#179: Kitchens I Have Known
Whether big or small, the kitchen is my favorite room of all; a vintage children's learn-to-cook book; and encore of how to make a pot of tea.
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A Few Kitchens I Have Known
Ever since I was a little girl the kitchen has been my favorite place. Chances are that if I am not writing, reading, walking, or biking, the kitchen is where you’ll find me. When geodesic dome-homes, inspired by Buckminster Fuller, were popular in the 60s and 70s, I thought it would be way cool to live in one. I envisioned a kitchen-living-everything room surrounded by small-ish sleeping alcoves tucked alongside on the walls. Years later when house-hunting, I found a place that was close to the one I pictured in my mind.
I stepped through the front door from a wrap-around deck, into a big, light-filled kitchen with a huge counter where I would face out to the water while working. It had oodles of room for baking, canning, cooking, and eating. There were no sleeping alcoves, but window seats that looked out on fields and trees and I could see myself settling in with a good book or cozied up with a mug of tea and knitting, while bread raised and soup simmered. The second floor master bedroom even came with a Japanese soaking tub. “Oh yeah,” I thought. “This is it!” But, when I learned that there was a good possibility the land around it would be subdivided, I walked away. It wouldn’t be the same place with other houses close by…at least, that’s what I told myself. The real reason was that the price was way beyond what I could afford.
The award for the tiniest indoor kitchen I have ever had belongs to an A-frame cabin on an island in South Puget Sound. I lived in it for a summer in the mid-70s, worked at a deli several bridges away making sandwiches and salads, smoothies and pie, and cleaned my fair share of houses, too. At the end of the summer, I left the land of “rainbows that come in many shades of green,” as my then artist boyfriend I had moved in with described it, and headed south to attend grad school in San Francisco.
Fast forwarding to August of 1999, I moved to the home I live in now, “Pie Cottage.” The kitchen in this sweet 101 year-old girl seemed smallish for sure when I first saw her but I knew I could make it work. One of the bathrooms had a second door which opened right into the kitchen. It felt weird and I later learned having a bathroom door opening into the kitchen is not great Feng Shui. I would figure out what to do about that later. But back then I had bounced around quite a bit and was grateful to have a roof to put over the heads of me and my 12 year old son.
Ten or so years ago, I hired an electrician to install a 220 outlet in the kitchen. I had scored an electric oven from the thrift store and, when it was plugged in, I had a dual-fuel (propane and electric) 8-burner, double-oven range. It kinda camouflaged that pesky bathroom door, too. After I added a butcher block topper on a kitchen cart with wheels, the kitchen was now twice its original size!
The biggest upgrade came four years after that when Duncan took out the bathroom door and installed two wall ovens. Wowza! is all I could say when I put them into service. I named them Thing 1 and Thing 2 and say a happy little rhyme when I use them.
They bake pies.
They bake pies fast.
Thing 1 and Thing 2 will last and last.
With kitchen carts on wheels and prep tables spilling out in to the living area, I continue to create a kitchen-living-teaching space which, to me, feels spacious and homey. Pretty much everything in it is moveable because I do love to move things around.
This causes endless amusement to family and friends when they come over.
“You’ve moved things again?”
“It’s my reason to be!”
What I’m Reading
The Mary Frances Cook Book: Adventures Among The Kitchen People by Jane Eayre Fryer
This old children's book is rather dated but has my favorite mention of the oh so necessary kitchen tea kettle. Tea Kettle first shows up saying, "I'll melt if somebody doesn't come fill me soon." There is no water inside him and the heat is blazing below, which may have been why the wooden handle burned on a blue kettle I once had. Mary Frances, a young girl who wishes there were somebody to help her to learn how to cook, arrives next and as if on cue, Tea Kettle says... "I'm Tea Kettle, Miss," ...lifting his lid very politely. “I'm gladly at your service, if you please." And, so Mary Frances’ lessons begin:
Lesson 1: Plain Toast
Lesson 2: Buttered Toast
Lesson 3: Milk Toast
Mary Frances also learns her way around the kitchen with the help of Sauce Pan, Boiler Pan, Auntie Rolling Pin and all the other Kitchen People. BTW, I am called Auntie Pie by some and wonder if Auntie Rolling Pin and I are distantly related.
You can read the full version of The Mary Frances Cookbook for free at the Gutenburg Project.
The kettle in Mary Frances looks very much like the cast iron model with wire handle from my "back-to-the-land-ish" years. I learned that as quaint as it looks, the kettle rusts easily so it was delegated to the top of the wood stove and used to keep humidity in the house during the winter.
Recipe for Today
Here’s an encore of How to Make a Pot of Tea.
Do you have a favorite kitchen or kettle…or perhaps a memory of one? I hope you might share your stories in the comments with us.
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