Saturday, August 28, 2010


When we bought this 30 year old Kentucky cottage in March, one of the first things to be done was a kitchen renovation.  Clean white appliances, Shaker-styled cabinetry in sleek natural maple, classic white ceramic knobs.
Lovely though it is, the operative word is "small." During the past several days every available space has been clutttered with boxes of tomatoes, processed tomatoes in jars lined up on the table, more canned tomatoes cooling by the range, empty jars, kettles colanders, utensils at every turn.

When I turned off the kitchen light at 11: p.m. --unhandily located near the far end of the kitchen--I thought I had memorized the lay-out of the tomato crates and the kettles and canners lined up on the floor for want of better space.
I immediately fell over a kettle, clattering the lid, sending cats skittering off into the darkened rooms. 

Kitchens have always been important to me.
In the past decade I have lived in a series of houses custom built by J.
I have been able to indulge a flair for designing kitchen spaces, always with an eye to what might have appeal for a buyer.
I lived and worked in this large kitchen for a year and a half--long enough to decide that the dramatic black marble countertops stained easily, and that perhaps I wasn't really enthralled with an oven recessed into the wall.  I did like the tall built in pantry with its slide-out shelves.

My last kitchen in Wyoming was one in which I pulled out all the design stops.  I did, for awhile, beleive it might be my once and for always dream kitchen.
The main cabinetry was in natural oak, built in a simple Shaker style with dark walnut "pegs" in the door and drawer corners.
An island of drawers and shelf units--facing the range--made meal preparation a joy.
The ledge above the wall cupboards was suitable for displaying antiques and collectables--and made a perfect surveillance gallery for the cats.

A large pantry held bulk supplies of grains, beans, rice, pastas and flours,
as well as extra mugs and large items.
There was even an "appliance garage" with a pull-down louvered door.
Here Teasel has ousted the electric kettle so that she can hide in the little cubby.

Sadly, during the years of living with beautiful big kitchens, I couldn't raise a garden in the harsh Wyoming climate. As I have juggled steaming kettles and tried to find room for cooling jars of tomatoes I have thought with just a bit of longing for that large, beautifully laid out kitchen.

Then I think back to the Vermont years---of the small, rather primitive log cabin which J. built on a budget. The kitchen was a really tiny space with just room for an apartment-sized range, a fridge and a double-bowl sink with the minimum of counter surrounding it.
The only charming feature of that tiny area was a baking cabinet which J. constructed exactly to my height--I remember him having me put my hands out into nothingness at just the position they would be held to knead dough or roll pastry.
Over the years, hundreds of quarts of home-grown vegetables and locally picked fruit were processed there.
Loaves of bread, apple and berry pies, steaming kettles of soup were prepared and served to family and friends.

I have loving memories of the kitchen in my Grampa Mac's house.  It was a long narrow room situated in the ell which housed both kitchen and dining room with a cold pantry, a broom closet and a wood cupboard tucked along one side.
The space was dominated by a black cookstove, complete with resevoirs for hot water and "warming cupboards" above the cooktop--where food could be kept warm until serving time.
The oak Hoosier cabinet [now in my keeping] stood along one side wall, its interior scented by the jars of spices held in the lazy Susan.
A white cabinet sink stood at one end of the kitchen near a window which looked over the big farm meadows and off to Brandon Gap in the east.
At the far end of the kitchen was the door into the woodshed, and the old iron sink with a coarse linen roller towel hanging above.
There was always a kettle steaming on the back of the stove.
The oven door could be thrown wide and a chair drawn up when a child stumbled into the kitchen on a winter afternoon, mittens and boots clotted with snow.
Friendly talk keeps pace with busy hands in such a kitchen; tea, coffee or lemonade are handy by.

When my Cousin Bruce made a first time visit here last Sunday, two hours had passed when I realized I had never invited him to have a more comfortable seat in the living room.
I apologized, but Bruce waved aside my concerns.
"Don't you know," he said, "the best visits and the most memorable conversations have taken place around a kitchen table."

I'm still not sure where the muffin pans have been stashed.  Collectables have not been unpacked and arranged for display.  The new light fixtures still wait in their cartons for the day when J. is inspired to install them.
Yet, when I have been to town or out in the garden, I open the back door and step into my little kitchen with a sense of home coming.  It is starting to smell like my kitchen should.  The red kettle [chosen for me by my son] perches on the range in readiness for a cup of tea.
Once the tomatoes have moved from the floor to their designated mason jars, I may be able to walk across
the room in the dark with the sure sense of a familiar and cherished space.


  1. Super!

    A kitchen is the heart of a house - home - for sure.


  2. Your kitchen may be small, but look at how productive it is! Once I move, one of the first errands will be for canning jars and all that goes with them. To me, shelves or cupboards filled with jewel-toned jars of canned produce are one of the most beautiful and satisfying sights on earth.

    A lot of my kitchen stuff has overflowed to the dining room, kitchens are just not built big enough for those of us who like to cook and mess around in the kitchen! It really is the heart of a home.

  3. I really love your meditation on kitchens you have known and loved. I really think kitchens are the heart of a home, and the best times i have had have been sitting around my or friends' kitchen tables. That's why i'm so sad that i've let my kitchen table become terminally way to sit there, now. Your canned tomatoes look so beautiful and you will be so pleased to have those rosy summer-redolent orbs in the winter. One practical suggestion...get a light-sensing nightlight and put it somewhere in the kitchen. When it gets dark, the night light comes on. It's a tiny bulb, doesn't use much electricity...and keeps you from taking a terrible fall as you try to find the light switch at the far end of the room.
    [word verification is "foodden" *g*]

  4. Your kitchen looks perfect, definitely the heart of your home. It's funny, I remember all of my kitchens too, guess I'll have to steal your idea and write about kitchens too! LOL!

  5. As you probably remember we had a large live-in kitchen at our last home and I didnt think I would adapt easily to such a small kitchen as I have here. But I am warming to it quickly. Nothing is ever more than a stride and half away and with careful planning I think it could be very cosy. I enjoyed reading about your kitchen memories.

  6. I, too, loved your kitchen memories and all your kitchens! And your cousin was right, the best memories are often made around the kitchen table.