Sri Lanka

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est. 26 Oct 2020

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A recipe for kitchens

May 18, 2021

Right before the water boils the kettle sounds like the distant ocean. I listen to my mother talk of her day at the hospital. She sits on the wooden bench along the wall of our small apartment kitchen and against the hard whiteness of the wall, her blue scrubs are crumpled, so is her face out of tiredness. The ocean ends and the whistle of the kettle pierces our conversation. Without turning off the gas, I snap open the spout lid to let the water boil for another minute or two. Now the kettle works quietly on the stove.

The kitchen often smells of sanitizer these days. The groceries sit outside on the balcony and only arrive on the white countertops after twenty seconds of soap and water. We've dropped into minimal lunches and most days, my mother is missing from home along with the blue hospital scrubs that dominate the washing line. When she arrives late in the evening, we fall into a routine with the kettle, our conversations punctuated with its slow whirr.

Together we peel through the day and slice into the sweeter moments like one would savor a tangerine. We leave the bitter seeds in the brown earth of flower pots to ripen into better things as the sun runs its cycles. We sift through words and actions to make sense of aggregation. Somedays her words are salty and peppered with angry thoughts, and I would know it was a hard day at the hospital. Somedays my siblings join me. And every single day, without fail, the kitchen provides for us, its bones sturdy beneath our feet and its heart palpitating in our shared meals and synergic dishes.

Before Covid, I knew the kitchen only as a place to feed my body, not for a place that could nourish the intimate: my heart and soul. I've heard this space essential in every house and referred to as "the heart of the home", but until now I never tasted the true flavors of this adage. Starting with the kettle, I began to notice this truth in almost every instance I found myself in the kitchen, and I'd have my detached moment of thought, looking over the bustling room and my family talking, laughing, and cooking together. The kitchen that I'd ruled off as a single flavor blossomed into a beautiful amalgam.

From my mother's recollections of her childhood home to this very day, my grandmother's kitchen embodies this aphorism. It has stood the test of time: its blackened hearth supporting an equally colored iron kettle, its mismatched collection of jars and bottles holding the brilliant hues of spices, the boiled water in the jug on the counter infused with the taste of smoke, and the wooden bench by the grey wall where anyone who visits my grandmother gets to sit and enjoy a cup of warm tea. Although my mother's and grandmother's kitchens contrast each other in appearance, the essence of what it means to be a place to cook and feed has remained the same.

A kitchen is a place where singular flavors coalesce into a dish, like colors into paintings. It is a place where techniques are mastered and flavors are tested, like the artists twirling their paintbrushes across an empty canvas. But most of all, the kitchen is where meals are cooked and where we help each other to do so. It's not just about the food and how it's made; it's about the people and how they come together making it. It's about the artists who paint together, becoming more breathtaking than the art itself.


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  • May 18, 2021 - 12:16am (Now Viewing)

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  • Zirong

    Ooo I really love your verb choices in this piece. One of my favourite lines is "Together we peel through the day and slice into the sweeter moments like one would savor a tangerine." -- It is so vivid and beautiful! Also, I love the artist analogy at the end, and the last line can't be truer!

    re: So happy to receive your reply! It's been an insane month for me, but my one-month-long school holiday is coming and I may take a short break then :D YESSS I also have tons of interesting things on my list for the large window between my As and university admittance(I like to call it "gap year" because it spans about one year, though it is not really one :D) Some of the things I really want to do are travelling to Japan(if the pandemic ends by then), writing another book, and doing internship at some editorial board! Also, I'll likely be back here as a Senior Peer Reviewer then :D I just can't live without WtW!!!
    Unfortunately the TEDx selection has been officially cancelled. But I'm taking TED Masterclass now to get closer to my dream!
    Ooh it's wonderful to know that it's also called A levels in Sri Lanka! I'll take it in Nov this year. Good luck for your exams next year!
    I really hope you are doing perfectly well too :3 Love you so much, as always! *a million hugs* <333

    4 months ago
  • tas (yellowbrickrd)

    hahahaha i went to follow u but i already was :))

    4 months ago
  • tas (yellowbrickrd)

    this is absolutely beautiful. the title really caught my eye (i have to admit i thought it said a recipe for kittens!) anyway i loved the various imagery throughout especially the last line: "It's about the artists who paint together, becoming more breathtaking than the art itself." i just think this really speaks (perhaps unintentionally) to how beautiful people look when they are doing what they love and pouring their soul into something creative, such as cooking. Anyway, bit of a tangent, lovely piece and best of luck!

    4 months ago