This week’s assignment did prompt me to consider my relationship with kitchens. My relationship with the kitchen? Yes. Why not?
I don’t often think about kitchens. I view them as practical rooms of the house. A kitchen is a place to store the raw ingredients for the preparation of food, and for some people, eat and entertain around food.
From watching American television — especially those home buying or home renovation shows — the conversations of certain people would make you think a kitchen is a place firstly to show off your design skills. Culinary skills are secondary. I think some Americans spend more time considering what the colour and material of the backsplash than the qualities of the politicians running for office.
Is the worth of a kitchen in what brand of an appliance is installed? Does a Miele oven make a better Keebler chocolate cookie than a GE oven?
I have fond memories of sitting at the table in my grandmother’s kitchen, watching her work. She used simple recipes, meaning none at all, and simple ingredients with simple tools at her disposal. No Cuisinart, no thousand-dollar stainless steel appliances, no timers, no eight burners over. The kitchen stove was neither gas nor electric. It was a home made charcoal burning stove. I am not sure how this particular bit of magic worked but I don’t remember ever choking on fumes.
My grandmother often made fresh bread for breakfast which she almost always served with generous amounts of butter, eggs, ham or salted fish1. Delicious. But my favourite treat was bakes, which aren’t baked at all but fried. My grandmother’s bakes were thick and dense, with a touch of brown sugar. I just loved the smell of the bakes frying. The sweetness of the bakes was an excellent complement to the fried salt fish.
The point I am trying to make is that I do not think the value of a kitchen is about the appliances or the quality of the food produced. It’s about a connection to a person or people with whom I bonded over a meal. It’s about a shared memory around food. My grandmother made nutritiously good food with simple ingredients and tools. But more importantly, she made memories. Perhaps that’s the true value of a kitchen.
All the food shown in this blog post was made in the simple galley kitchen in our townhouse. My wife, knowing of the theme for this week, volunteered the idea that perhaps I should capture images of the things that come out of the kitchen. I married a smart woman.