Dream Kitchens

All of the sudden we were in the countryside. Farms on our left, woods on our right.  At the big red barn we turned left and now, flooded with afternoon light, there were rolling pastures and farm houses on both sides of the road, as we wound our way toward Diana’s house for book club.  The book was A Quiet Life by Kenzaburo Oe.

Going to Diana’s house is always an adventure, as she lives on a farm–complete with barns and bunkhouses and horses, pigs, bunnies, cats, dogs…there are always about a million strange and fascinating things going on there.

Diana has been immersed in a  massive kitchen remodel for some time now–one that involves actually moving the kitchen to an entirely different room, and turning the former kitchen into a dining room.

Now, this is the kind of thing that Diana does in her spare time, between a full-time job, running a farm, a family, and who knows what else, and she makes it sound approximately as difficult as oh…I don’t know…say, reorganizing a coat closet, would be for the rest of us.  I myself have been through a garden variety kitchen remodel in the past and I know they aren’t exactly fun and games, what with all the hard physical labor, the disruption, the cup-o-noodles, the dust, and the electrical fire that was 100% my fault…ahem… well, let’s just say I have a healthy respect for the process.

At the last book club, she brought little rectangular samples of granite out of her purse and lined them up for our consideration, rather like we were helping her shop for a headstone.

The kitchen project is very much still in progress, but the bones are there. We gathered in the fresh new kitchen for the first time, around the new island which still stood atop the dolly it had only recently been wheeled in on.  The cabinetry was white, the granite black, and the floors a warm, polished dark wood.  The gigantic old farm stove struck a comforting, familiar note in its new setting.  It wasn’t even finished, and it was already a beautiful kitchen.

As we poured drinks, caught up on news items big and small, helped out, got in the way, and generally did the kitchen dance, Diana assembled her lobster fettuccini.  Which, by the way, was stunning, but a recipe will not be forthcoming because as far as I can tell, Diana doesn’t believe in (or need) them.

Amidst all of this hubbub, I got to thinking about dream kitchens.  I’ve watched enough HGTV to have noticed that Americans generally want vast kitchens with brand new appliances, while Europeans seem satisfied or even thrilled with surprisingly modest spaces.  And of course, there are plenty of places in the world where the kitchen is not much more than a fire and a few pots and pans. My own kitchen is more of the cozy variety than the grand, but I am pretty fond of it.

What would your dream kitchen look like?  Do you already have your ideal kitchen, or does it remain a dream for the future?  Would it have an extra oven, or maybe even a fireplace or a breakfast nook?   There are probably as many opinions about what makes a dream kitchen as there are kitchens.

Although open kitchens are currently in vogue, I must admit that I have a hobbit-like fondness for cozy, separate spaces. I understand that an open floor plan makes entertaining more fluid and practical. I just don’t happen to like multi-purpose rooms much. I prefer to keep the cooking odors and dirty dishes sequestered, as I settle down in the dining room to dine, then the living room for a good, comfortable after-dinner visit. I know this puts me in the minority, but there it is.

As the finishing touches were put on our meal, Diana answered a knock at the back door, and carried on a brief farm-related discussion with the man who stood there, looking mildly apologetic or maybe alarmed at all of the squealing going on in the kitchen.

While we ate our dinner, various cats bustled by on important business, and dogs barked to be let in, and Diana’s husband Joe and another man paused in their outdoor labors long enough to clomp in, booted and jacketed, to say hello, exuding fresh air and a sense of purpose.

And all of this activity led me to the conclusion that it isn’t the cabinets, or the granite, or the floor plan that make a dream kitchen. It’s the fabulous dishes that are cooked, the family and friends that crowd in, important moments shared, pets underfoot, visitors shaking off the cold, and the personal touches. It takes time to turn a beautiful kitchen into a true dream kitchen, because a dream kitchen is one that gets used–the room that is the center of a home.

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16 thoughts on “Dream Kitchens

  1. Pam

    I love this post! We live in a nearly 100 year-old-house, a funky little farmhouse, actually. Three years we had some work done in the kitchen–combining what we had with a few new touches. I love it and would love to have you visit! I think it’s warm, cozy, and inviting.

    Reply
  2. THE Diana

    RE: Rowdy kitchen

    I don’t believe Ms. Victoria found Ms. Girl Rowdy ! NO WAY ! The twilight zone…..

    Appliance recommendations:

    – 1950-1969 $50 range with double oven from Craigslist
    -Or order 2-24″ apartment ranges (white is the new stainless). Place side by side and whala = 48″ gourmet 8 burner double oven range saving $10k.

    -Free fridge from Craigslist
    -Or Order fridge only (with no freezer) and upright freezer to match – ensure one has left handle and the other right handle. Place side by side. Whala a side by side gourmet set. (White is the new stainless)

    Lobster pasta:
    -Saute to roasty lots of garlic & pine nuts in butter til near burned – don’t be afraid to overcook – now that I think of it, mushrooms would be good in here about this time to chrunchy
    -Pour in heavy on the white wine (half bottle+ to stop burning) save several bottles on the side, then squirt squirt squirt squirt, squirt squirt squirt lots dijon mustard, plenty salt, (I couldn’t spell ceyene so use) plenty paprika, add lots of parmesan.
    -Boil in separate pot (or do this the night before but save the water) 2-3 lobsters in shell. De-shell and cube – add to sauce. Add white fish (aka tilapia) if you want cat food flavor. I advise against it….
    -Use same water to boil chopped asparagus. Spoon out asparagus and add to sauce.
    -Use same water to boil fresh pasta – drain
    -Pour sauce over pasta, top with more parmesan, chopped basil, etc.
    Manja.

    Reply
  3. Cristina

    The lobster pasta sounds so good!

    The kitchen can be the heart of good times. It’s where people gravitate to and where good memories are made. Dream kitchen? I’m happy with mine, but I wouldn’t mind changing the countertop and get rid of the tile/grout.

    Enjoyed your writing and honest expression. :)

    Reply
  4. Stella

    Hey Rowdy, I hope a dream kitchen is what you say it is. If you are wrong, mine is a nightmare kitchen:)
    Oh, and your friends lobster pasta looks amazing. Glad you guys always have so much fun there in Seattle…

    Reply
  5. Kendra

    There is only one thing I want right now in my kitchen. A window. Is that too much to ask? Then I can start dreaming about gas stove and a ‘fridge that is bigger than the Barbie-sized one I have now.

    Sending kitchen hopes & dreams from one of Boston’s smallest.

    Reply
  6. Natalie

    As a footnote to my last comment – I could not agree more that the kitchen is the heart of the home. I always find that people gravitate towards the kitchen at parties, dinners and celebrations….

    Reply
  7. Natalie

    I have an idea for my dream kitchen all mapped out so it fits in the space we have. It involves a big range cookers and more work surface than we have already. I know what you mean about keeping your cooking separate from your living area. Our kitchen is very much separate but I did like the idea of being able to chat whilst I cooked so we added a sitting room / conservatory just off the kitchen so now we have the best of both worlds. As always great post.

    Reply
  8. Chef Dennis

    what a wonderful post….I felt like I was there with you! Your absolutely right about the kitchen, it is the food and the friends you share it with….I re did my kitchen a few years ago, but I have to admit I want to add some granite and a new stove….I have been loving the English stoves in the BBC mags, don’t know if I can find them here or not..
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  9. Mindy

    The minute I saw the title of your post I got excited- I spend a lot of time thinking about my dream kitchen and love to look at other people’s. I still haven’t nailed down exactly what I want, but I know it includes big windows and lots of light.

    Reply
  10. Monet

    What an eloquently written post…your last paragraph gave me goosebumps! Kitchens are the hearts of the home, and I can think of so many wonderful memories during my childhood and adulthood that are tied to that special room. I love my kitchen now…but I know one day, when I have my own place, I will want to do so many different things. It sounds like you ladies had a lovely evening over a LOVELY bowl of pasta. It sounds so very good!

    Reply
  11. Lora @cakeduchess

    That looks like it was a delicious meal in your with your friends. A kitchen should be the center of all the activity. I love when my kitchen is full of laughter and me cooking something yummy for everyone.:)

    Reply
  12. Victoria

    Rowdy,

    This is so weird! As I started reading, I thought, “Hmmm, I know a Diana who lives in the country. And isn’t her husband’s name Joe?” I asked a co-worker to step over and take a look at your post. Yes, the co-worker confirmed, Diana just re-did her kitchen. it’s the same Diana! She and I work at the same place. And I used to work in the same department. Said co-worker just came from that department to mine. My partner does work with Diana. She and I went out to the farm a couple of years ago to pick apples. Came home with huge containers of them and canned applesauce and filled the freezer with pies. Looks like you had a great meal.

    Reply

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