My mother’s kitchen was expansive, with large picture windows on the front and side, and corner windows behind the sink facing into the garden and back yard. The light fixtures were circular fluorescent lights, the height of modernity when they were new. The long table dominated the space. We sat around it for meals, but also for doing homework, and for evenings of puzzles and games. We used it for meal preparation, bread-making, cake and cookie making, and tasks involved in canning and freezing. I remember using it to cut out fabric for patterns. I can clearly picture Mom with her teacup at one end of the table, Dad with his newspaper, or dealing out cards for solitaire at the other. I haven’t had a single kitchen that provided the good feelings and cherished memories of that one. Still, I’ve enjoyed a few kitchens:
- My first kitchen as a young newly-married adult, was in the upstairs apartment on Court Street. It had a stripey floral wallpaper in cream, red and blue. I hung a large poster with the same colors, of Uncle Sam saying “I want you!” That kitchen’s sink was in an alcove outside of the room, and was shared with the bathroom.
- When we moved to a downstairs apartment in the same building, we were rewarded with a much larger kitchen. It was here that my father-in-law stopped in almost every morning, just to say hello to his first grandchild, and to watch her have her baby cereal. He’d always take the cup of coffee I offered; if I had pie or a muffin to go with it, he’d break into a grin.
- The kitchen at the lake house was a narrow hallway. Three small windows over the sink looked onto the driveway and the neighbor’s house beyond. One of my first purchases was three tiny African violet plants, one to sit in each window. The first winter we lived there, a thousand mice climbed up the plumbing from the Michigan basement, and made themselves at home inside of the metal cabinets. They ate everything that they could get into, and tormented me for weeks until we got rid of them. The memory of the sound of those hundreds of tiny jaws could still give me nightmares!
- The townhouse that was our next home had a small but pristine kitchen, with brand new appliances and a perfect layout. There, I taught myself how to prepare cashew chicken, lasagna, potato soup, and several other dishes that continue to be my favorites.
- When we stayed at the farmhouse on Beaver Island, it seems there were always plenty of people to cook for. The large kitchen with big farmhouse table was perfect for rolling out piecrust, and I made many pies there with island apples and berries.
- The large kitchen in the duplex apartment at Corner 16 was one of my favorites. Without a stove for the first several months we lived there, I learned to bake (lasagna, dinner rolls, even birthday cake!) in the electric frying pan. The long counter top was lined with special things: a tall apothecary jar filled with dried gourds; a piece of driftwood my husband had found; a framed photo of my sister Brenda and me, as babies; a beautiful large shelf fungus brought from Beaver Island. At Christmastime, we set the Christmas tree up in the corner of the kitchen, and hung the cards on the door.
- The small kitchen at the Cherry Lane apartment on the campus of Michigan State University was simple, but efficient and well-used. We were right across the highway from the grocery store, that had large selections of ethnic foods. I had fun becoming familiar with the new flavors.
- My current kitchen, in my little house on Beaver Island, is used mainly just for my own simple meals. It’s pleasant, though, with its view into the backyard garden, wall of bookshelves, and hanging baskets. Because I rarely eat out these days, the kitchen gets plenty of use, even just for me.
This isn’t a list of all of my kitchens, but I think I’ve mentioned all the best ones.