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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Kitchen confidential

Sadly, the only people who can afford dream kitchens are those who wouldn’t dream of ever stepping into one

Don’t you just love the shiny, sprawling, spotless kitchens that feature in all those glossy interior design magazines? They come in shades of yellow and green, pale pastels, crisp white, or even monochromatic grey. But no matter what the colour, all of them look like perfect settings for our own inner Domestic Goddess.

Sometimes they are done in faux vintage style with brass and copper implements suspended from the roof. Sometimes they aspire to the minimal look, with every cooking appliance tucked away in storage cupboards. Sometimes there is a nice worktop where you can chop and peel away to your heart’s content. And sometimes there is a tiny table with bar stools where you can catch a hasty breakfast. There is a kitchen to cater to every taste; a kitchen to meet every need.

I don’t know about you but I can spend endless afternoons salivating over the visuals of these kitchens, dreaming of a time when I can finally afford one. Needless to say, that time is unlikely to come – well, at least, not in this lifetime. But hey, a girl can dream, right?

And since you ask, the kitchen of my dreams is a sunlit vision in primrose yellow offset with the palest of pale ivory. There is a large central island with cheerful wicker seating for my friends to lounge around in with a glass of wine while I rustle up a three-course meal (warning: only those who help with the chopping of the salad get dessert). The cooking range is set against a picture window looking on to a patch of garden outside, where fresh herbs grow, ready for the picking. The oven and microwave are industrial-sized but hidden away behind a glass counter. And the shelves are heaving with every ingredient known to Nigella – and then some.

Yes, okay, I admit it. A huge part of my longing for this kind of kitchen comes from watching far too many food shows set in picture-perfect kitchens. It is another matter that these ‘kitchens’ are set in studios rather than in the anchor’s home (yes, even Nigella’s!). But such is the fantasy of domesticity they conjure up that even those of us who can’t really cook want a kitchen that looks just like that – perhaps in the mistaken belief that once the hob is in place the cooking skills will surely follow.

And then, there are all those television serials that nurture the dream. In my case, it all started with Friends, where everyone congregates in Monica’s open-plan kitchen in good times and bad. The kitchen in Brothers and Sisters where Nora Walker feeds her extended family, provided further fodder. And more recently, the open-plan kitchens in Castle, where the mystery novel writer noshes and joshes with his mother and daughter, have fed the fantasy.

The first open-plan kitchen I ever saw in real life was when I went to interview Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan for a cover story (for Sunday magazine, where I then worked). This was before Shah Rukh became Shah Rukh, if you know what I mean, and I was granted the kind of access that hacks can only dream of these days.

As I sat with the Khans in the open-plan living-cum-kitchen area of their first Mumbai home – a humble flat in Bandra – listening to the story of how they first met and fell in love, a couple of things became rapidly clear to me. One: this was the kind of kitchen I wanted when I grew up. And two: I would have to give up on dal and subzi because open-plan kitchens were not conducive to Indian cooking unless you were happy to co-exist with the smell of roasting spices.

As it happens, life didn’t turn out quite like that. And now, as I wander disconsolately through the humungous design showrooms in the malls of Delhi and Mumbai, I realise that my entire real-life flat would fit into one of these dream kitchens and still leave space for more. And given the price of urban property, I am guessing that it’s much the same for most of us.

Which begs the question: who among us can actually afford these dream kitchens that are forever being advertised in the media? And I don’t just mean in terms of money – though the price tag, upwards of Rs 5 lakhs and going up to 25, would give anyone pause – but also in terms of space.

Unless you are a multi-millionaire with money to burn, my guess is that you live in an average-size flat. And flats like these aren’t big enough for one of those spacious kitchens stuffed with every gadget and gizmo that money can buy. In fact, ordinary folk like you and me consider ourselves lucky if we can squeeze in a microwave and oven-griller-toaster into our modest kitchen spaces.

Sadly, the only people who can afford the kind of dream kitchens I fantasise about are people who wouldn’t ever dream of stepping into one. These are the people who leave both the cooking and serving to the staff, and wouldn’t recognise a vegetable slicer even if it took their index finger off. And yet, to them are granted the nicest kitchens of all.

Ah, the little ironies of life – you’ve just got to love them.


Anubha Gujral said...

I beg to disagree a bit. I've a pretty good kitchen (my staff has ruined it a bit is another story) I love cooking for my daughter & make sure its spic & span. I've also seen affluent ladies dishing out some delicacies from the latest style modular kitchens.

I think kitchen is a reflection of the lady of the house & her personality.

O P Tandon said...

It depends upon the size of your purse and the size of the room. Obviously it will remain a dream for the vast majority of masses. Nevertheless quite an entertainment to see on glossy magzines and TV shows.

Shuvo said...

even the glossies carrying such ethereal culinary fantasy stages (why berate them by calling 'em mere kitchens) are becoming ill-affordable, not to mention the exotic ingredients! Sigh!

KrRahul said...

So true... Have posted your one-liner as a quote (with your name) on twitter... Thanks a lot...

Vasudha.N.Jadhav said...

Hello Ma'am,
I loveee open kitchens and have convinced my hubby to break the hall wall with society permission of the 2 bhk we will move into this January....my first thought was of converting children room to kitchen but due to plumbing issues that won't be possible...I hope my culinary skills improve too .....but I love fancy kitchens with warm light and AC
The recent KI And Kaa...omg...train coming out.....wowwww...
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