As a young child, I would often stand by my grandmother in the kitchen watching her make Uttapams for me, twice a week every June when I visited her in Hyderabad during my summer vacations. She would often narrate me mythological stories as she churned the dosa batter, cut veggies and poured them all together in the pan and drizzled it with chilly powder. As my watered from the steam and the onions, she would very gently wipe then with the pallu of her saree, ushering me to the dining table where the story would continue while I relished her fiery Uttapams. I do not know when these kitchen-story-uttapam traditions ceased to exist, but even today when I enter my grandmother’s kitchen, however rarely so, I am reminded of her stories and her delicious Uttapams. These remain perhaps my foremost and favourite memories of a South Indian kitchen.
Kitchens are a strange enigma where not just food, but skill, traditions and even patience is put to test. They are a place where cultures intermingle as our mothers try and create ‘a healthy Indian variant’ of a pizza for us or where men and women of the household come together to agree and disagree over tastes, methods, ingredients and even the latest gossip. Kitchens are not just contained in a four-wall dingy room but expand outwards to verandas where neighbours chop veggies together and drop subtle suggestions on cooking methods or even the backyard where papads and pickles are kept to dry. Kitchens expand and promote seamless intermingling on cultures. They become a place where not just food, but stories are created.
Taking this conversation forward, the G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture (a not-for-profit organization, that supports contemporary art and culture, good governance, and sustainability) in collaboration with Tara books is organizing an exciting event that discusses the nuances of the ‘Expanding Kitchens,’ a day-long exhibit that aims to explore how engaging with a region and culture through its kitchens is different than engaging through its monuments and streets. For this, the G5A is seeking entries from people who want to share dishes, recipes, anecdotes and stories of South Indian food, a select few of which will be exhibited on the day of the program.They could be personal experiences, memories, nostalgia features, heritage recipes and more. To send your entries to G5A, write in to info@G5A.org with the subject line as ‘Entry for Expanding Kitchens.’
This narrative would be initiated through the book launch of ‘Travels Through South Indian Kitchens’ penned by Japanese architect and designer, Nao Saito who has explored a colorful variety of kitchens in Tamil Nadu and narrates her experiences through travelogues, memoirs, architectural inquiries and meditation on multiculturalism, presented through floor plans, sketches, photographs, impressions, recipes and multiple conversation. She feels that “ the kitchen is one of the most familiar yet a place of ‘No Idea’. It always indicates what it will be used for and yet the manner in which a kitchen is used differs across cultures.” Resonating with these thoughts, the evening will also host a panel discussion in the evening with stalwarts like Interior designer Radhika Desai, scientist & fiction writer Indira Chandrashekhar, Chef Sandeep Sreedharan who will join Nao Saito, in a conversation which will explore and respond to the diverse themes of the book, sharing their own anecdotes and perspectives of what the kitchen means to them.
The exhibit will be held at G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Mumbai all day, on Saturday, March 3, 2018. The panel discussion will begin at 7 pm.
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