Videos of an old man tossing salt and spices expertly over a meter-wide vat filled with freshly cut vegetables placed on a wood fire or watching an old granny in a crumpled sari, hunched in the middle of a lush green field, stirring over three dozen boiled eggs in a fiery red gravy, are mesmerising, to say the least.
There are plenty of these YouTube videos featuring large scale cooking, with millions of subscribers watching and loving every moment of these rustic cookouts.
This is the exact opposite of the snazzy videos featuring dishes of Michelin starred restaurants being replicated with delicate flourishes of flaked truffle or a sprig of chive balancing on well cooked steak.
It is plain to see how rural cooking satiates our visceral and even "organic" tastes watching a fuss-free cook dunk huge amounts of ingredients into a vat of sizzling oil, under a blue sky.
It is a relief to watch cooking in an open field, since we have moved to the other extreme of being indoors all the time. We have surrounded with all comforts of modular kitchens where the drawers shut with a whisper. There is no unpredictability, and everything is measured.
There is nothing left for us to commune with nature, unless of course we sign up for nature walks or selected camp outings. For vacations, the hotel swimming pool is just about as much open space we allot ourselves.
When it comes to food, no one wants to be like Bear Grylls, the British adventurer famous for his TV show Man Vs. Wild, and live on raw fish or rabbit. City slickers are not ideal subscribers for survival cooking, unless it comes from a packet.
But the popularity of these videos of large scale cooking makes us forget about buttons, monitors, beeps and alarms. These cooking videos hosted by elderly ‘grandparents’ tap into our need an escape from rigid routines.
Grandpa’s kitchen, is another popular channel with over 2.2. million subscribers. It is hosted by an elderly Narayana Reddy sitting next to a large pan set over a wood fire, in the middle of a lush field in a remote village of Telangana, cooking hot dogs! An American dish, being made for orphans kids from his village.
He even cooks donuts, Homer Simpson worthy doughnuts complete with colourful sprinkles, a decadent chocolate cake heavy with chocolate chunks, a massive cheesy vegetarian pizza, and piping hot healthy chicken soup all over a wood fire.
The videos get him compliments from his fans all over the world. He doesn’t talk to the camera, he doesn’t explain the recipe. He just cooks, and you can see the kids enjoy his fare with relish. Then you have Mastanamma from Andhra Pradesh who is allegedly ‘106 years old’. She cooks up fish pickle, butter chicken, chilli chicken and her own special watermelon chicken (chicken curry cooked inside a watermelon) with flair. She wraps up each cookout with a gummy smile, before the comments come flooding in.
Sixty-year-old Arumugam from Tamil Nadu, called Daddy on his channel, has over 30 million views for his videos of cooking quail, prawn, crabs and even a 25 kg saw fish.
Perhaps watching Grandpa, Daddy or Mastanamma cook reminds us of our grandparents fussing over us. The way they chop and stir takes us back to our own ancestral homes. There is no running commentary, just visuals that hark on how food was cooked back in the day.
The videos are not much help to replicate the recipe but as you sit cooped up in an office, you can click on these videos and be transported to a field, surrounded by birdsong with a feast being cooked up for you.
Sharon Fernandes is a journalist based in Delhi.