Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Movable Feasts – A Behind the Scenes look

Managing the kitchen has been an interesting experience when moving from city to city every couple of months. A few people have asked me how we manage the cooking part. We do eat out frequently, but we mostly cook our meals. We can't eat out 3 meals a day, every day.

Back in our apartment in Chicago, we had lots of utensils and kitchen appliances. Since we are now restricted by luggage that we can carry by ourselves, we move around with a very limited amount of utensils. Our kitchen stuff fills about half of one suitcase.

We are forced to be very strict with what we can cart around: 2 dinner plates, 4 bowls, 2 cups and a few spoons. (It is sort of like what they hand you at the start of a week-long Zen retreat, or like going camping, but for a really extended period of time.) We have one small pressure cooker, 1 frying pan, a few stainless vessels, a knife and one flat griddle for dosas, and a few more microwavable plastic takeaway containers for heating and storing.

There's pretty much a checklist for the items in our first grocery shopping in each new place – rice, sugar, salt, cooking oil, instant coffee and a few ready mixes to start things off. We carry a small bag of spices which we refill as needed. Fresh vegetables are plentiful in India. We started out managing with long-life UHT milk cartons, but there's enough competition among milk vendors so now we get milk packets delivered to our door each morning.

What we now have is surely much less than 20% of what we once had in our kitchen. And what has been a revelation to me is that we are managing quite fine. I don’t feel the lack of those other things except on rare occasions. If we desire something fancy, we have to eat out. We have even hosted dinners for others (with some borrowed vessels and cutlery).

We are very Spartan about adding to our kitchen acquisitions now, which implies that we must have been inefficient before, buying lots of redundant stuff.

And the big lesson (to me) is that cutting back and adjusting to a having a simplified kitchen has not been as difficult as it once seemed from the outside. You just have to be mentally prepared.

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