02/365 – Outdoor Kitchen
Every day I see the man in this photo as he works in his “outdoor kitchen.” With a handful of large pots and pans, jerrycans filled with clean water, and whatever ingredients are in season, he sets about preparing hot food for his local clientele, made up of drivers, servants, guards, tuk-tuk wallahs, and the occasional brave expats who hang out or live in the neighborhood.
Sometimes, when I’m sitting in the never ending traffic in my taxi on the way home from work, I drift away from the heavy pollution and incessant honking of car horns and imagine building my dream home.
While the fixtures and furnishings often change depending on what I’ve most recently seen in my travels, the focal point that never changes is the heart of the home – the kitchen. Or in my case, the two kitchens – an indoor one and an outdoor one.
The kitchen has always played a central role in my life no matter where I have lived. I come from a long line of food people. They may not necessarily be foodies, or obsess over food the way I do, but cooking and feeding people is in our blood and so it’s no wonder that any home I live in revolves around the kitchen.
My dream home has a warm, homey kitchen with a professional quality stove and hood, state of the art gadgets and appliances, and a huge island where friends and family can enjoy wine and snacks while I cook. Off to the side is a long farm style table made of old knotted 2x4s, where I comfortably host dinners for anywhere from 2 to 12 people. Off the kitchen is a set of French doors that open up into a beautiful outdoor space that glows with twinkle lights and has comfortable seating and a large homemade fire pit. And of course, it has the outdoor kitchen, which comes complete with a built in grill, wood fired pizza oven, under counter fridge, a sink and enough counter space to cook without having to run inside to make part of the meal. It’s a luxury, plain and simple.
For the man in the photo, his outdoor kitchen is not so much a luxury as it is a necessity and way of life.
Whereas I imagine my outdoor kitchen as a place to be used during celebrations with friends and family during nice weather, this man’s outdoor kitchen serves groups of strangers seven days a week, from early morning to late at night, regardless of the unbearable heat or monsoon rains or the toxic pollution or the numerous holidays they celebrate here. He shows up every day and he cooks for no other reason than he must in order to survive.
Today I realized that my dream of cooking in an outdoor kitchen, my dream of luxury, is actually another person’s forced reality.
Usually when I walk by I find him standing behind the makeshift gas cook top, frying up large quantities of spicy goodness. But today, I walked by during a quiet moment when there was a lull in business and all his customers were fed and killing time, and I watched as he sat down on an overturned plastic bucket and waited, presumably for the next set of orders to come in.