I remember watching my mother cook. I remember how she glided through the kitchen, almost instinctively grabbing spices from our cabinets. She had set up her kitchen for efficiency. I watched how flustered she got when things weren’t where they were supposed to be. I heard my mother scold the universe when she reached her hand out and didn’t find what she needed.
Many years later, I landed in America. I was excited because, for the first time, I was going to be able to set up my own efficient kitchen. I was excited about the idea of having wooden shelves, lined with pretty paper. I was excited about arranging my spices in order in neatly labelled perfect little round boxes. I was excited about kilometers of counter space. I imagined the light filtering through the window in my bright kitchen, while I grabbed spiced off the organized spice rack while efficiently cooked a stunning meal. And as I put in the last pinch of salt, I would look back, onto my island, where my plates were neatly set for my hypothetical friends. They would marvel not only at my cooking, but at how beautiful my kitchen was.
With these hopes and dreams, I walked into the kitchen in my small Cambridge apartment. The sun filtered through the windows that were painted shut, onto an old scratchy wooden floor. In one corner stood the sink, above which was a cabinet that reached the ceiling. On the other side of the room was a fridge, and an old gas stove, with an oven that had no timer. The room had four doors, two windows, but no counter space. I stared at dismay at this bare minimum kitchen.
But I wasn’t easily defeated. I decided to make the space work anyway. How hard could it be to spruce this place up? A table here, and a table there, and I would be on my way. All I had to do was get some pots, and pans (and maybe a spice rack,) and I could still make this the world’s best kitchen.
Then I got to the big box store. As I walked through the aisles, I realised that good kitchens, and good kitchen gadgets are expensive. Every time I pulled out a glistening pan, I checked the price, and put it back on the shelf. I would stare at it longingly, as I walked away saying “one day.”
So I returned to my kitchen, and filled it with tables I got off craigslist, and hand-me-down pots and pans. I tried to make cooking easy, and tried to make it cozy in my kitchen. For the most part, it worked. But on the days when I would find myself scrambling for the salt, or unable to reach the chilli powder, I muttered and cursed, and would take a deep breath and sigh. “One day,” I would tell myself, “one day.”
Photo by MJ Stewart @breakfastatmjs