Expanding the kitchen
“Kumain ka na?”
It’s not unusual to be asked this question in the Philippines. Offering food to share is a sign of welcome or of friendship, a statement common throughout the archipelago. During travels to projects in other parts of the country, getting caught at a job site during lunch hour will often reveal a smiling face and an arm outstretched with food: “Kain po?!”
Often, it is done as a greeting, and out of respect and good manners. It is also a statement used at home when one arrives, “Kumain ka na?” or “Have you had your dinner?” Pandemic or no pandemic, whether one has enough for himself or not, food is always offered to another.
And if there is one love language we share with most of the world, it must be that of food. Just look at the number of cooking shows in Netflix, the proliferation of accounts on Instagram and the sharing of recipes, insights and flavor finds on Facebook. When the quarantine began, we went scurrying into our kitchens, roasting, grilling and kneading away our fears and anxieties, nurturing our families with the joys of home-cooked meals.
The stay-at-home situation has forced our kitchens into being their best selves, going into overdrive and bearing the grind of producing three meals a day. Often taken for granted, they have risen up to the occasion, performing like efficient machines that have been cranked time and again to work at their optimum.
Given the fixed sizes of our cupboards and overhead cabinets, and our newfound lifestyle, we find ourselves constantly filtering out the things we don’t use every day, or those we’ve lost the enjoyment of (hello there, Marie Kondo). After a hundred days on quarantine, our kitchens are the most efficient they’ve ever been.
With the added activity, they’ve also been expanded, with an additional spice shelf, a cart or basket, to worktables and storage units that are larger and more useful. At the onset of the lockdown, many bought chest freezers, others bought ovens, and the Kitchen Aids on sale in Lazada flew off the shelves. We now have more homecooks and bakers selling from the security of their homes, adding another, more commercial dimension to this domestic space.
Most households upgraded their pantry inventories, not only to hold a week or so’s provision, but to contain anything you think you might need. No one wants to run out for a can of tomato sauce or a carton of milk and be at risk of exposure to the virus. Pantries stocked up with much help from websites and apps that make grocery shopping possible from home. I know a number of households where their pantries have crawled into other areas of the homes. Shelves and racks are hung on the walls, exploring vertical expansion where horizontal is not possible.
Tablescapes have become a consideration during meals. In my own home, we keep our weekdays simple but we highlight the weekends to establish a rhythm for the week and give some identity to the two days that we deem special and recognize as our family days, when we are not in our rooms working, and the days we used to visit restaurants and explore food in the city.
These days, “Let’s eat!” within a household has become quite rhythmic. Think about it–100 days in quarantine equate to some 300 homecooked meals. We’ve been forced into our kitchens to discover new ways of using this space we now look at so differently. As restaurants re-open, have the chance to cautiously step out for meals.
And with more cloud kitchens and food delivery services opening up, maybe our kitchens can take a breather. But I guess the moment we are waiting for is when we can offer our friends some food with “Have you eaten?”, and actually sit with them to share a meal. “Kain na po.”
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