Show us your kitchen.
That feels a bit like I’m in New Orleans, show us your….
Oh sheesh! I wish my kitchen looked like my grandmother’s with the light curtains, the white step-stool, the retro red table with shiny chrome edge. We tucked around that table in red matching chairs which stuck to my legs if I was wearing shorts, but I didn’t care; because who could resist a chair with gold sparkly flecks in it? Above the table, in a spring loaded plate hanger, hung the red plate which read around the rim, “You are special today… You are special today… You are special today…” into infinity.
It’s kitchen tour time but this is not my house, I’m renting. So come on in. This kitchen is up the bamboo stairs and all the cabinets are black, the marble counter camouflages crumbs. The kitchen before this had a Formica mint green counter-top with a round burn mark on it by the sink. Not my fault. Before that, our kitchen had an antique stove, just like my grandmother’s: so large it took up most of the small doorway. The shelf above the stove was all the counter space we had. Gas stove: my only caveat for a kitchen. I boil over and burn things on those silly coils. Give me real flame!
Like the cabinets, the stove in my current kitchen is black. I am spoiled with six burners. I am also spoiled with counter space on two sides and high ceilings with an open floor plan so I can talk to people in the living and dining areas of the great room. I have a garbage disposal for the first time ever, and an electric dishwasher. I feel an abundance of riches because the fridge makes ice. It also hums, but can’t hold any magnets because the front is stainless (my foot) steel. Invariably, there are sticky hand stains on the front- yet none of the clutter of photographs I love to stick up there.
Inside the cabinet doors I have taped drawings given to me by children, nephews, friends, kids, friend’s kids who are now going to college. These make me smile when I grab a glass for juice. I have a print of persimmon tree branches laden with fruit above the stove, and a card, with a quote by Irving Becker, in a frame:
“If you don’t like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious;
if you do like him, he can turn his plate over into your lap and you won’t mind.”
One thing remains the same in all my kitchens: spices overflow their drawers, and herbs grow on the balcony. I pinch the herbs to add to my plating, or flavor a meal. Basil, parsley, Cuban oregano, chocolate mint, sorrel, lemon thyme, Italian parsley and strawberries fill the pots. I love using fresh herbs. Next to the stove, is a wide drawer filled with savory spices, in the pantry, two buckets hold the sweet spices and extracts for baking.
I have a spoon rest made from a thrown ceramic pot and stamped “Flowers” on the edge. I have a ceramic vase decorated with black iron oxide lines and swirls made by Lou Vaccerro, it is filled with enough chopsticks to feed 50 people. Atop the fridge is a white glass bowl with a red spiral in the middle, it is almost as wide as my dining table.
I have a giant oak dining table from IKEA, I love to see it packed with people enjoying food and conversation. Most often I am cooking for two, but making enough for ten or more.
I am also big on appliances. I have two blenders, one for making small sauces and the Vitamix for all things soup and smoothie. I have a Cuisinart Food Processor, two kinds of juicer, a popcorn maker, a waffle maker, a panini maker, a crock pot, a break maker. I do not have a coffee maker, but I do have a Bodum for when my coffee drinking friends are desperate.
I love tea and have a deep drawer full of loose leaf and tins from Argo, Intelligencia, Tazo, Mighty Leaf, Tevana, Harney and Sons, and Costco’s green tea with macha. Sleepytime and Celestial Seasonings Holiday Peppermint Stick flavors I adore.
I have a drawer of teacups most are handmade from porcelain or stoneware by me or claymaking friends. I have square plates and dishes from the Japanese dollar store. The one with the fish smiling up at me makes me smile back. I have teapots atop the cabinets one brown one off white and one with a bamboo handle and a black bamboo design, I have a cast iron teapot, and a clear glass teapot for the blooming tea flower a friend brought back from Turkey.
I have a secretary filled with my grandmother’s English teacups, the fine ones we bought her on a visit when I was 10. Now that they have come back to me, I would give anything to have her rather than the teacups. Two cups are for thick coffee, they are dark red with golden looping trim, brought to her from Saudi Arabia. We had tea parties with these when I was little. There are glasses with etched butterflies and flowers so fragile they could be made of butterfly wings. These come out at holidays with bated breath they won’t break when we look at them funny.
There is my favorite saute pan, from Costco, that I replace when the teflon inevitably is scratched. It is light enough for me to hold and slosh the vegetables around over the blue gas flame. There is a utensil rack where the spoons, forks and knives hand from their ends. We had one like it when I was little and both my brother and I have one still. I remember the 1994 earthquake when those utensils began clanging and swaying and we both from opposite rooms in the house yelled at each other, “stop jumping up and down in the kitchen/living room!” “I am not jumping up and down” came the response and the dawning recognition, to the clanging of the spoons, “EARTHQUAKE!” we leapt into the doorways and swayed with the windows, the house and the silverware.
My kitchen is overseen by Quan’yin a gold plated porcelain statue of the goddess seated on a lotus holding a jar of elixer to pour in the dragon’s mouth, a real peacock feather brushes her cheek. She was a gift from my aunt, who for a time sold Chinese figurines after she divorced her Chinese American husband and my father’s best friend. She is supposed to help protect one from earthquakes, below her the utensils hang, unswinging.