10 January 2023

The corner rack

When I mentioned my love for cooking to a trainee, he asked for advice: How can I fall in love with cooking?

Before we begin: I am no foodie. Neither am I adventurous, perhaps not even as open-minded about food as I wanted to be. The reason I got into the habit of cooking daily is I wanted to eat what I like, how I like it, and when I like it. As the proverb goes, "If you want good service, serve yourself."

I am no good cook. No way for me to tell, since I don't cook for others. My niece likes my pancake and sunny side up, while my sister eats my saucepan-boiled brown rice without complaint (nor praise). Those are the only feedback I receive.

My motivation has always been beauty, and that's how I framed my method to my trainee. Maybe start buying quality kitchen tools. Those that look and work so well they almost beg to be touched.

Marketing has become its own artform nowadays, and this post by Kinto summarizes what I've been trying to say:

A kitchen you want to spend time in⁠

Fill your kitchen with things that you love, one plate, one mug, one canister at a time. ⁠ ⁠

And voila, cooking becomes a pastime, not a chore.⁠

Thing is — and because it all seems a fairy tale (gather nice things, feel nice) — knowing what we love takes time. Your first pan is your test pan. You will eventually want to upgrade. How do people stay married with the same person their whole lives? Upon further reflection, I do continue to use the first and only set of dinner plates I bought for myself. Looking around, yes, a lot of things have stayed with me.

Because of financial limitations I learn to love objects for what they are, and when they are. The wine glasses, no matter how careful I am, will break. That said, I won't drink Merlot in a ceramic mug.

It goes without saying that the kitchenette is my favorite and therefore the busiest area in my apartment. And within that space, the corner where everyday ingredients are — spices, soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil, coffee, pasta, dietary supplements — is a sight to behold.

I don't own any paintings. Chalk it up to my ignorance. I am not equipped to appreciate them. But every day, my eyes are drawn to and are satiated by that corner rack. How it fits in the puzzle that is my home. It's my real-life still life. Except nothing about it is still. Each day it is new. The bottles are moved ever so slightly from yesterday's meal prep. The paper coffee filters, from a thick block of white is now thinning, and will soon need replacing. So does the jar of curry powder.

My trainee also mentioned how cook books and cooking shows deceive him. The 15-minute breakfast is in fact 40 minutes, and that excludes cleaning up — the task that all cooking fairy tales leave out.

Do my pretty plates make washing them a pleasure? No. Instead I've developed an acceptance towards these menial tasks. They keep me upright. My body moving. What do I save time and energy for anyway? Sometimes we're not aware that we are already living our dreams, because we fail to account for everything else. My ambition is to live in a beautiful space. This is a beautiful space, and keeping it so constitutes living.

Top Shelf