August 22, 2006

Life Stuff Happens in the Kitchen

Our kitchen is at the centre of our home. I mean it.

It’s midway from the front to the back of the house – first living room, then kitchen, then bedroom. Kitchen: biggish. Big enough for a table and in a pinch I’ve sat 12 for dinner. Imagine a subway car at rush hour full of friends - eating.

I was reading a recent column by David Leite on The Morning News, (a favourite daily indulgence), and he made a great point: kitchens say something about you and your wellbeing, whether itty and bitty or humungous and gargantuan.
I've noticed MagazineArticleBigBeautifulKitchens have more to say about being well-to-do than wellbeing. Have you noticed the larger the kitchen the fewer meals coming out of it? The photospreads of perfect, pristine kitchens so big the other end is in doubt, the ones you could never imagine grocery bags in. No soul.

Leite was writing about inviting Justin Spring to his kitchen. That's because Spring's New York kitchen is 45 sq. feet - which makes him the ideal author of The Itty Bitty Kitchen Book and a master at roasting in a toaster oven. Much of the book is about cleanliness, storage, and tidiness. But he also stuffs in an entire section on claustrophobia and how to handle panic attacks (all this in a room that contains knives, glass, and flaming hot appliances). I get the feeling he’s neither kidding nor inexperienced. The ittybittyness is a badge of honor.

Anyway, while nervously waiting for Mr. Spring to critique his weeny kitchen, Leite went deeper into his own cupboards. He was writing about the kitchen as the place "where the gestalt of a family is dissected and laid bare."

You know. Life Stuff.
I’ve been in my little place for just over 4 years. I love it. It has character, charm, length, windows.

It also has no insulation which makes winter not so charming, a bathroom in the basement, and in the kitchen a huge bay window inexplicably overlooking a brick wall less than four feet away.

But it has such a good soul. You know what I mean? You must know people who can ping that kind of radar; who feel a place instantly. I’m the daughter of one. My mother loves my apartment and my kitchen. Her karma is never, ever off. And my weird irrational side trusts her instinct.

For example, she called me one Friday afternoon a few months back to ask how my bestest, oldest friend in the world is doing. I had just talked to b.o.f. a few days before - everything was peachy. But Mum’s karma had pinged that morning she said. “Something is wrong and I thought it was J.,” she said.

Of course, I called J. aka b.o.f., “No, everything’s fine,” she reported.

Monday night I was out at the drug store buying painkillers for my husband because his fate had collided with that of a black squirrel, under his bike tire. Steve was on his way to his first day on a gig at a nearby studio, the squirrel presumably on his way to the tree on the other side. They met somewhere in the middle.

The squirrel got off better than Steve. The xrays showed a clean line break in his right elbow - 6 weeks of work gone before he’d even started.

While I was out on my mission of mercy, the phone rang. It was J.
Her father died over the weekend. She had found him that morning. I called her back, I sat at the kitchen table and we talked for a bit. We’ve both had complicated, challenging relationships with the men who sired us. And now he was in the past tense for J.

So that’s my mother. The one with the third eye, great intuition.

So you can understand my relief that my mother loves our apartment – despite the bathroom being a long, steep set of stairs down into the basement.

Our home has goodness in it. My friends are my family. And I like feeding them – so the kitchen is the heart of our home.

Leite wrote the kitchen is a place, “where relational dramas unfold...ground zero for life's vortex." And my mind flew back over the last tumultuous years that flowed through that room. Big dinners, big food. I had seduced there, been seduced there, and cried 'til I slept, and laughed ‘til I cried there.

It was the place where I had my first picture taken with both my parents - at my kitchen table - I was 40. That table is a loan from b.o.f. and her husband. Photos of my friends and family grace one wall, my trip of a lifetime around Asia on my own graces another. I’m surrounded by pictures of love and adventure – the spices of life.

One night, over bread, brie and red wine, the One Who Got Away ripped out my heart and soul – and later that night, and deeper into a bottle of scotch than I have ever been before or since, I was consoled by friends who came and held me while I keened and wailed and raged.

And then two cautious, fragile years later I fell in love harder than I knew possible over a dinner the Genuine Article (the Steve) served to me in my kitchen.

It was a dinner of curried shrimp, homemade na'an bread, and raita to honor my love of India and Indian food - which he hates and from which his own kitchen took weeks to recover.

My kitchen, became our kitchen, the centre of our home, the place with goodness in it. Welcome to my blog on food, love and life, on life, love and food.

Picture: Me and J circa 1968 - notice the très cool candy cigarettes they sold to children then?

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