A few decades ago, weddings in the Konkan Catholic households used to be a common sight. There were no marriage halls and the food was prepared with the help from all the neighbors and relatives. But as the years passed we can find changes in the lifestyle led to the formation of caterers who started to serve food on every joyous occasion.
In every house, a home cooked meal by a mother is considered to be healthy and hygienic. However, due to the high intensity of physical work the catering industry has always been male dominated. Women who are very few in number because of various reasons are restricted to cutting and cleaning. Among the handful, a woman stands tall to be a cook in one of the catering agencies since seventeen years.
Nelcy D'souza, a resident of Eliyarpadavu parish near Konaje and a mother of three and grandmother of a baby girl redefines the presence of women in this industry. Any task from cutting to finalizing the taste of a cuisine she is admired to be one among the best and remains to be the only women cook in the catering industry of South Canara.
In an exclusive interview with Konkancatholic.com she explains the various challenges to be a homemaker and a cook to prepare five thousand meals per day simultaneously.
Q: Please explain your journey of being a cook?
A: In the year 2000 when my last son was five, I joined a relative of mine who used to work as a helper in one of the catering agencies near Konaje. After a couple of years I was given the responsibility of being the main cook which I manage even today. I learned cooking from my ancestors and cooking in a large scale requires more physical work. I somehow could manage it and even after seventeen years they (Catering agency) are not ready to leave me. And hence I have started training a male to be a cook and until he is well versed in the process I have to discharge my duties.
Q: How were you able to be a homemaker in spite of being a cook?
A: My major concern was feeding the family along with their upbringing. My mother in law and an aunt of mine managed the cooking while I was away and people from my neighborhood and family took care of my children. So without much burden I could engage in this profession and my family has been always supportive to me.
Q: How does your cooking process begin?
A: We go to the caterer's place the previous day and prepare the items along with the masala. The next morning we start cooking at 5 AM as the food has to be ready by 10 AM. Except a few women, most of them are men who manage the business.
Q: How is the experience as women in the male dominated industry?
A: More than Catholics the non Catholics are very respectful. We have a lot of things to learn while respecting a woman. The journey has been a memorable one as I will soon retire from this profession. Now, it’s my dream to be a good grandmother to my grand children.