18 Oct
My Kitchen is as Personal as my Underwear

I love to entertain in my home, but I am a bit possessive about my kitchen. I consider my kitchen to be as personal as my underwear. My kitchen anxiety has made me a more organized person, and the habits I have formed should equip me to entertain guests well into my golden years. You see, I have always had to focus when creating in the kitchen. A little short term memory loss shouldn't make me any worse. 

Now, I can explain why I’m like this and also how I work around it. I grew up in a home with loving parents and a younger brother. The kitchen belonged to my mother, and, when I wanted to prepare food in this space, I asked permission and worked within her system. 

When I became a grown-up and finally had a home of my own, I regarded the kitchen as my domain. It was minuscule, but within its confines, creativity, and enthusiasm prevailed. As I mentioned earlier, I considered this small kingdom to be as personal as my underwear. Tools, recipes, food, spices, pots, and dishes were all placed according to my individual needs.

By contrast, my mother-in-law grew up in a family with eleven siblings. She regarded the kitchen as a facility to be used by the entire household. She felt comfortable opening my drawers, cleaning my sink, or grabbing my broom and sweeping up, usually, while I was whipping a soufflé to perfection. In the early stages of our relationship, her behaviour left me distracted and confused. More than occasionally, this new chaos resulted in culinary catastrophe. 

Years have passed, and I realize that neither one of us was wrong. We were just from different backgrounds. When such a difference in paradigms exists, there must be a concerted effort to communicate. It fell to my husband to explain, to his mother, that we regarded her as a special guest in our home and would prefer her to relax in the front room until dinner was ready. After some protesting, she graciously agreed to comply, and we have been good friends ever since. I can smile now, as she circles the island in my kitchen, smiling, teasing, and offering to help. Once we have a giggle, she pours herself a coffee, sits at my kitchen table, and watches me check my lists. This is a compromise we both enjoy. She is definitely an enthusiastic cheerleader and truly appreciates good food.  

I actually love inviting people into my kitchen to create homemade chocolates, roll and bake batches of cookies, or build gingerbread houses. My grandchildren are always welcome to stand on a chair beside me and help prepare delicious foods. I even invite a friend each Christmas to help me create a traditional treat in my kitchen. Planning activities for invited visitors to my kitchen gives me great pleasure. The recipes are laid out, the kitchen is tidy, beautiful music is playing, coffee is brewing, and everyone is relaxed.

On the other hand, the planning and time required to serve seven or eight dishes, simultaneously, to fourteen people will always require serious concentration for me. Over the years, I have collected and invented recipes for making almost every part of any seasonal celebratory meal ahead of time. Preplanning allows me to visit with my guests and enjoy the holidays too. I am as surprised as everyone else when a multitude of tasty dishes appear from one small, though double, oven. This year, I had so much time while the turkey finished cooking that I began to feel I had forgotten something. I needn’t have worried, because we were about to experience something new. 

Sitting quietly, with my mother-in-law, in the living room, I heard my husband running water into the kitchen sink. Suddenly, I heard water spraying and some nasty words filling the air. I saw water spraying from the back of the tap, all over the counter, and up onto the windows. Soon everyone in the house was in the kitchen. A blur of activity followed. Someone took a photo of the taps so we could find a match. Someone else turned the water off. Someone called my son-in-law. 

My son-in-law arrived, after the initial chaos, with the new tap and lots of tools. He was ready for anything. There was drilling, banging, and discussion. The men and the kids were particularly energized. Eventually, we had a new faucet and a great story to share. Even a crisis like this didn’t spoil our Thanksgiving feast. I am grateful for harvest foods, a handy kind of son-in-law, and make-ahead recipes. You see, occasionally, certain people are welcome during meal preparation. 

I have matured since the critical discussion between my husband and his mom regarding kitchens. My love of family far outweighs my need to produce a perfect soufflé. Oddly enough, I recently found this anonymous poem in the pages of my late mother’s handwritten recipe book. As I read it, I was sure I heard her laughing from the great beyond. 

 

Please stay away from my kitchen,

From my dishwashing, cooking and such,

You were kind to have offered to help me

And I do want to thank you so much.

I hope you won’t think me ungracious

When I ask that you leave me alone,

For my kitchen is not very spacious

And my system is strictly my own.

So please stay away from my kitchen,

It may well prevent a few words,

And when I’m invited to your house,

I promise to stay out of yours.

 

 

 

 

Comments (3)

  • Maureen Haddock
    October 19, 2013 at 09:30 pm

    Thanks to Bev and Rauncie for shedding light on the other side of the kitchen. I know Bev came from a different kitchen than she has now adapted to and I admire her for that. We have all matured over the years. You are welcome to come to my kitchen for milk at any time during the night. It is just that I need, and want, to concentrate when I am putting on a large dinner. This year the dishes were done by my daughters and the men sat and visited. After all, they had replaced a tap!! I just love life! There is no predicting an outcome. Thanks for reading my blogs.

  • Bev Gardner
    October 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Wow..underwear...if I had known I would never have gone down to your kitchen at 4am for that glass of milk! I did know that it is always wonderful to have those lovely relaxing visits after dinner while Gord does the dishes! Like Rauncie, the extended family in our house just bursts in with bags and boxes all over the counters and make themselves at home. But they bring food and usually wine and they are welcome (but there are SO many visits). Now as far as using our (and it is our as we are about equal in cooking the family meals) kitchen when we are not home- also our cottage- that's another story! Good blog Maureen!

  • Rauncie Kinnaird
    October 18, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I grew up on a farm where helping yourself was expected. People would arrive, grab things from the fridge, visit, come and go. As an adult, I was surprised to find my sister-in-law found help in the kitchen offensive. She was from an Italian household with multiple kitchens. There was great pride in serving guests. Kitchens can have such a range of personalities depending on their varied occupants. Love the blog!

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