Ask Amma

Kitchen Shelves

In What on 23 July 2013 at 4:10 am
Kitchen shelves ... ready for cooking

Kitchen shelves … ready for cooking.

This is an ordinary set of kitchen shelves.  But today it brought back memories.

Long long ago in a land far far away I moved into a house of 13 people.

It was called Friends’ Co-op, after the Society of Friends though not affiliated with the group.   The question sometimes came up and we clarified that the house was named back in the sixties and had nothing to do with the popular TV show of the same name.  This was the late 1990s.  People still watched sitcoms, though in our house we did not have TV.  This was a decade before people had internet at home, much less the multitude of gadgets and channels common today.

And so in those long ago far away times, when Madison was Madison and Wisconsin was a leading progressive state, in our house of 13 people, we cooked and ate together and had meetings where we reached decisions by consensus.   We bought our food from the local food co-op, ordered bread from the local bakery co-op and some of us even earned and spent local currency, Madison Hours.  Spelunker and apple farmer Mark Sparks would come over whenever he had a good harvest of apples and we would buy a box from him.  Once he took us to see a cave as well.

But why did these kitchen shelves remind me of those days?  Not because you must be living in a cave to have missed out on the innovations of the food industry.  Because the shelves in this kitchen had ingredients for just about anything!  What a sense of relief I experienced living in the co-op with 13 people who also believed in sustainable community living, as reflected in such a simple thing as having an abundance of ingredients.  Nevermore did I need to fear trying a new recipe, with ingredients that I might not use again soon.  Rice, whole wheat flour, oats, lentils, garbanzos and the like we bought in 25 pound bags and stored in huge containers, just like at the co-op grocery.

Shelves stocked with raw material are common in India but less so in the US.  I travel to many homes and often see pantries full of shiny packages and individually wrapped snacks – usually it is attributed to the busy schedules permitting little time for intricate shopping or cooking.

Here too is a family of four, with two office-going adults and two young children.  Their shelves are filled with ingredients and no processed food.  The kids in the family eagerly reach for fruits and scoop up handfuls of nuts, raisins, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.  Supplemented by a steady supply of fruits and vegetables, good food is always there.  For whatever they want to make, the ingredients are available.

Walnuts and Raisins!

Walnuts and Raisins!

On weekdays the parents cook breakfast, and eat with their children, creating an unrushed atmosphere in the morning before going to their offices and taking the kids to school and grandma’s respectively.

Well-stocked shelves help to make these practices easier.

One Saturday morning the 4-year-old member of the family woke up asking for granola.   As her mother passed her the ingredients she mixed it up, gave it to her mother for baking, and ate it for breakfast.   Another day she came home in the afternoon and asked for walnuts and raisins.  Soon after, she and my daughter erupted in song, “walnuts and raisins,” accompanied by a dance that gave rise to peals of laughter.

Making for more good memories.

  1. Hi Aravinda..i cannot remember how many times i have felt that i wish i had a shelf full of healthy non processed snacks that my son could pick from,i only have some nuts and biscuits and he picks from either of those,could you suggest a few healthy snacks that i could keep on the shelf for my son to pick from?


    • Hi Swetha. These are what I like to have on hand ….

      – fresh fruit
      – fresh vegetables that are good for snacking, such as carrot, tomato, celery, cucumber, broccoli. Chop or slice them. You could drizzle a bit of lemon juice on them as well.
      – puffed grains. this is a good way to eat less common grains such as kamut or millet.
      – raisins, dates, other dry fruit, with no added sugar, preservatives or coloring agents
      – raw or dry roasted nuts, unsalted or very lightly salted

      – any combination of above …
      for example, – powdered nuts or nut butter is a nice topping for banana, apple, peach or celery sticks. We sometimes roll pomegranate in peanut butter 🙂

      another example – mix up some puffed millet, peanuts, raisins and you have a great snack, easy to carry too. You could throw in some diced apple or guava as well.


      • Hi Swetha
        First and foremost I would eliminate all or most processed food like biscuits from your pantry that are considered “snack” items. Having a fridge full of various fruits and easy to munch vegetables serve great as snacks. We have a mix of whole puffed kamuts available in whole foods with sprinking of chia or flax seeds and nuts on hand and raisins as “cereal”. Quickly food processor run frozen bananas and berries and nuts as vegan “ice cream” and blended dates with nuts and raw cocoa (unsweetened ) as chocolate balls . Smoothies with spinach or greens or an avocado blended with fruits and a banana are quick fixes too. 3 tsp oil heated and1/3rd cup organic popcorn seeds till most pop and sprinkled with salt makes delicious homemade popcorn.


    • Thanks to your request we have a new post up called Simple Snacks …

      I shall keep adding to it. Many of these are familiar but a visual menu like this can help us remember them at the time of need. And as readers chime in all of us can get new ideas as well.


  2. […] me that String of Jasmine had made a difference to her mother.  I was awestruck.   In Dallas,  Kitchen Shelves in Sunita and Srinadh’s home reminded me of my own days steeped in the co-op scene in […]


  3. […] “good bacteria?”  How often are you eating packaged foods?  Look at your kitchen shelves.  How many contain raw materials, how many contain processed, ready-to-eat foods?  Are you […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: