In the kitchen with Pushpa.
A home stay in Setrawa, India.
Chapati has may uses. It is food, of course, an Indian bread. But it also serves as a utensil, a fork or spoon, to scoop up whatever the vegetable of the day may be. Or as a spatula, placing one on top of another on the frying pan to spin and press and turn the uncooked dough. Or as even a potholder, folded in half to not burn your hand as you pick up a hot dish.
Every day, twice a day, Jaime and I sit on the floor of the kitchen to eat. It’s not really a kitchen, just a small concrete room with shelf full of red-rimmed jars of spices and staples. Hooks that hold actual spatulas, spoons, and a small array of other kitchen tools. A a four-burner range on the floor. A propane tank in the corner.
We sit on blue checkered cushions, sharing a plate of vegetables or beans or rice, that we scoop up with pieces of chapati while Pushpa, our house mother, makes more.
One at a time she pulls a chunk from the ball of dough that lays in a flour-filled metal bowl beside her. She forms it into a ball and then rolls it out with a small red-stained wooden rolling pin. She dips the flattened dough back into the flour and rolls in again, a process that is repeated another time or two before it gets placed in a hot pan, spun around, flipped, until it is cooked and coated with a some sort of thick and creamy liquid. A butter perhaps.
Sometimes she does this with one hand, the other holding a cell phone to her ear. Other times she stares intently between us at the Indian soap opera that’s playing at full blast in the common room.
Her sentences to us are no more than “chapati?” or “tasty?” or “no tasty?”
We always tell her tasty. Very tasty. Because her meals always are.