The kitchen is almost set now. I need a shelf, and a table for the microwave, and I am done. I remember the time when kitchen was not just a place where one cooked. Mom would make me sit on the kitchen slab, and I would tell her about my day at the school. She made the food look fun, making a smiley face on the bread, and putting a carrot nose on a small plate full of rice. She always served the food hot, and wanted to know everything about my day. Every subject, from Hindi to History, was discussed. I’d complain about the teachers, and she’d laugh. Then she’d tell me something interesting from her day: Something that a seven year old would find interesting and happy.
Food was simple, and always tasted so good. It wasn’t cooked from ready-cut vegetables, or pre-mixed spices. She did not have the fancy equipment I have. She used pestle and mortar, and made butter at home. And we could eat all we wanted, but we never did put on any weight. She did not get any snacks in the house. We would munch on carrots, or she’d cook something fresh. I was too young to acknowledge, or even register the hard work that went into making it the happiest time of my life. She worked, but never ignored the house. And could always be counted upon to make the perfect “pressure cooker” cake.
Then, years later, I got married and my kitchen was different. It had an OTG, a microwave, a hand blender, a food processor, and my refrigerator was stocked with ready to serve, frozen meals. My dinner was cooked in preservatives, garnished with artificial flavoring, and was served hot off the microwave. I cooked, but did what we commonly refer to as “short-cut” cooking. It’s not that I did not know cooking, I just wasn’t interested. I did not realize that your kitchen, and the food you cook in it, ties your family together. We had house-help who cooked. And I wasn’t even there to see what she was doing. My family ate food made by a paid employee. It had all the right spices and all the wrong emotions. You become what you eat. Since there was no involvement with the process, we became distant, aloof.
In my new kitchen, I have a refrigerator, but it only has fresh vegetables and fruits. The freezer only has ice that I will use for fresh, home-made juices and cold soups. My microwave will mostly be used on the “bake” setting. And there will be no house-help doing the cooking. I will knead the dough, chop the vegetables, puree them in my compact grinder, and finally, I will use a pestle and mortar. The kitchen is full of colors, and soon, it will have friends coming over, sharing stories. We will cook, and tell each other about our day, and we will eat the food that I will make from my mother’s old recipes. Maybe, I will make a smiley on the bread, and garnish the rice with a carrot nose.