Global Mom Relay: Cooking that is killing children

By Global Moms Challenge

March 29, 2013

Leah Speer is a food blogger for As she prepares a Chicken Korma for her family, she reflects on how a mother cooking on a three stone open fire might be feeling as she makes the very same meal. Read her complete post here.


She holds her handmade silk scarf over her face with her left hand, peeking out only to check the flame and stir with her right. Fiery tears stream down her face and bleed into the cloth. The 23-year-old mother of three started the fire in her mud stove 30 minutes ago, the thick toxic smoke from the flames is quick to fill every inch of her one-room hut located in a village northwest of Delhi, India. Dinner should be ready in a couple of hours.

Her 4-month-old lets out a wail, only to subsequently suck in the pollution that churns within the soot-covered walls of their abode. The young mom’s twins, 7-year-olds, are used to it and will wait until after dinner to do their homework; the smoke is far too dense for them to read for a length of time. For now, one of the boys grabs baby sister and the three escape their home for some fresh air.

Mom breaks a few more pieces of wood, tossing it on top of the pile of dried animal dung that melts under the open flame. The smoke escapes the flame of the excrement and caresses the food the family will be devouring later. She coughs and for a moment breathing is unbearable. It takes a few moments to catch her breath, but from what she knows, it’s all worth it to provide her family a cooked meal.

Fire shoots up from the blaze and burns her thumb. She tries to ignore it and tosses in the garam masala. Blackness floods the room. She steps outside for a breath. At that moment, she is just so thankful for the pleasant weather allowing her children to enjoy the outdoors. Peace is kept at bay though as she looks up at the reality of the smoke from other huts joining together above the village creating a haze of malady. All she wants is for her children to be safe.

She returns to her place on the floor to begin kneading the dough for the naan—her thoughts shift to her own health. Lately, even when the smoke is gone, she’s noticed a cloud in her vision accompanied with sensitivity to light. An elder suggested this could be the start of cataracts caused by the hazardous cooking conditions. But, what can she do?

She carries on.

The korma (recipe below), rice, vegetables and naan are finally ready. She invites her children back inside, pulling her infant to her chest. The family settles in to enjoy their meal together in their home, still abundant with smoke that promises not to clear out completely for some time.

For Leah’s recipe and more, continue reading here.

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