Kitchen Conversations: In the Real and the Virtual World

Since last few weeks I have become a bit more active on Instagram – like everyone else posting pictures of lockdown cooking as we now know it. I tried preparations posted by some food bloggers, shared pictures of my progress of breaking the mental barrier of microwave cooking, etc. Gradually my Instagram posts started giving a sneak peek of my memories associated with certain dishes or my preference of enjoying that particular dish. All these comments were actually the Kitchen Conversations – that I was missing the most.

Instagram: Is it new normal of kitchen conversations?

My memory of cooking is that of a chatty kitchen. Growing up in Mumbai, I remember my grandmother always talking or interacting while cooking. It could be multi-tasking, giving instructions for some housework, attending to some guest at home or our neighbour who would have dropped by while she was cooking. Ours was old Mumbai house in a chawl, sort of a community living. Doors of our houses were always open. Buying fish at doorsteps along with the neighbour, sharing daily menus and even food was an everyday routine. My neighbour was my first go-to person for recipe tasting, validation or even suggestions for cooking. These chatty kitchens took to a different high during festive season – Diwali was amongst the best when we visited each other’s house to help in preparations. From buying groceries, sharing finer details about particular dishes to tasting the first batch of delicacies – everything was a group activity.

This tradition followed during kitchen conversations with my mother too. When you try to be responsible, plan menus and cook on your own, an instruction here, a suggestion there would always follow. How to  roast some ingredient, amount of water needed for making some pastes, which veggie needs to be boiled / steamed or fried,  how to know if the meat is cooked… it would be a lengthy set of instructions while cooking – sometimes making me angry and a bit rebellious I may say. In the pre-video calls era, these continued over phone when I was studying abroad.

I generally cooked over weekends – trying some recipe under mother’s guidance or preparing our all-time favourite seafood.  I could spend time with our house help only on weekends. It was our catch-up time. Every weekend she started looking forward to the special menu – sharing with me her food experiences while working at other places, any new kitchen appliances or tips used in other households, her traditional recipes, updating about latest roadside joints around, etc. It was a chatty Saturday afternoon over tea. Over the years she became so central to our kitchen – our backbone.  We started depending on her for planning daily menus to grocery buying to storage. From our weekend tea sessions, she became the important factor of my kitchen conversations – at times guiding me about mother’s cooking practices in her absence.

With the lockdown these kitchen conversations went on mute. Our house help couldn’t come for work, mother’s health did not permit her to enter the kitchen. The same love and instructions followed over a call from the hospital. A few days later they fell silent forever…

From a chatty kitchen, I learned to make peace with a silent kitchen. I became the lead actor without my audience. Of course there was guidance from some close relatives, but immediate conversations were few. Maybe Instagram started breaking these silences with a post here and a video there, finding new recipes, following some new foodies, learning about cooking techniques, attending live sessions……. Sort of virtual kitchen conversations in the virtual world.

What are your memories of Kitchen Conversations? Do you miss them?

Hey someone called to wish Happy Birthday! What happened next?

Three friends were chatting and laughing at a suburban mall on a Saturday evening. Next to them was a girl smiling and enjoying her husband and his friend’s talks, memories and banter. A quick meeting turned into 3 hrs of fun as night fell by and it was time to head home. This memorable evening was thanks to one phone call…

It was usual birthday morning with wishes from some family and friends. Amidst receiving birthday messages and managing work I noticed one name flashing on my phone. It was a call from one of my university friend I had not met since eons… if, I was right at least a decade. As I received the call he said, “Faceboook reminded that it’s your birthday. Thought instead of saying HBD on your wall, I will call and wish you.” What followed was a conversation like old times, with promise to meet on the weekend along with another friend.

Retro Birthday Card
Sheer joy of Personal Birthday Wishes is like eating an ice-cream !

A little later, another friend called to wish me. More than a decade back, we came to know each other as industry colleagues. The friendship grew over years from calls, to Orkut, Facebook and occasional messages on WhatsApp but we haven’t met for many years. She said, “I have decided to call and wish people on their birthdays. We generally message or wish on social media and then no one talks to each other.” We promised to meet with a set deadline… which we did not meet.

Both these calls made me think. When was the last time I called a colleague / friend / acquaintance to wish Happy Birthday? Have we all become so caged to social media? There have been times I have decided not to wish someone on Faceboook, instead call. Day turns into evening, it’s time to head back from work and the exhausted mind remembers the forgotten wish.

These thoughts were lingering on my mind when I got another phone call. This time it was a colleague I haven’t spoken to for long. Somewhere back of mind I have been thinking of her but did not connect. Here she was talking to me on the phone, taking the opportunity to wish Happy Birthday!

These phone calls truly made my birthday. Felt blessed to have such relationships in a world which is far more connected, yet disconnected. I was cherishing this Birthday gift for next couple of days, sharing the joy with some friends. My phone buzzed again on an early Saturday morning. “Are you still sleeping?   We are meeting today evening, all three of us,” it was the same friend calling to confirm our plan.

In a typical Mumbai style, after some changes, we finally landed at a mall in the evening. Window shopping, chatter, old memories, food & coupled with drive in friend’s new car. An evening spent together with friends I had not met for 10 years…thanks to one phone call.