Sunday, August 14, 2016

Remembering the Kitchen Table

What was your childhood kitchen like?  Share with me.  Did your mom have the latest appliances?
Are you young enough that you ate breakfast or maybe all your meals at a peninsula or island?  I grew up on a farm with a house that had been built by my grandparents when my mom was two years old; however, the kitchen part was actually a remnant of a previous house on that same spot.  I can guarantee that no one ever walked into our house and proclaimed that they wanted a kitchen just like ours.  Counterspace was minimal, one length on each side of the large sink.  The left counter held the breadbox, baking canisters, and a standing mix master.  The right counter, home to the coffee pot, offered a bit more open space, that it is, until it was time to stack the dirty dishes to wash.  (Mom did not get a dishwasher until I was in college).  I guess you could call the kitchen a galley kitchen, although the floor space was a bit wider than modern galley kitchens.  Across from the counters/sink was the refrigerator and stove.  When I was very little, our stove had a wood burning component to it, but then we replaced it with a more modern stove, one that had a griddle in the middle and made the best pancakes. At one end of the kitchen there just enough room for a washing machine.  That meant the dryer had to be placed on the back porch.  Like most farm families, the dryer was only used in the winter or on rainy days.  

On the other end of the kitchen was the kitchen table, not a huge one, really only big enough for four chairs. Being the smallest, I always had to be the one who crawled into the chair that was snug against the wall.  Nope, no one ever pined to have a kitchen just like ours, but over the decades there were thousands of wonderful meals served there. No gourmet kitchen served better.  Egg customers and visitors often gathered at the table for a neighborly chat.  Even our gas man (a fishing buddy of my dad's) would take a break there to share the latest news.  In the summer, we'd squeeze a couple extra chairs at the kitchen table for whoever dad hired to help with haying and combining.  If the weather was too hot, or if we'd heated up the kitchen too much with fresh pies, we might eat on the porch instead.

That small kitchen table was for more than just eating.  It was our main meal prep space.  Unless we were on the porch, that is where we shucked peas, snapped beans, froze corn, canned tomatoes and pickles, decorated cakes and cookies -- you get the picture.  People today want  huge islands or peninsulas, and then rarely eat at home.  And if they do eat at a peninsula, they aren't actually looking at each other.  We had the smallest space and it was constantly in use. Every meal, we looked at each other and actually talked about our days. At the holidays, it was the kids' table; when the day's cooking was done, it was where I spread out to do homework.  My mom, who loved to arrange flowers from her garden, would use the same space to create her bouquets.  When my parents entertained their card club, the kitchen table was always table #1 for the night.  

Before we built our house, I looked at thousands of house plans, and while I would have loved to have a huge kitchen with room enough for both a kitchen table and an island/peninsula, I ended up with a relatively compact kitchen with a small baking island -- no room for a table.  Instead we put a table in our sunroom, just off the kitchen/great room, and I like to think it has the same "heart" as my mom's kitchen table.  It is where we eat with our grandkids when they spend the day.  It's the kids' table at the holidays.  The grands and I have decorated cookies there.  I can sit down at the table to snap beans or freeze corn, all while watching the neighborhood traffic or the birds out the large windows.   It's my favorite place to have a cup of coffee or tea, and I've even been known to do a bit of "studying" out there.

As for that kitchen of my childhood, it is gone now -- sort of.  My brother and his wife returned to the farm in retirement.  After a carefully planned (and total) remodel, that kitchen now IS one that people will say, "I'd like my kitchen to look like that!"  And best of all, there is still a special place for a small kitchen table, a place to pull up a chair, share a coffee, visit, and know that you are home.

Please take a moment and tell me about your kitchen memories. 


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