passionate love affair of *shudder* The Fifty Shades of Grey. Art forms, in general, seem to have taken it upon themselves to be proponents of this new form of kindness genocide, with increasing amounts of pop music reflecting sickly sweet ideas which are not only gag-worthy but also completely ineffective.

The popular song by Florence and the Machine entitled “Dog Days Are Over” inevitably comes to mind when discussing this concept. To those who may not have heard this song, there is a line in it which goes: “she killed it with kisses”, and that line, for me, is a perfect representation of this idea.

We have, in my humble opinion, lost the subtle art of expressing ourselves and our emotions effectively, without making unnecessarily overt gestures. Only the other day, I was reading something written by an acquaintance of mine, and couldn’t help but notice that a very simple (and very overused) concept had been presented with gross overuse of words and an unflattering amount of literary elements. Everything stated in that page long passage could have been better expressed in a simple paragraph by a competent writer, and, of course, got me thinking.

Is it simply an unprecedented extrapolation of the age old adage “the more the merrier” which has landed us here today, at a stage where we feel it necessary to pile things on to such an extent that we eventually end up crushing our object itself?  If so, proverbialism has done us a great disservice.

In keeping with the theme of this post, I shall stop writing here, with deep hope in my heart that the mass murder of things by kindness will cease shortly.

The Science of Cooking

For many years now, I have been dabbling in the fine arts of the culinary and, indeed, have come to associate cooking with my hobbies and, I may be deluded here, my talents. Hard as I may try to think back to my first excursion into the kitchen or my first “dish”, I find that I cannot in honest faith recollect those initial incidences. I had what would seem an Athenian birth; wielding spatulas and cooking pans as I emerged fully robed in Chef whites.

Though I cannot precisely point to the event where my journey into the world of gastronomy began, I can certainly illustrate the time period where I finally realised that there was much more to food and cooking than the utilitarian nature which I had thus far believed. Soon after indulging in the sacred practice of cooking, I began to appreciate the skill of cooking for its aesthetic appeal and its sheer artistic value. My cooking procedure, which had earlier consisted only of following the recipe to the teaspoon, now comprised the usage of the appropriate amount of ingredients and making the food look good. Of course, being all of nine years old at the time, the extent of my presentation was chopping up some coriander and sprinkling it on top of whatever it is that I had cooked.

From there on, my journey through the world of cuisine was unending and unblemished, even by the sheer number of erroneous experiences I’d had. I then started to pay more attention to the ingredients, and the way those ingredients interacted with other ingredients, and every other concept of food imaginable right down to wine pairings, but vehemently ignoring calorific content, for obvious reasons. I soon reached that point where cooking became as intrinsic a way for the expression of myself and as great a necessity to my existence as writing itself, which is saying something.

Maybe a year or so ago, some of the steps during cooking which were a given (using a cold egg for baking; marinading meats in oil; allowing butter to melt before adding in the garlic; etc.) seemed to me to stem out of nowhere, and yet they were very necessary pieces of advice. If you have tried to use a warm egg for baking, you’ll know that the result is never quite as satisfying. Being the curious little child that I am, I found myself thinking on end about the reasons behind these idiosyncrasies and realised that since all food substances were, in fact, chemicals, there must be some reactions taking place here. And thus began my journey into the scientific approach to food.

I have been berated many times for “ruining” the artistic nature of cooking by making it technical and scientific, but I see it as further beautification of an already mesmerising phenomenon. To find out why ingredients behave the way they do, and what you can do to accentuate them even further, is to me a very stimulating idea. Of course, being an aspiring genetic engineer means that the idea of manipulation of natural entities for greater output is much more romantic to me than to others, who see the calculated precision of modifying ingredients as nothing short of blasphemy.

Of course, over time I have become rather skilled at ignoring the pointless droning on and opinions of those I obnoxiously call less aware. And so bearing my scientific approach proudly upon my sleeve, I set forth on my journey to explain the unfathomable divinity that is cooking with the help of science and thereby using this newfound knowledge to excel in the field of amateur chef-ness.

And so, earlier today, The Science of Cooking was born. It is yet another blog which I have started on the very nurturing platform that is WordPress (the other one is “Archives” if ever you have the desire to delve into amateur poetry). As the name suggests, The Science of Cooking is all about the chemistry and biology and physics and math of cooking and takes an empirical spin on the classic cooking techniques and recipes, as well as bringing up new, and experimentally tried, ways of making the kitchen life easier.

Please do check out The Science of Cooking; it promises to be great.