Recently I was watching a television show with a gripping story line that involved a lurid murder. The police, on the brink of discovering the body, arrived at the crime scene--the kitchen of the house. Here, plot twists and secrets were revealed but, after the scene was over, I realized I hadn’t heard a word. I could, however, tell you that the kitchen was done in an airy Tuscan style with pale granite counters, a lovely decorative backsplash, glazed cabinets and contrasting crown molding. This, my friends, is a syndrome from which I have long suffered. It is called “obsessive kitchen envy” and I have it bad.
I have wanted a big, beautiful kitchen since I was old enough to notice that my grandmother did all her prep on the drain board of the ancient sink in our Brooklyn apartment. I wanted an island when the only island people were talking about was the one with Gilligan and Maryann. I thought I might have my chance when I left the city and a galley kitchen with-literally-no counter space, behind. Instead, I bought a house I love but that has a kitchen designed by someone who hates food….and women….and probably puppy dogs and America.
There are ironies woven through my kitchen issues which may take us on an inadvertent trip into the twisted recesses of my psyche, the first of which being that I could have knocked down a wall or two and done something to improve my lot but, instead, maintain my balance on the precipice of inaction. Besides the obvious expense and my apprehension of the upheaval that would ensue, I think I am simply afraid.
Do I want light or dark cabinets? Will the flooring I choose make the room seem smaller? What about lighting, appliances, window treatments, granite vs. synthetics? I can’t handle it. It’s like the bachelor who lives alone until he’s 50…chances are he may never marry but will continue to pine for someone with whom to share his life. And, that bachelor probably has a gorgeous kitchen used only for microwaving frozen dinners.
I have a friend who never cooks. Subscribing to several foodie publications, she is keenly aware of the difference between quinoa and couscous but rarely lifts a finger to prepare a meal. Her husband is the cook but has little time so meals are short-order events or the result of take-out menu consultations and phone calls. You guessed it. She’s got a six burner stove, a talking refrigerator and lots of copper pots hanging over counters that were cut from a secret Italian quarry by a virgin during a full moon. I ponder this often as I sit in my own kitchen contemplating a hostile takeover of her temperature controlled wine cooler and prep sinks.
I always start preparing a meal with wholesome intentions and on good behavior. I clean as I go but soon get involved with the recipe and let things start building in the sink, open jars and containers accumulating on my microscopic counter. The yelling will start as I get angrier that what little room I did have is now compromised by my own poor habits. Eventually the slamming of doors will begin followed, in this symphony of discontent, by strings of terrible, non-food related profanity.
Then I think about my grandmother. Her kitchen, the size of a forever stamp, would produce multi-course meals that made grown men, literally, tremble with joy. She would prepare Thanksgiving feasts for 40 with neither hurled invective nor wooden spoons. She planned menus judiciously and served graciously with nary a crying jag punctuating her routine, accumulating devoted fans with no hysteria or dramatics. Why can’t I be more like her? I’ll tell you why-- we covet things we see. And I buy those damn magazines from Home Depot. Grandma had not a clue about Sub Zeros and Viking Ranges.
Chances are that, in this lifetime, I will not have the kitchen of my fantasies . Maybe it’s more fun to imagine the possibilities (as well as complain about the reality) than achieve the dream. I have more than a drain board upon which to work and less than the granite football field of my friend’s palatial work space but there will be something pretty tasty on the stove for tonight. It’s one of Grandma’s recipes…