I don’t own a cookie sheet, but the day before yesterday I was straightening my pantry and found two sets of foerster clamps. My father used these for flipping steaks.
This made me consider how our kitchens represent us. I have mis-matched pots and pans, inherited piecemeal from friends and family. There is a mind-boggling quantity of tea, and three kinds of coffee (for guests—I don’t drink it). Multiple pounds of popcorn kernels (a dietary staple) and only the spices which are useful for making baklava and apple pies. And lots of candy, bought in bulk after this or that sweet-filled holiday. Several bottles of dubious champagne, and another couple of brand-name rum, all from estate sales. Two large copper mixing bowls (for the perfect meringue!) and a copper soup-pot, which I use for popping corn.
There are a few items on the walls—a tin picture of a chef flipping a fish in a pan while a trio of hungry cats watch expectantly, a basket, an oil painting of fruit, and a multicolored tile with a sunburst design. My refrigerator is covered with pretty magnets and receipts from the various shops where I have items consigned. There are some bananas on the counter and lots of cheese in the fridge. It’s probably clear that I don’t spend much time cooking, and that I eat essentially the same simple things over and over again, occasionally livening things up a bit by grabbing a “steam in bag” vegetable from the freezer and microwaving it.
Grandmommy’s kitchen has been essentially unchanged since I was a child, though the lighting has been periodically improved, the walls have been brightened with new coats of paint, and the floor is no longer cold black-blue speckled tile, but a warm tan and cream linoleum. She’s had the same cabinets and countertop, the same mustard-color electric stove, since the time I had to stand on a stool to see above drawer-level. Most of her pots and pans she bought almost 70 years ago, or was given by her mother, and yet they still work well. There is no microwave (she’s never owned one), and no dishwasher—the washing-up of plates and cups is done after every meal, by hand.
Hers is a comfortable space, with a small walk-in pantry, where the shelves are kept neatly stocked with a dwindling assortment of homemade preserves (when Granddaddy was alive and they had a garden, it was packed from floor to ceiling with a wide variety of self-canned edibles), and drying dishtowels, some worn to threads, thrown over the hooks that support pots and pans. There’s always at least two kinds of baked dessert on the counter, and several kinds of ice cream in the refrigerator freezer, and fresh savory leftovers in the fridge itself, which will be devoured at the next meal. Casseroles, soups and other delectables are kept ready to bake, in the deep freeze on the back porch. Grandmommy has cooking, and preparation, down to a fine art, yet considers herself to be generally “a plain cook”.
On the shelves on either side of the window above the sink, there is a collection of oddities—a penny in a tiny blown glass bottle (a souvenir of a bank opening, if I remember rightly), a wooden butter mold, and several small salt-glazed ceramic jars. There were once two bottled pennies, but one little glass vessel fell victim to a grandchild, and the penny was spent.
On the walls, there are a few short poems. One is an excerpt from a prayer by 17th-century French monk Brother Lawrence:
Lord of all pots and pans and things,
Since I've no time to be a saint
By doing lovely things,
Or watching late with Thee,
Or dreaming in the dawnlight,
Or storming heaven's gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals,
And washing up the plates!
And, another of more recent vintage (1944, by M. Peterson):
Bless my little kitchen, Lord, I love its every nook.
Bless me as I do my work, wash pots and pans and cook.
May the meals that I prepare, be seasoned from above
With Thy Blessings and Thy Grace, but most of all, Thy Love.
So bless my little kitchen, Lord, and those who enter in.
May they find naught but joy and peace
And Happiness Therein.
I think anybody who’s enjoyed a Grandmommy meal has found both of these printed sentiments to have been entirely fulfilled!
What does your kitchen say about you?