I like to joke that I’m probably one of the world’s most reluctant vegetarians. I’m not vegetarian due to an ethical point-of-view or because of my religious beliefs. I’m vegetarian simply because my husband is. He doesn’t require it of me, I’m free to eat meat any time I like. It’s just that I’m lazy and I cook what we have here—fresh, lovely, wonderful vegetables.
As a result, all of our food is cooked in my kitchen from ingredients that are fresh and whole. On Sundays my husband brings momos from the market and I get a break. If you’re not familiar with Tibetan cuisine, as I wasn’t before I moved here to India, momos are whimsical little steamed dumplings filled with shredded veggies, spices and heavenly goodness. I’m absolutely mad about them and affectionately call them “the new cheeseburger.” They’ve replaced an old bad habit.
Moving to India has haphazardly replaced a lot of old bad habits with much better ones. The pace has slowed down. Things are now simplified; life has become rustic. There’s a lot to be said about the perspective one gains when life is stripped down to its bare bones. I don’t even own a can opener. I’ve been here, cooking up a storm, for almost 8 months now and I’ve never needed one. What an odd thing for this American.
I guess I’m a typical first-worlder. I filled drawers and cupboards with “must-have” gadgets and electronics. You live in India for any length of time and you discover quickly, reliance on anything electrical is utter folly. The electricity grid here is as reliable as the weather in the American Midwest. It isn’t. If you had told me a year ago I would be living without all my gadgets and “must-haves” I would have told you, and quite unabashedly, “no way!” Now I own no coffee maker, toaster, microwave, juicer, food processor or mixer. What I do own is a paring knife and a hand-held grater and I have the scabs on my knuckles to prove it.
Now, before you groan about what a poor thing I must be I can tell you I’m enjoying this. No more drawer full of specialized knives and do-dads for me. I don’t even have cupboards. Just a cup on the counter that holds our silverware and my little knife. There is no oven. Just a countertop cook plate with 2 gas-powered burners. Any of this giving you heart palpitations yet? It did me too, at first.
But there is a quiet beauty in simplicity and in simplicity is clarity. I think back to how little I thought I had back in the States and remember how much it turned out to be when I had to get rid of it. I think about how much more I thought I needed and reflect on how little I have now; and I can’t help but smile.
What I have is enough. It’s enough to get the job done and just enough to require me to invest a little bit more of myself in everything I do. No more flicking a switch and letting a gadget do all the work. There’s more satisfaction knowing I participated so fully in the things I’ve done. I may not own a can opener but at least I own more of my day.