An important part of any house is the kitchen. Or, as I call it in my head, The Kitchen. For me, a kitchen is the deciding factor to liking the layout of a house, right next to bathrooms. Like bathrooms, kitchens need to be spacious, airy and fully-equipped to keep a person in there for a long time.
I remember being around a lot of small kitchens in my younger days and feeling sorry for people like my mother, who had no choice but to slave away in there for much of the day. During the summer months, when the kitchen used to get unbearably hot and furnace-like, cooking could turn into a horrendous experience. No one should be forced to provide under those circumstances.
During university, we had a common kitchen. I have many fond memories of the PGP kitchen, which doubled as a dining room. Most of the time, we just used it as a place to study when our rooms felt too cramped, but every once in a while, we’d make a terrible dish and feel incredibly proud of ourselves. We couldn’t have made more than 5 dishes during the two years we were there, but there are still lots of fun memories attached to that place.
When I moved to my first rental house, 6 of us had to share a single small kitchen that could just about fit 2. Every once in a while, despite our differing schedules, we’d all end up in there together, jostling each other and fighting for space. It sounds nasty, but it really wasn’t. We were all so busy we’d barely see each other, and those rare weekends that all of us just happened to be home, and just happened to decide to make lunch were the few times we actually got to catch up with each other. Also, we did our house cleaning by a weekly rota (we were actually quite disciplined) and whoever got the kitchen shift would invariably have a terrible time because it was a filth-magnet. Still, as is the case with everything, time puts a more nostalgic shine over even the miserable parts of your life, so despite my not getting in many meals there, that kitchen holds great memories as well.
My next house had a much bigger kitchen, and much fewer people, which was a great combination. There aren’t very many stories from that kitchen (other than the few times my housemate would go a bit cuckoo and decide to cook for a crazy number of people and occupy the entire kitchen for a whole day, or the times my very hard-working (other) housemate would take it upon herself to cook at midnight on a week day because that was the only time she was actually free to do it), but being at an age where fewer stories means less madness and therefore more grown-up sanity, I’m thankful for that. All that mattered was that it was a nice kitchen, it got great sunlight during the day, it was open and airy, and there was a lot of space to just chill around, so every meal I cooked in there was a happy one.
This past weekend, I was at my ancestral village (and when I say village, I really mean no wifi, erratic phone network, erratic electricity, miles of paddy fields, houses-with-roofs-so-low-you-need-to-bend-to-get-inside kind of Indian village), and I got a good look at the kinds of “kitchens” the locals have to put up with. I’d been to my grandparents’ village home when I was younger, but that was at an age where I wasn’t a whole lot concerned with what was going on in the kitchen as long as I got something to eat every once in a while, but visiting a place like that as an adult really put some things in perspective. There these poor people were, slaving away on single stoves in tight, cramped spaces, in boiling weather, all the while cooking and serving delicious three-course meals for at least 50 people. To top it all, I didn’t hear one complaint from any of the people there.
Sometimes, you get used to certain things and suddenly, before you know it, you can’t imagine life without them. Cellphones, fast internet download speeds, air-conditioning, microwave ovens – it’s hard to picture us getting along without what are now “essential” commodities. Yet, there was a time when we managed without any of these things. There are people in small corners of the world managing without these things right now. And knowing that, experiencing that… it’s eye-opening. It gives you perspective.
I’m not saying I don’t want a nice, big airy kitchen with all the modern amenities available. I do. I’m just saying that when I do get that ideal kitchen, I might just be a little more grateful to have it.
[Note: This post was meant to go up on Saturday, but owing to me being stuck in that aforementioned computer-free, internet-free corner of the world, I was unable to post it until now. The alphabets will continue as scheduled from tomorrow onwards.]