I grew up spending numerous hot, electricity-less summer afternoons laying on a banig (woven mats made from dried and sometimes even dyed palm leaves) on the pebbled balcony together with my mama and my siblings, chewing and sucking on bushels of tart sineguelas. Tagging along with my papa on his visits to farmers and fishermen in the countryside, we, my siblings, cousins and I, also slept on a banig atop their cool bamboo slatted floors. But as I grew older: graduated and finished my Masters degree, slaved my way up the corporate ladder, married the love of my life and moved to another country, sleeping on the floors was kept to a minimum as I have enjoyed the comforts of soft and yet firm foam mattresses.
And yet The Husband and I found our backs on solid surface again. Instead of a banig, a limp, hand-me-down comforter was the only layer of protection and cushion from the coarse hairs of the carpeted floor.
Was it hard?
The floor was hard, of course, but returning back to the ground seemed like the most natural thing to do. We were starting over. Most of our belongings: knick knacks including kitchen tools and appliances (which we would not be able to use due to voltage differences), clothes, shoes, books, were sent back home to the Philippines from Dubai as we only had four colossal suitcases to our names. What to bring was question of what we truly needed to bring versus what we wanted to bring, especially given the challenge of baggage budget, which was out of our own pockets (unlike other lucky expats whose employers shoulder relocation costs) and location roulette since we did not know then where exactly The Husband would be assigned.
Now that we have moved into our new Texas apartment, the same question of utmost necessity yanked my ambitious cooking ego, which had dreams of building a kitchen filled to the brim with tools de rigueur, back to the ground…with the help of the my ever sensible, financier Husband. The dream kitchen would have to wait a while. So what do two people really, really, really need in the kitchen?!?
I actually managed to squeeze in some kitchen stuff, which I thought would be useful, with me, including:
- 2-aprons – I bought some uber cute aprons from Ikea in Dubai. Don’t these count as clothes? I say YES, because I always end up with stained shirts when cooking.
- 1-slicing knife – Remember the Zwilling knife I won last year?
- A pair of oven mitts, which design matches one of the aprons. I do need to look cute in the kitchen, noh?
- A handful of selected cookbooks – Of course, I had to lug some books along!
Obviously, I cannot produce any cooking with the above. And so The Husband and I spent an entire weekend kitchen implement shopping at Ikea, Walmart and a couple of (now my favorite!) outlet department stores. The 2-day weekend felt like a week with the tears and bickering from crazy (most likely hormone charged – best scapegoat!) me, seesawing between my ideas for a dream kitchen and the sensibilities of budget limitation. But all is peaceful in the homefront as we finally built our start up kitchen with these babies:
- For cooking:
- Ikea 7-piece stainless steel cookware set including Pot with lid 5 Qt, pot with lid 3 Qt, saucepan with lid 1 Qt and frying pan dia. 11″
- Ikea roasting pan with rack (Because our apartment comes with an oven)
- Ikea basic cooking utensil set, which includes Spoon 11″, fork 11″, turner 12″, spatula for wok 11″ and cooking tweezers 11″
- Ikea wooden chopping board, unseasoned
- 3-pcs Kuhn Rikon vegetable peeler (Just because it was a pack of 3)
- Ikea kitchen shears
- To avoid burning the wood laminate kitchen counter: 4-pieces trivet / placemat (2-cloth and 2-silicone)
- To properly store food: Ikea bag sealing clips
- Various Ikea food containers (including a Martha Stewart set sent as a housewarming gift from a good friend)
- For dining:
- 2-Ikea plowls (plate + bowl hybrid)
- 2- Ikea soup bowls
- 1-Ikea serving bowl
- 2 Ikea-glasses
- 20-piece Ikea flatware set including 4 of each: spoon, fork, butter knife, teaspoon and dessert fork
Very, very basic and yet it has served its basic purpose: no frills home cooking and eating. In the past two weeks, I cooked rice, pasta, adobo, kaldereta and even roast chicken with my basic kitchen tools (I even replicated my MIL’s recipe with Grrrreat success – in Borat accent – using these basic stuff!). I do miss a lot of kitchen tools such as the rice cooker or the colander, but with such limitations I have learnt to become more creative and resourceful when cooking with basic tool-less techniques.
For example, some of the plastic cups we’ve gotten from our eat-outs, we recycle as containers and our dishwasher acts as a dish dryer (see above).
Despite the lack of things that I think I need and want oh so bad, I still feel blessed. Not everyone has the chance to reset their lives and we were given that opportunity on a not-so pretty, silver platter. With starting from the ground up at the age when your body, mind and spirit is already used to having certain things, yearning for stability and security, I’ve realized that there is beauty behind this madness. We are creating a grounded and firmer (quite hard really) foundation for the expat life ahead of us.
Delirious about delicious,
P.S. We don’t sleep on the floor anymore as we got a mattress last weekend 🙂 Hihi!