Our kitchen was very elementary but a conspicuous place in the house. Prominently featured was the built-in wall cabinet that was a designated space for all the plates, bowls, etc. There were no china dishes or even the glass highballs, a few spoons, but no forks or knives, fridge, sink, or running water. A couple of water buckets for drinking water or washing dishes without dish soap instead with ash.

All the utensils were of brass that needed an occasional coating of some shining metal named Kli, done by hawking street vendors called ‘Kli-walas.’

Complete with the basic needs, our kitchen, also called Rasoi, had an orderly and clean look. Besides, it was quite spacious. The place was also our dining room, but there were no dining table or chairs. Neither there was room for those affluent items.

All the activities in our Rasoi, from cooking to eating, were on one level, that is, on the floor. Straw mats furnished the flooring for comfortable dining. Still, it was always a cross-leg sitting.

A wood-log clay stove with two burning outlets, aka Chula, occupied one kitchen corner.

My mother architected the Chula as per her needs and aesthetics. And she diligently built it herself from the few raw materials needed for her project. Once in a while, she used to renovate her Chula with a fresh coat of mud.

Mother was always busy with plenty of household chores, but creativity was her forte, and cooking was the passion she enjoyed the most in the domain of her Rosai.

On several occasions, my mother used to make cakes, yes, real egg cakes. And her little wood-burning Chula was the gadget for baking cakes. It was a simple procedure that she simulated.

The thickened cake mix was poured into a bowl or an empty Amul cheese container, covered by a brass plate, and then placed at the bottom of the Chula, where the hot ashes would fully wrap the cake pot. The cake was ready within 20 or 30 minutes, fresh from her multi-purpose oven.

Sweet memories are taking me back to the soft and spongy ash-baked cakes she used to make for the love of her culinary interests while, in her motherly spirit, she created delights with limited resources for all of us in the family. Happy Mothers’ Day.

-Promod Puri

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