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Ampara, Sri Lanka, Geneva, Inspired Posts, Kampala

Cooking in a kitchen that isn’t mine (or new!)*

It really freaks me out.

I am not sure what it is about unfamiliar tools and temperatures and pots and pans that one doesn’t know how they react, spices like red chilli or even salt for which the pinch of it has to be a bit more or a bit less…

Oh wait.  That’s all probably it.  As with anything, no?  It’s all unfamiliar.  It’s all new.  Of course it will be a bit nerve wracking and not quite right…no?

I learned this about myself the hard way, by the way.  That it takes me time to learn how to cook in a different kitchen.  My first meals in a new place are always experimental (and I move a lot…and rashly promise people that I will come to their house and cook).  Before I realized this about myself, I made one two three mistakes (ok, maybe more, but let’s just stick to three for now, eh?)

One:  I taught someone how to cook in their kitchen.  Needless to say, things burned, they smirked, I was devastated.

Two:  I invited people over in Sri Lanka when I was working there and hadn’t had time to cook yet or figure out the ingredients but thought, HEY, HOW HARD CAN IT BE?  I CAN COOK.  They came, they ate, they were very polite, I was devasted.

Three:  I was back in NYC, my home turf, in a somewhat familiar kitchen…my sister’s home.  I cooked, they didn’t eat, neither did I, none of us believed it, I blogged it and stopped cooking that whole summer (that is ultimate devastation).

I’m not sure how I finally figured out that I need to KNOW my kitchen and everything in it.  But now I know.  THANK GOD for that.  Have been kitting out my kitchen space in Geneva for the last week.  Wasn’t taking chances.  Brought some spices with me as well from Pakistan as I was just working there for a bit and didn’t trust the Swiss to have the right kind of tumeric (the kind that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and on top of that doesn’t come from South Asia either).

The Essentials: coriander, turmeric, red chilli powder, cumin seeds and cardamom

What kinds of things do you stock up on for a new kitchen?  Other than traveling with a toothbrush and possibly your teddy bear (what?  teddy bear?  me?  no…don’t be silly..ha ha..ha..ha…ahem)…do you travel with kitchen items? (or is it just me who brought her forks and fave five peppercorn mix grinder with her?)

*Post inspired by a twitter exchange about daal (and that’s a post that’s coming right up!) and promises of killer daal by @FinelyChopped (Kalyan Karmakar)when I visit Bombay or alternately, my killer daal if he’s in my neck of the woods.  Check out his blog here.


About Zehra

Zehra is a livelihoods and cash transfer specialist working in humanitarian contexts. She has also been a health and lifestyle coach for humanitarian aid workers. Loves food, bollywood and tweeting (@zehrarizvi).


One thought on “Cooking in a kitchen that isn’t mine (or new!)*

  1. hey thanks for the shout out Zehra. This post reminded me of the time when I went home to calcutta after I moved out of Mumbai. I offered to make some kheema for my mom… came out frazzled at the end of it. This was no longer my kitchen

    Posted by Kalyan | July 12, 2011, 8:55 am

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