Many years ago my mother gave me a large “coffee table” book about kitchens. It showcased kitchens throughout the years in various countries. It’s in storage right now so I don’t have it for reference. But it showed early kitchens, centuries ago like the one my friend and I saw at Argyll’s Lodging, which sits beside Stirling Castle in Scotland.
But I’m going to tell you about the kitchens we’ve had, that I remember. Historic kitchens and kitchens I might have wanted to live in will have to wait.
It’s 1963. There’s a kitchenette of gray and pink with four seats, and I don’t remember the stove or oven because I wasn’t old enough to use them. We had a formica counter and I was allowed to dry dishes before going out to play with dad and the neighborhood kids.
In 1967 we move to 25 acres in the country and a house that a family couldn’t finish. My dad fell in love with the views and every weekend we worked to improve the place. Three years lugging rocks for a retaining wall and laying and re-laying bricks around a pool. It was a lovely home. They didn’t finish the walls or windows or floors so we had to do everything. But before they ran out of money they did a hip 60′s kitchen with everything built in, from a metal round you’d take out to put in the blender to controls for the stove. They messed that up. Electric stove, gas most everything else. So they put push buttons on the top of the yellow counter and mom had to cover them with plastic to avoid spills and outages.
From age 8-10, we learned to make refrigerator orange rolls and cinnamon rolls and try to offer our parents breakfast in bed, which they always refused and came out to the kitchen. I also learned how to make a perfect vodka martini for dad when he returned from work.
Then we moved to the D.C. area and I had no interest in cooking except snickerdoodle cookies. Big city instead of small town, and there was a big mall and money to be made babysitting. Pop tarts were it for me on the way to the bus and school. Nondescript kitchen with carport access and access via swinging door to the dining room. It became a formal dining room then, with furniture to match.
High school, mom went to school to become a paralegal and got good work. My sister and I had to cook dinner for the family a couple of nights a week and we always did the same thing, a tuna-lemon loaf (souffle) and mac and cheese. I always did the tuna. It was a dysfunctional kitchen that really just served as a pass-through to the dining room with Japanese-inspired wallpaper from former owners. It didn’t have good “flow.”
College came around and these were the old days, no laptops or cell phones. We were in a cell, two girls to a cell and a bathroom for 75 girls down the hall. Two pay phones. I had the Lipton lemon-flavored iced tea mix (still can’t drink the stuff) and onion dip mix. Junior year when we moved to an apartment off campus I cooked every night but never did dishes. Roommates were amazed that one could make macaroni and cheese… from scratch! I curtailed their shopping alone when they brought back cans of potatoes instead of a 50 lb. bag. From then on I had to do the list and accompany to the store as well. Barely functional kitchen.
My first notable post-college apartment included an incredibly inefficient kitchen with a dumbwaiter! In the next, I had my own place with apartment-sized stove/oven/broiler and frig. Although I almost burned down the place by placing cooked bacon in the broiling compartment underneath while I finished the eggs et al, it was my first experience with a galley kitchen, and it worked (although the frig was backwards so it took more movement than necessary to complete a meal.
Later on there was a place where it was too cold to cook or live, I left there quickly. My NYC apartment was large and inefficient with about 12″ of counter space, so I got a large cutting board to put over the sink. Not a great kitchen. Then I had a U-shaped kitchen that would have been nice except nothing worked. Same with the next place as for the first few weeks the kitchen sink didn’t work so we had to do dishes in the bathroom upstairs.
Larger doesn’t necessarily mean better. When we first moved to TX we had a large kitchen but it wasn’t efficient. Then we moved and had an open space ideal (which we love), galley-type kitchen with exits on both sides. It sounds like an island but really wasn’t. The sink was looking toward the loft windows and downtown and it made cooking a joy. Appliances weren’t up to snuff but the view and what we were able to make of the place made up for a faulty ice-maker.
Now we’re in a rental, and my kitchen has knotty alder cabinets and high-end appliances. It has a great working space and unlike my former environment, it has slate floors over wood, instead of solid concrete so it’s easier on my legs as well.
It has room to maneuver, a pantry, lovely granite countertops and stools on the other side so we can talk and I can work. Gas stove is a gas, love it. Gas oven at high altitude, I’m not quite sure of. But other than my messing up the counter with receipts, my problem I know, it’s wonderful, and like the kitchen sink in our TX loft it looks towards the view. For developers who want to put a townhome’s stove looking at the view, it’s my opinion that the cook may choose otherwise.
What do you love/hate about your kitchen. Feel free to post. Cheers! Dee