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.