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Inviting Writing: A Humble Kitchen

The cabinets squeak every time you shut them, the sink needs reglazing and the backsplash is made of cracking tile

An old kitchen can still have its charms. Courtesy of Flickr user ga3lle

For this month’s Inviting Writing, we asked you to share a story about your kitchen. So far we’ve read about dorm kitchens and the importance of kitchen boundaries. Today’s entry, like last week’s, is a reminder that great food can come from lousy kitchens.

Sarah Wortman lives in Seattle and is the Executive Director of Marketing for NAC|Architecture. She blogs at MidEast Meets Midwest and is currently taking a cheesemaking course.

Our Semi-Satisfactory Linoleum Playground

By Sarah Wortman

My husband and I relocated halfway across the country a while back and, once again, we found a fabulous place with a lousy kitchen. It’s stunning to me that two gastronomically obsessed, “the-only-time-I’m-not-thinking-about-food-is when-I’m-under-anesthesia” people like us keep finding places to live with small, inadequately appointed rooms for food prep.  This one, at least, has a window.

My current kitchen is an antiquated 6-foot-by-8-foot pass-through. The 1940s hand-built cabinets squeak every time you shut them, and the porcelain sink needs reglazing. It sports about four linear feet of beige laminated counter space, a backsplash made of cracking porcelain tile and a floor of dingy, yellow, peeling linoleum tile. Recently a floor board in front of the sink has begun to squeak every time we step on it. We have repurposed a coat closet in the front hall into a pantry and much of our cookware sits on the floor in the dining room. And yet, the most tantalizing, magical, restorative things happen in that bizarre little room.

This closet-sized space is a virtual meditation center for me on Saturday mornings. While my husband slumbers I put on a pot of tea, then pour yeast and honey into warm water in the bowl of my stand mixer.  Over the next half hour or so flour dances in the air like fairy dust as I work out a work week’s worth of frustration on a lump of dough, with nothing but the occasional sound of the Food Network in the background. At these times that dumpy little room is my own slice of serenity.

My husband is one of those mad chemists of the culinary world who fling ingredients around with reckless abandon.  He will spend a few hours and use almost every pot in the house concocting the most magical meals. After we enjoy them I will spend a half hour swiping the back ends of vegetables into dust pans and sponging spices and olive oil off of every flat surface, vertical and horizontal. The way he cooks, trust me, it’s worth it. I can’t think of a place on earth that he seems more completely himself than in our kitchen.

Once a year we fly to my sister’s house to cook Thanksgiving dinner for her family. She has one of those amazing gourmet kitchens that I often find in the homes of people who hate to cook. The island alone has more square footage than my entire kitchen and she has two, count them two, ovens. We love this annual ritual of spreading out and spending several days cooking a feast for a dozen or more people. Yet, for all the gourmet appointments her kitchen offers, I’m always happy to return to mine.

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