Kitchen: Hot to haute



Well, let's face it: it never is going
to be a glam room. Not even if you
perch a mini television atop the
pinewood and glass cupboard.
Or a sleek boombox in yonder
corner, nestled amongst the
 fronds of bamboo bonsai.
Not even (don't ask) if the
 room is well, roomy enough
 for you to park your
 Stairmaster in an alcove.
 Or, as has been known to
 happen, you store a futon
 carefully colour-coordinated,
 under the three-door fridge.
 Be that as it may, the kitchen
 sure has come a long way.
When you think about it,
there is a reason why it was
 also called a scullery, galley or mess.

That begrimed cubby hole forever spewing pungent odours into the air
and permeating the whole house with strange smells, those stone
counters chipped badly enough to closely resemble the surface of
Mars, those oil-slicked walls and shelves, that section of the house
 where only the hopeless and hapless (read: mother/ mother-in-law
 /daughter/sister/sister-in-law and their ilk) gather, peering into
large steaming vessels, pausing to occasionally, wipe away sweat
 with their sari pallav? Going, going gone. Those quarters at the
rear of the manse where the in-house female khansamas
(refer those referred to above) ladle soup and stew into bowls
which rapidly cool even as they begin their long walk to the
dining room? Gone, I promise you. Kitchens have acquired
a reputation upgrade almost invisibly. Indulgent menfolk
first installed compact electric fans so their women
wouldn't have to slog it out in That Room( galley slaves,
 anyone?). The fans transmogrified into air conditioners
 and in scurried all the usual suspects masquerading as
 mandatory accessories : the sleek music system with
the even sleeker Bose speakers;that amazingly small
HD television (all the better to follow Sanjeev Kapoor,
MasterChef, et al);the most evocative of mood lighting;
a set of bright orange Le Creuset ramekins, casserole
 dishes and salad platters;the chrome and black
cappuccino maker;that minimalist Space Age bracket
 to hold the cuisine artiste's (you don't think the person
 presiding over This Room is a mere cook, do you?)
glass of Riesling while he or she cooks up the lamb
 risotto. Lo and behold, it's the new revamped
chef's workstation(CW)!

It is to be hoped that readers did not miss the gender
crossover in the sentence above. Because yes, cooking
 is no longer a woman's job, except in large joint family
 households where the maharaj is always but always
male. In the uber cool CW, virtually everyone fights to
 wear that tall frilled white toque. We now live in an age
 where men are getting in touch with their inner skillet
 skills and proudly owning them, too. We now live in an
 age when a carefully casual 'Yup, I made that spinach
 ravioli/shahi daal' goes down a treat with young women
 (and old women, too, for that matter).

The store cupboard, a piece of early Victorian era, is not
really a store cupboard, it's more like the central showpiece
 of this CW. Bohemian crystal, ye olde kalchattis from
Kerala, pewter-lidded Mason jars, all jostle for place
with garlic presses from Lyons, muffin pans from Milwaukee
and laksa bowls from Singapore. Those hidden drawers,
 now, could well hold the spare iPhone, the family's third
 notebook computer and an unused fondue set, alongside
 agarbattis and Bunty's Prefect badges, all seven of them
. And on the polished glass shelf, there sits a copy of
 Catcher in the Rye and a random selection of Georgette
Heyer romances amidst a wide-ranging selection of cookbooks.

It really is like that ad. This new improved kitchen is the
place you hang out in wearing your 'Proud to be a
bawarchi' tee, clacking your fingers to RiRi (she found
love in a hard place, you are finding life in a kitchen)
as you dip that Javanese shell scoop into your
Dijon-mustard induced kadhi.

You are not alone. Your Significant Other is sitting
 in that sunny nook, a mug of extra strong tea in
 hand, newspaper propped up on the rattan table,
reading out snippets involving real estate, the
 commodities market, Filmstar Khan's (first name,
 your choice) latest shenanigans, tips on how to
bring back the lustre in your hair, your eyes, your
 life, whatever. Your offspring (the quieter ones)
are sprawled on the gleaming sepia- tiled floor
(goes beautifully with that russet-hued still life
 on the wall, the tiles not the offspring) doing
their own thing with a sketchpad and a
Playstation, respectively. The sun's dappled
rays light up the cream and blush-pink chrysanthemums
 in the crystal vase on the island in the middle of
 this spacious room. The cast-iron woks, kadais
and crockpots that hang from lustrous rails
suspended above the island verily look like works of art.

Actually, they are. Works of art, I mean. Works
of art your family and you can live in. Works of
art your friends can hang out in, while working
on that presentation due in tomorrow morning.
Works of art you can impress your kitty club with.
 Works of art you can use to intimidate your maid
 into abject submission.

Willy- nilly, the common or garden kitchen has
achieved a major transition. Let's raise our
cappuccino cup to that, shall we?

Sheila Kumar is a journalist and author who works 

best in her own Chef's Workstation.

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