May 30, 2008

Kitchen Memoirs

(No thats not any of my kitchens, but it is one I really like!)

I've been thinking alot about kitchens and the ones I've had over the years. I've done alot .....and I do mean alot .....of cooking over the years. Some of those kitchens were tiny and some were large but I've always managed to put out some great meals. I remember our first tiny apt., it was a sublet for the summer. I was newly married, pregnant and in a temporary apt. till we could find one better. It was the apt. of one of the College professors nearby so it was small but in a renovated huge old home. We lived upstairs in a one bdrm, one rm and kitchen set up. It had a gas stove, some cabinets, a sink and one of those tiny know the ones for drinks and stuff like that. So I had to shop daily, there was no room. I had cooked for family and such growing up but this was my first time on my own. I didn't even have my own pots and pans yet.

I remember tho cooking in that tiny kitchen. I had to light the gas oven when I wanted to use it and I remember almost blowing the place up one day. I lit it and it looked lit.....then closed the door and walked away. Good thing I did......the build up blew open the door and scared me to death!

I made BBQ chicken in the oven my first meal. And I remember trying to please my new hubby by making Stuffed Shells for dinner one nite. Hes Italian and I'm not and I had never even heard of these things before I met him. So I called his mom to find out how. She said buy the large shells. Well I didnt know they made them sm,med, lg and jumbo... so I bought lg. Omg!! I filled over 150 of those things! I told my hubby then dont expect me to make this ever again! Its nuts. Later on his family had a good laugh. I bought the wrong size. I needed to buy the jumbo, duh.........then I would have had only about a dozen or so to fill. Sigh....

Our first real apt. had an eat in kitchen in an attic. Thank God it was eat in cuz I had a sink and stove thats it. One tiny cabinet and no counter space. But it had two bdrms which was good cuz my daughter was born while we lived there. Eventually we needed to move cuz that house was being sold. So we another town where the big homes near the water used to be the summer homes of the rich many yrs. ago. They were turned into apts. We had the downstairs and it had another eat in kitchen. It was a large one tho so at least I had room to move around in. But still no counterspace, set up alot like the previous one. So when family came over, we would move the table into the living room and sit around it there so we all fit. I remember making my first Thanksgiving turkey there while we all sat at the table in the living room and watched Willy Wonkas Chocolate factory while we ate lol. This one too had an old gas stove that refused to light. After the first incident at the other place, now I was truly scared to use this one. Eventually I had the gas company come in and fix it cuz it just wouldnt work for me. While I love cooking with gas.........I hate lighting pilot lights! We moved from there into our first home, an old cape cod style house in an old farm neighborhood, where land was sold off piece by piece. It was a nice quiet neighborhood and great for kids. Once again the kitchen wasnt great but it was bigger and it had counter space. It was L shaped and it was also an eat in kitchen. It worked for most things and I put my pantry stuff down in the basement. When we had alot of company tho and wanted to eat together I would have to drag in my picnic table and benches and use it to extend my table. That left just enough room around the perimeter of the room for me to get to the stove, sink, refrigerator and the back door to put out the garbage. It was cramped but boy did we have some great family holidays back then. It was also where my friend wolfswoman and I baked tons of Christmas cookies together with our kids. They still remember these times. It wasn't till we moved from there that I finally got a dining room.

The next house had a big U shaped kitchen connected to a family room and breakfast nook. I had alot of space there, lots of counter space to work too. I loved it. And we could eat as a family in the breakfast nook and did so many nites. I loved those times together. Then off the kitchen was a nice dining room. We went out and bought a dining room set and I was so thrilled. I had that set all those yrs until I left the ex. He kept it. I had no room here to take it but I miss it so much, it was my pride and joy. Many family holiday dinners were held there and since I now had a nice space to entertain in, our Gourmet group was born while I lived there. Many wonderful meals were made in that kitchen. Tons of cookies baked too. And when my Mother in law passed away I took over the Christmas holiday in her place. While in this house my Father in law passed away a year or so later. The holidays were never the same again. Eventually we moved away from this house and New Jersey, to California.

My kitchen in California was huge. A big U shaped kitchen with a huge snack bar with tons of storage on the outside edge of the U. My hubby bought me a butcher block island to use in the middle of that kitchen since we didn't use it as an eat in. We had the snack bar. He was on the road alot and the kids were in and out so sit down family dinners didn't happen much anymore. But when we did have holidays and birthdays and such , this house has a big L shaped Dining and living room set up we used. The dining room was one step up from the living room. It was big enough for most of our family times. But there were times that I would throw parties or have tons over for a holiday and I had to expand. He was now a manager so entertaining became a big deal for me. Im glad I had all that room in the kitchen now and that big snack bar area. I used every bit of it cooking up a storm. We often set up buffets on that snack bar and I could never seem to get people outta my kitchen! Because that area was so open they all would venture in to see what I was cooking. But because all our family was back east, unless they came out at the holidays, those times were just us.

So we made a family rule that still holds today...anyone with nowhere to go could come to our holiday. So my kids would invite friends whos folks were divorced or travelling. And sometimes their friends would stop by anyway to eat, they all called me mom. And many times my ex had clients in on business that got stuck here so he invited them over then. We had friends away from their own families too and it became a big community meal. But some of the most interesting times happened because of this rule. My kids have eaten dinner with people from all over the world.Eventually they grew up, my daughter got married and my lil grand daughter was born. She ended up in that kitchen too. She used to have a lil duck to sit in that attached to the doorframe. She could make it bounce up and down with her feet. So there she would sit while gramma would cook. Eventually we moved a brand new house the next town over.

This is the one I showed you my holiday pictures of awhile back in a blog. It was my dream house with my dream kitchen. It was big kitchen with solid oak cabinets and granite countertops. It had double self cleaning ovens and a Jenn aire stove top set in a big island. I had wood floors and a garden window. Next to it was a breakfast nook. On and off now I only had my son home and sometimes we would eat at that nook.

I loved the table and chairs I bought for that spot....solid oak. I loved them so much they came with me when I left the ex. My grammas hutch was in that room too. It was the center of my life, my heartbeat, that kitchen. And whenever people were over that where they would all hang out. I couldn't get them out of my kitchen no matter what. I had a beautiful dining room and I would set it up so we could all fit nicely. That worked for dinners but for parties, I just couldn't get folks to stay out of my kitchen. So I often threw spaghetti parties for my ex and his clients and our friends. I would precook the pasta and get everything ready. Then I would use that island with the stovetop on it to keep everything warm. I let folks serve themselves. It worked out great. But I loved that dining room. It had my set in it that I loved from the old house. It was an octagon shaped room with windows along the front that looked out onto the big wrap around porch. We put in crown molding, a medallion where the chandelier connected to the ceiling and wood flooring with an oriental rug on it. I just adored that room. I would often sit and pay my bills in there I loved it so much. I really used that house and kitchen. I would hold our church picnics in my backyard and the kitchen was full of food from everyone. Even then people just didnt stay outside they hung out in the kitchen. And I had a big yard and a pool too. lol. I miss that house and kitchen and always will. Eventually I left him........and all that behind. I had to. The next place I lived in was a mess...I rented a room from some friends but the kitchen was a disaster and I would eat out all the time, I couldnt stand it. And then I moved in with a friend temporarily until I found a home of my own. Again it was a tiny kitchen so I generally just made my coffee and breakfast and went out to eat.

And then theres this house. I stumbled on it by accident and it became home. I thought I would live here forever, at least that was the plan but Ive learned God doesnt always consult you while your making plans lol. It had a nice and fairly new kitchen, not very big but not tiny. It had a ceramic top stove with two ovens, counter space and room for a sm. refrigerator. For one person it was enough I thought. But I was wrong. I guess if you dont cook much it might be but I always end up cooking alot. When the kids were here we ate in the dining room, I didnt have a breakfast nook or eating area in the kitchen in this house. But I had the oak table from my old breakfast nook in there. Its nice, its country looking... but it only seats 6. With me and the kids and grandkids thats 7 .....and now plus the bf...8. And if you try to put the food out on the table......theres just no room for it and the plates and such. So now I've got gate-leg tables from long ago that sit along the wall and I pull them out when I need extra table space. I use them to extend the table. (Just like I did long ago with the picnic table in my first house). If I do that then we can all fit comfortably around it and all the food fits too. And when I have the holidays and there are more people........I open another gateleg table and make that the buffet. This house is a bit too small for me to have my real life in. I have a nice backyard but we rarely sit out there. It gets windy late afternoons and if its not that , then its hot. So even summer is difficult and we end up eating inside. Now its me, the bf, and my son and grandson. Me and 3 males. They do not want to eat at the table. I tried but they did it awhile and always complained. So now we sit in the family room with trays watching tv. I HATE THAT.

I had one more kitchen that I cooked for thousands in, at the restaurant. Theres a picture of that too in my blog about being a chef. I loved it. I was there while it was being built. I was the first to clean its stainless steel beauty at my station. I watched the walkins being built. This was brand new state of the art at that time. I just loved it. I also cooked at the tasting room kitchen there and also at the owners house. But Ill always remember this kitchen cuz it was the big time. I was commander of my part of it. I am still amazed at all I learned while being there and the sheer volume of people I got to feed. An example: The one summer of the concert series there I worked the restaurant AND the series. We fed 2500 people in the restaurant in 3 summer months and 12,000 at the concert series buffets held outside, that includes what we call family meals. Those were someone also cooking lunches and dinners for us, the workers. Many times we did prep for both while someone took some of that prep to use for our own meals. Back then we chefs did the cooking for both at the same time. Later on they eventually got a catering staff to cook for the concerts.

If I could only have one kitchen... I have this dream of one of those old fashioned farmhouse kitchens. You know.......reallllllly big with lots of room for cabinets and storage. And a great big table in the middle that seats everyone. And room for a big refrigerator AND freezer. And a nice big pantry. If I cant have that then Id love a house with a Great room. One big kitchen with a snack bar that over looks a huge room with a fireplace. Then I could get a new dining room set and everyone would finally fit. I do know one thing, this next kitchen and house I will spend the money on to make it what I want. It will be my last kitchen.


coriander said...

I don't think I've ever had a kitchen that wasn't tiny as all get out. The one I have now has almost no counter space and is so small that the fridge has to go in the breakfast nook which looks dumb. Sigh.

Sra Scherzophrenic said...

We do really lead parallel lives! How funny is that? My first kitchen was like a closet with a tiny gas stove and what was a camper refrigerator, and wash basin. Only one person could fit. I used to make crock pot chicken in beer. It was a really good stew. My crock pot was tiny, too. I hate gas stoves, too. I singed off all my eyebrow hair once lighting the pilot light. I always get the heebee jeebees when lighting one.
You have moved around almost as much as, take that back...definitely as much, maybe more than me. My favorite kitchen story is when we lived in this crappy little town called Berwick. Our floor slanted downwards at one end. We had no stove, so we used a Coleman stove in addition to an electric skillet. We were dirt poor, unemployed and managed to feed 3 kids and ourselves on 40 dollars a week, shopping at Aldi. I am still waiting for my dream that back...I am still waiting for Cat Cora and her hunky buddies to come over to my house and BUILD me a dream kitchen...I should probably send in a heartbreaking story of some sort. Ah well, can't find one, right now! My husband is a housepainter, and this lady gave us a ceramic top stove that is only 5 years old! How cool! She upgraded to the new INDUSTRIAL look in kitchen apps....I think hers comes with a Mexican kitchen crew. HAH!