The importance of kitchens

[ 4 MINUTE READ] Learning a life skill and some life lessons

2019 was supposed to be the last year of my mother’s life.

When she lost her elder son in 1994, she received a message from Lord Krishna. She had spent 25 years with her son and would have to spend another 25 without. It would be her test of faith. Amongst the few enduring ways for a mourning mother to heal is to surrender to the divine forces that protect her.

She spent the week in May each year, that span the dates when he was born and died, in silent mourning. As each year passed by, the steady intensity of her grief during this week would remind me how hard it is to fathom a mother’s memories of a dead son. But her faith, simplicity and ability to spontaneously reach out to others with warmth expressed themselves through the rest of each year in ways that made her life meaningful and reassured me.

Last year, as the cathartic week of May approached, she enquired on my readiness for a life without her. It was then that I realized a deep lack of preparedness for that eventuality. As the months wore on, I teased her on the extension that Lord Krishna had apparently given her. She thought about it for a moment and said perhaps she had some unfinished business to attend to.

x-x

On weekdays I live in my mother’s two storied house in Vadodara. It is a relatively large house for two people. While my mother’s floor pulsates with a regular sense of routine, my floor has the wandering inertia of unused spaces.

I have never cultivated the habit of working directly with my hands to make or repair things. During my growing years, a cobbler outside our building gate would mend a damaged slipper. A short walk up a slope on the other side was the bicycle mechanic who fixed a puncture or a damaged pedal. Carpenters and electricians were always at hand to mend a broken door knob or replace a defective switch. Circumstances that required me to wash and press my own clothes or do the dishes were rare.

This absence of being grounded by my own daily routines was mirrored in my relationship with food. My appetite was an unimportant necessity, my food choices lacked discipline, my digestion was poor and I didn’t know how to cook.

One measure of the conveniences of the modern world are how little we have left to think or do about our everyday survival. Disconnected from the physicality of my own life, I lived within the corridors of my body. Neither indoors nor outdoors. Bound by tenuous threads to the transient and unfolding story of who I was.

x-x

It was in this backdrop that I returned to Vadodara a month ago amidst the lockdown, to restart my factory and learn to cook from my mother.

Mornings began earlier than usual so that I could bathe and be ready for our time together in the kitchen. We set the daal to cook before the vegetables so they would be ready together. A chutney to blend into the daal was made while the stove was left on sim. The sliced tomatoes and capsicum were kept on a perforated lid over the daal to get lightly pre-cooked from the warm escaping vapours. The use of utensils was minimized and available heat maximized by sautéing the spices and condiments for the daal in the same dish after the vegetable was done. As we waited for the vegetable to cook, the platform was cleaned and everything no longer required put back where they belonged. Peeled skins and unused leftovers were deposited in the stone bowl outside the gate for the cows that would wander by later each morning. The preparation of lunch culminated with a sample of each dish placed in three silver cups arranged on a silver plate in the Perumal Sannidhi (prayer room). The lamp was lit and water sprinkled on the food with a prayer and the resonant sound of a bell. An ancient family tradition that connected me to comforting childhood memories of my grandmother and a sacred space with unknown origins.

There is a growing familiarity with the kitchen that escaped me before. The easily accessible hook for the stove lighter. The ubiquitous role in every meal of the box with haldi, hing, rai, jeera and pepper, jar of salt and cup with gingelly oil on the left hand shelf. The tray full of tomatoes and box of diced coconuts in the fridge that merge their latent fluidity and inherent solidity into a chutney. The three sizes of mixer jars waiting patiently in a corner for their short but stellar roles. Inanimate objects in a poorly lit room have come alive as essential allies in a vibrant arena with whom I collaborate to sustain life within me.

x-x

‘What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say’. My mother repeated this observation by Ralph Waldo Emerson so often during our impressionable years, that it is the only quote I can recall extempore. But the most valuable qualities of a parent can often elude the sensibilities of their children. Despite the sattvic discipline in her lifestyle, her regular advice for me to wake up early, make my bed, pray and keep my room clean never had an enduring effect.

However, ever since she became my mentor in the kitchen, what is weaved into the way she trains me are her ideas about health & nature, planning & efficiency, simplicity & sustainability, tradition & faith. In addition to fixing my own meal, there is so much more that I have begun to learn and assimilate.   

Something new unfolding at a subliminal level is reshaping my daily routines and me. I feel a more intimate relationship with the food I eat. As I consciously minimize the amount of oil and spices I use, there is a new sense of empowerment towards nourishing my mind and body. The positive example of my mother’s actions have finally begun to influence and guide me.

And for this I must acknowledge the importance of kitchens.

59 thoughts on “The importance of kitchens

Add yours

  1. Anand, i agree. It is not just the kitchen. You can call it the comfort of daily chores – cleaning dishes, folding clothes, watering plants. It structures your day, helps you to feel grounded and a small sense of jobs well done.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Lovely blog. Reminds me of the day when my son was mowing the lawn in his Toronto home. Vijaya watched Partha and remarked, ‘ is it how a Harvard PhD and a Chair Professor at B school should spend his time? ‘ Partha replied’ I find this wonderfully relaxing, almost therapeutic. My whole being is focussed on a patch of the lawn. It is like meditation.’. Mahatma Gandhi mentioned that routine can be energizing talking of the daily life of a farmer. We tend to forget the basics in the roller coaster ride of city life. The kitchen brought you back to reality. As the upanishad says,’Anna mayam Brahma, annam na nindath.’

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very beautifully written, Anand…..I must confess, to start with it was little saddening to fix the life span of a person so close to one. You just so craftily went past and ended up acknowledging the role of kitchen in one’s life. Food for thought, indeed !

    It was like a fiction that you are able to connect to higher things in life to mundane routine.

    wonderful.

    with best wishes and greetings

    s v venugopalan
    chennai
    94452 59691

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow Anand just today I was thinking it’s been a while since I last saw your blog. You are fortunate your mother is around and thanks to Corona you are becoming Atmanirbhar

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Your best one yet!!! Absolutely love the connection you’ve formed with your mum over time spent in the creation of the wholesome. Has such depth of meaning and feeling.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It is a positive attitude to develop life skills from routine kitchen work Normally. repetition results in boredom but if you enjoy the activity like a relaxation ,it becomes a meditative way of life. It energies the food as well

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Very well written Anand. One positive outcome of Corona lockdown is that it has made every one to learn few life skills like Cooking, Washing Cloths, Ironing etc and learn to live with out support staff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anand, I ‘ve hardly had much chance to know you , except for a few occasions of brief introductions. Your expressions on your ventures into the kitchen andyourmother being a silent and ‘ invisible ‘person in the scene has brought to mind my own , leearning expriences in my very young days as a novitiate under my mother and grandmother in the ‘Tirumadapalli’ the Vaishnavite kitchen. Your mother’ s beautiful and
      serene form emerges in this reality. All the best. Hope we meet, yes with yourmother and your family.

      Like

  7. Wow how smart your mom is – sometimes we realize quite late , sometimes too late ….you are fortunate to share time with her and lern something important from her while she is still on earth … I like that and hope so much that Krishna tells her „ still time left… there is more Business for you to do 🙏“
    Appreciate every moment it seems like a jewel ….. take her to a Place she has not been for a long time or fulfill her a dream she still has ….☘️
    Warmest regards from Germany 🌸

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your musings are always a treat to read. I usually read it quite a number of times to grasp the import…. things which come straight from the heart are always pure and possess awesome energy… the simplicity with which you wove your story around the central theme is always so soothing..
    Yes,there are so many positives of the lockdown which we need to comprehend, and understand the true meaning of life..
    Keep on writing such gems…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Anand, This is wholly satisfying to my soul . Prepared with tenderness and just the right amount of spices and gingelly oil .. you’ve made me cry and smile and feel a strange joy and inspiration all at once. I love the cycle of karma that is defied yet satisfied perhaps by the feeding of the cows and the worship. Waiting for a short story now…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It never to late to learn …the value of our kitchen
      It’s not only about eating …it embraces health of body and more so mind and heart and our emotions…consuming meals peacefully and gratefully is a lesson learnt ….cooking peacefully is the main.ingredient which contributes the flavors of the balance of mind body and spirit.. and to be honest the kitchen has been a great challenge in moderating myself.. so I can relate to your experience

      .

      Like

  10. Dear Mr. Anand,
    Kitchen teaches you a lot. It is not just cooking. Cooking with love and the live will transform the food like a nectar we call the same as kaimanam. We get this from Grandmas and mother. Lockdown taught me Discipline and Goal setting with time management by cleaning the utensils. I have got the certificate from my better half for my skill. I have become an expert in vegetable cutting too.
    Next May will see the Culinary specialist in Mr. Anand. No doubt, Anand’s kitchen, a blog. Nice writing. As usual a good serve by your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great blog Anand

    House work is a wonderful tension reliever. Cooking is the creative part of it. When you make food for near and dear ones you pack it with love. The joy in the eyes of those who eat what you cook says it all and never needs a feedback form with tick boxes.

    Pray, He gives your gritty and spiritually inclined mother many more years, but you don’t take all those years to learn the remaining tricks of the trade from her!! Because we won’t have another lockdown – God willing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dear Anand,
    How beautifully written.
    So much depth and feeling.
    The way you weave your writings are so insightful, touching and poignant.

    It was heart-rending when you wrote about the loss of your brother , Shyam. A mother’s raw pain is impossible to fathom . Of course the families pain too.I remember Prema always telling me __ A tragedy in Life can make you Bitter or Better.

    She has given of herself Completely to help humanity.
    She has devoted her life for the betterment of people.
    It gives her immense joy and she always says it is a ‘win ‘_’win ‘situation.

    I feel truly blessed to have encountered her in this lifetime.
    Must have done something good in my past life..
    You are blessed to have her as your mom.

    I am so happy to see that you have learnt and picked up some tips on cooking from Prema.
    She is so knowledgeable and an excellent cook.
    I recall the numerous times, I have had delicious South Indian Filter Coffee, dosas, Upma and different varieties of sweet meats everytime I met her.Her hospitality was par excellence and showered with love.

    I am amazed how you have written your story, as always.
    You are a gifted writer and you can express your views so beautifully and vividly.
    God bless you all and keep you safe and happy.
    Mina

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Thoroughly enjoyed reading the blog. Mother/son relationship is unique always and am happy to know that you blended well to learn her style of cooking and managing the kitchen. I know of many children trying to learn via You Tube which is not the same as with the presence of your mother. May God bless you both. You are gifted in the art of writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Living a functional life on your own is the greatest possible form of worship. The ability to look after your needs and take care of yourself, with your own two hands, makes you more aware of yourself. It is not an imposition, it is a way to be connected with the universe. And making your own meal is essential to that. The lockdown has been seen as an imposition by many people, but I saw it as a way to realise what is essential and what is not. It was also a way to reconnect with my own childhood. My father always insisted I learn to do things around the house – clean the toilet, mop the floor, cut vegetables, do the weekly shopping for my mother, be able to make a quick rice/paruppu/sambar/ poduthuval. And be able to do simple electrical repairs around the house, These skills fell by the wayside over the years – victims of laziness and prosperity. All of a sudden I realised how important these are. The morning routine of sitting down with my wife to plan our work days and decide what we will cook, what to buy, what part of the house to clean – these brought us closer in my view.

    A good kitchen teaches you the virtues of efficiency and economy. These are life skills, It is because of this intimate familiarity that grandmothers in our era tend to be very wise even though they may not have had much of a formal education. It is the wisdom borne of good habits.

    This monk called Thich That Nanh uses the example of the act of making tea as an example of building consciousness in the here and now. It is the essence of Vedanta, of Buddhism, to know that this is all there is, and nothing else.

    I was not aware you had a brother you lost when you were young. It must have been hard then, and harder now, as you grow older. Siblings are childhood memories and I am sure the loss is felt even now.

    Thank you for a thoughtful, beautifully written blog post.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. What a quietly explosive blog! Didn’t know that you could run factories and hide such beautiful writing skills for so long. Hidden, as you also have the indescribable pain of loss of a beloved sibling. You both were very special to Vyu. She had described the sheer joy you brought every time you guys visited Madras and insisted on her cooking North Indian dishes that you enjoyed so much. She also poured forth her own intense pain at the losses that you and your mother had to so unfairly suffer. Little did she or I know then what would follow to shake our own little universe. Your mother is an inspiration to all. Wish you all the best.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Hi Anand, Beautiful article! It touched my heart.
    Prema Didi helped my mother and me see positivity and get back to life after I lost my brother.
    Truly as Didi says, “My pain shall not go in vain”. Her service to humanity is beyond words.
    How beautifully you blended the article with learning cooking and kitchen chores, both efficiently and effectively.
    Cooking is a life skill, elevated to survival skills in these Covid times, and yet it is an art best learnt from our mothers…. That’s our craving.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Anand, the Kitchen connect completes the household with all its elements of motherhood, of the discovery of the divine !! well said.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Anand: It is time you switch over to poetry from the prose format in your blogs!

    My concept of “Cooking” was “Heating” when I was very young. Had I continued with that ignorance – I might have ended in a “Cooked-Up” life 🙂

    It was much later that I learnt … “Sense of Proportion & Selection of Ingredients” was the most crucial & essential part of Cooking Food!

    But now having grown philosophical – I have realized that – It is not “what we eat” but “what eats us” determines our health and sense of well being.

    MSR Atthimber.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Nice reading. I could visualise the entire kitchen scene described. Have been lucky to visit the Baroda home and staying with your beautiful gifted mother are treasures to behold.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Anand, a wonderful read. Its privilege to say this but yes, this lockdown has been a fount of learning for me as well. To relearn the joy of working with my hands, nurturing my tots without staff, to look after the plants and still enjoy a cup of coffee in silence has been blessed joy. Thank you for describing this nourishment, so well:)

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Anand – i was starved of your writing for so long – your time in the kitchen saved me from starvation too!!!
    That was more heartwarming than all the others before this.
    and tho i was not AS clueless as you have made yourself out to be at cooking – I too have become much more confident and have cooked almost every single day since march! (Badminton trips have been replaced with trips to kitchen – tho not with the same passion!)
    Unfortunately for me, my husband shares your last para sentiments and does not want to get the cook back!!!!!!!!! h…e…l…p!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Beautifully elucidated. There is no doubt that the kitchen teaches you a grace that comes from an economy of movement – which then serves you well in most spheres of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Anand, I always look forward to reading your blog. There is ever a mystical charm in what you write. This blogpost is another example of your wordsmith abilities. You put feelings and emotions in your words leaving me wet on the cheeks with the slow sliding of teardrops. The kitchen is a special place where mother and son bond. Your experiences in the kitchen with your mother took me back to my childhood days when my mother would make hot chapatis in the kitchen and serve them to me and my younger sister. We squatted on the floor and devoured them so fast that she would find it difficult to keep pace with our speed. We could see the happiness on her face which we still keep recalling. It is the only real and purest bond in the world between a mother and her children.
    Thanks Anand on your heart touching blogpost”
    Best wishes
    Gopal uncle

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Very well expressed your feelings and the change the lockdown has brought in your life. It will stay with you even when you are busy after the reopening of your factory.

    Like

  25. Wow Anand another beautiful blog and i loved this one a little more because I had already heard of your kitchen adventures with mom in our lovely conversation ❤ Can't wait for you to cook for me …

    Like

  26. Dear Anand:

    Your lovely poem catalyzed me to forward my response draft sitting in the
    cache since you wrote the touching piece about kitchens.

    Trust me, the warmth of the kitchen in any home — anywhere in the world
    — is unmatched. Physically and figuratively.

    Apart from the obvious heat generated by decoctions and concoctions, that are
    distilled with love and care, there is homey camaraderie and friendly banter —
    labelled as gossip and nostalgia! Which are good.

    Add to that the inevitable smells that waft through the home and perhaps the
    neighbor’s kitchen, and your day is made. The memories are personal, original
    and unmistakable.

    To really enjoy the kitchen, one has to get down to the nitty-gritty freely and dirty
    one’s hands. Soiling one’s hands after the cooking is done is therapy — a kind of
    catharsis. Metaphorically, it helps one cleanse one’s insecurities.

    We constantly hear names of celebrity chefs, but no one talks of the behind-the
    scenes heroes in 5-stars as also humble homes who clean up after the mess,
    cooks create.

    This piece is in honor of those unheralded and unappreciated souls!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Raju mama

    Like

  27. What a heartwarming read!!

    The strange time that the world is going through, with periods of hiatuses forced on everyone, certainly seems to have unintended consequences for all. A time to step off the conveyor belt, step back, take stock and take a good long hard look at life, at ourselves and all the myriad small and big things around us which are so much a part of us and we take so much for granted.

    The central part of anyone’s life is the food that we ingest, the hearth where it’s made at home, and it’s soul – the mother. Not taking them for granted anymore, you have bound them all together in a single frame and examined them with awareness and sensitivity. Simple everyday actions with a loved one, carried out in a deliberate, studied and economic manner, are ripe ground for the brain to ruminate and introspect. In such periods are philosophies born, take root, sprout and bloom.

    Beautiful article! Thanks!

    Like

  28. Such a beautiful story, Ananda! My heart goes out to you and to your mother for the loss of your brothers and her son. As a parent myself, I cannot imagine the pain. But the story of your mother’s strength inspires me! Kitchens definitely hold a lot of memories for me as well! Kitchens are places of family love and unity!

    Like

Leave a Reply to SK Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: