I don’t think there is a place in this world that I am more intimate with than the kitchen in my home. It’s the singular place that I spend the most time in: day in and day out. There is not a day that passes that I am not in there making something, even if it is as simple as toast and tea or frying an egg or getting a drink of water. Some days, it feels like I have spent the entire day there.
And, there, I become intimate with each and every item. Forks are pulled out of their drawer, used to flip a pork chop or quickly whisk an egg, placed on the table to eat, and eaten with. I wash each and every one, often more than once a day, by hand. It goes back into the drawer (ideally), just to be pulled out again to pin a sausage onto the cutting board or quickly shovel leftover bites into my mouth while I cook. I know when a pot has a new dent, I feel it as I wash it. I see the progression of black streaks on my baking trays, a patina of sorts; the collection is a collage of their usage and the delicious things I’ve made on them. Even that drawer that has all the things I rarely use, or the things I once used but don’t anymore: I could probably name each item in there and tell you when it came into my kitchen.
There’s a certain familiarity here that is rare: if you want to grow close to someone, or something, time is the only sure fire way to do so. Time spent together breeds a certain sense of comfort, of care. We settle into each other, making space, fitting in and with, just so. And that is what happens in my kitchen.
I’ve been in this small townhouse kitchen, with it’s plain cupboards and cheap countertops, for nearly eleven years now. I’ve not always spent as much time in it as I do now, but it’s hard to avoid one’s kitchen. It’s a meeting place, where you share how your day was while meat sizzles in the frying pan or while soup gurgles in the pot. It’s where your kids play, hiding behind your legs while you chop onions and dice potatoes; they run through, chasing each other, while you tell them to watch out because you’re about to open the oven to check and see if the bread is done. In our house, it’s often where guests stand to chat while we prepare the meal. It’s small, it’s not the most comfortable place in the house, but it’s the place that people gravitate towards.
Maybe it’s the smells that call them there, or maybe it’s the busyness, the noise, and the action; something is always happening there. Or maybe it’s just because that’s where the people are and the kitchen is just a space to be with those people. A kitchen can be a lot of things, depending on how you look at it.
I’m saying this as a man, someone who has never been forced or felt coerced into a kitchen. I’ve been allowed the space to create my own relationship to the kitchen and to cooking at home, and I don’t have the same baggage towards the kitchen that many do. I recognize these things as part of the development of my own intimacy with my home kitchen. Others will have very different relationships to their kitchens, ones of guilt, fear, anger, or one the many other stopping points on the spectrum of emotions.
I’m thinking all of these things after a long, hard day. Things broke, others simply fell apart. Fingers fought wars with sharp objects and lost, children were out of sorts and determined to make as many messes as possible without thought of cleaning them up. It was grey outside, dreary and wet and cold. But, even on this day, I can – in that moment of silence after the kids have gone to bed, and as I am using that moment to catch up and do the evening’s dishes – appreciate my kitchen. It’s not fancy, I often wish it was bigger or had more natural light or was simply nicer, but it still is all of the best things about kitchens: a place to cook, to share, to meet, to create, and to simply be.