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The Kitchen is the heart of the home

The Kitchen is the heart of the home

Being a mom, I have to spend endless hours in the kitchen, churning up one meal after another for hungry mouths and rumbling tummies in my household. Sometimes it seems to me that my kitchen has a life, an appetite and a temper of its own.

Like little children, the pots, pans, spice racks, cabinets, utensils and gadgets are always clamouring for my attention. Microwave, toaster, fridge, freezer, blenders and other appliances have to be in excellent condition for efficient cooking. For preparing a meal, all ingredients have to be at hand.

Mishandling food stuffs can have catastrophic results and one has to be especially careful in hot summer days when milk, yoghurt, meat, etc. can spoil easily and very quickly. One teeny bit of raw meat can attract a million ants and nobody likes to see any creepy crawlies in the cabinets or in flour, lentils, etc.

The pantry and refrigerator have to be cleaned and re-stocked regularly. It is also important to defrost the freezer and know what type of meat is frozen and since when.

The kitchen demands a lot of attention, care and constant vigilance. You have to stay on top of things as a poorly managed kitchen can reduce you to tears and cause endless frustration. Over the years, I have realised that there are a few things that are essential to keep your sanity intact if you need to spend most of your day in the kitchen; and I would like to share some of them with you.

Big or small, the kitchen must have proper light and air passage. A small potted plant or herbs growing on the window sill also give the kitchen a welcoming look.

It’s important to have an uncluttered, clean and clear work space for cutting vegetables, meat and preparing dishes.

Store cooking utensils, spices and other necessities neatly in nearby cupboards or racks for easy access. 

If possible, keep all baking stuff together; also keep spices for Eastern dishes separate from ingredients for Chinese or Mexican foods. 

Store spices in transparent bottles and label them so that you don’t have to search for the correct items.

Keep the cupboards and racks clean or you will have ants, cockroaches and other pests invading your kitchen. Putting cloves in cupboards keeps ants away.

For garbage, use a can with a lid. Use a bin bag and dispose of garbage every day. Wash the bin regularly and leave it in sunlight for a while to kill germs and get rid of bad odours.

If possible, clean the stove after every use so that spills don’t burn and give off bad smells or become a fire hazard. Sweep away the crumbs and use a broom to clean the floor.

It’s a good idea to wash the kitchen floor with lemon / lime smelling disinfectant regularly and wash the dusters with detergent every night so that your kitchen is clean in the morning.

We like to hang on to things but if you have saucepans without handles, storage containers without lids, punctured water bottles, chipped mugs, old lunch-boxes or any other thing that is cracked, split or broken, get rid of these. They take up a lot of space and add to clutter.

Always keep kitchen gloves for handling hot pans. Grabbing hot woks with your duppatta is a terrible idea and can lead to fatal accidents.

Keep a pair of scissors in your kitchen to snip sides of spice packets, milk cartons, etc. If you pull the packets apart, you will have a big mess to contend with.

Pour some detergent down the sink pipe and pour hot boiling water over it at night. You can also pour baking soda and vinegar to unclog pipes.

Be generous when it comes to leftover foods. If the leftover meal is not eaten within the next two day, chances that it will be eaten after three to four days become remote. Give it to the maid, wrap it in a naan and give to a beggar or break it into small pieces to feed the birds.

Fix days for cleaning the fridge, cleaning pantry and try to de-clutter and organise two or three cupboards every week. This way you will know which tins are nearing expiry dates or if there is anything that’s turning into an interesting science experiment at the back of the fridge.

Boil and wash kitchen sponges and rags regularly to avoid contamination, and replace them when they become too dirty.

Keeping the kitchen clean may seem like a Herculean task but the health of the whole family depends upon a clean, efficiently run cooking place. After all, it is the rich aromas wafting from the kitchen that make a house a home.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine June 21st, 2015

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