’Kumain ka na ba?’
In every Filipino home, the kitchen is probably the most used room in the house, with the most noise coming out of it, as well as the most delicious and at times even questionable smells. Someone is always cooking something—from kuya hankering for a piping hot bowl of instant noodles with red hot dogs to lola cooking up her sought-after paella Valenciana—the room is always bustling with activity. The idea of serving a large number of family members isn't new either, as aside from the immediate family, there will always be titas, titos, cousins, inaanaks, and mga apo sa tuhod running around waiting for a chance to sink their teeth into a plate of whatever's cooking on the stove and friends dropping by unexpectedly for a quick snack and to share the latest piece of juicy gossip.
If you're thinking of upgrading that kitchenette into something more 'Pinoy-worthy', here are some of my best kitchen ideas for a big Filipino family:
With a lot of food comes a lot of serving dishes and cutlery as well as lots of leftovers. No real Pinoy can ever cook for just one person—the food that is made can usually feed at least three other people. Think of the space you would need for the other appliances, too, like the electric oven, kettle, and the holy grail of any Filipino household: the rice cooker.
A dishwasher is a foreign concept in a Filipino household—it is so much faster and economical to do the dishes by hand! Switch out your hardware for a pull-down faucet instead. Not only does it get grime and dirt off in a jiffy, this can also be used to fill up big pots needed for cooking faster.
Done are the days of lazy Susans in the middle of your dining table! Instead, swap it out for a modern trolley and keep your bottles of vinegar, soy sauce, hot sauce, and patis in pretty bottles so they look like artistic accent pieces instead of eyesores. Another trick is to display your pots, pans, and sieves along a wall or along a rack of shelves with hooks. The innovative storage space also lets you use the cupboards under the sink to store other items instead—like the secret stash of snacks you've been hiding from the significant other.
We just love our spices, don't we? Our food is influenced by the Malays, Chinese, Arabs, Spanish, Japanese, and Americans, so it's no surprise that we keep a little bit of everything in the pantry. Arrange your cupboard of herbs and other good things according to region, so it doesn't confuse you when you have to look for that bottle of kecap manis to thicken your adobo or the jar of gherkins for the make-your-own burger party happening in the kitchen.
Most Filipinos have at least two dining tables at home—one 'formal' table in the actual dining room and an 'informal' one usually situated inside or right by the kitchen. The informal table is the one most commonly used, with the day's meal still on the table so people who pass by could pick at the food as a snack before the next meal. Buying a bigger table usually means you are to expect more relatives and friends coming over to visit, which also means you'll be in the kitchen longer, catching up on the latest chismis while prepping for the next meal of the day.