The next morning after our arrival at the monastery, I headed to the kitchen to make tea. The kitchen turned out to be the dirtiest kitchen I’d ever seen. It was even dirtier than the kitchen in the house I rented during second year university with four guys – where we left the lights on all night to keep the cockroaches away (it never occurred to us that cleaning might do the same thing).
There were used mugs and half eaten food on the counter in various states of abandonment, and a pan of fried rice on the stove long gone cold. The walls and stove had a sizable coating of grease. Crumbs were scattered on the counters, and someone seemed to have a habit of opening cookie packets, eating one or two and then leaving the rest to get stale on the countertop.
The dish rack was so grimy that when you put clean cutlery on it you’d end up with bits of food stuck to the knives and forks as though you had never washed them. The fridge was a total bombsite, featuring a horrible smell and the star players of a tub of yogurt moldering away with no lid and a bowl of indescribable green paste.
Despite the mess, I was grateful to have access to a stove since I hadn’t cooked anything myself for three months. A few minutes after I arrived, the Tibetan guy who ran the guesthouse, Jampa, showed up with a monk and some tsampa – the Tibetan breakfast of roasted flour mixed with butter or butter tea, and sometimes cheese, in a soft dough. “It’s what we Tibetans eat every morning,” Jampa said. The monk broke off a lump for me. It was tasty.
The monk, who spoke no English, showed me the lazy way to make masala tea – he threw a few spoonfuls of tea into a pot of water – the tea strangely was a bunch of black beads, then in went a few cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon to boil away together.
This wasn’t the main kitchen for the monastery, but only the kitchen for the guesthouse. I had to wonder did the other guests cook here and just not notice this stuff? And was there a way to delicately ask “Why is this kitchen so dirty?” But either way, I was going to ignore it and happily cook lunch here too.