The Cook and the Kitchen

Appears in

By Sri Owen

Published 1980

  • About

My Sumatran grandmother, who was a wealthy woman and the head of a large household, did most of her cooking in the open air, on wood-fired stoves called tungku that consisted of carefully-arranged piles of bricks. There was a big kitchen indoors, but as long as the weather was fine it offered no special advantages that couldn’t be had in a shady corner of the big yard behind the house. There was no food storage because everything was bought in the early morning at the pasar (market) or taken straight from our own land or from the granary. There was of course no gas or electricity. A heavy Dutch kitchen table with a couple of drawers to hold knives or other small implements was all the essential furniture; I think there were one or two small stools on the tiled floor. Along one wall was an earth platform, faced with brick and tile, where charcoal stoves could stand and the cutting-up of food could be conveniently done. In the room next to the kitchen, where most of the household ate, there was a low mat-covered platform on which we sat, the men cross-legged and the women with their legs tucked demurely together to right or left, while the serving-dishes were placed in the midst of the company and we all helped ourselves.